Fiji to Australia Expedition Cruise

Aboard the Silver Explorer

Note: Cruise rate includes roundtrip economy class air.

Overview

Each destination on this voyage is more exotic and interesting than the last—the Fijian culture of Nabukeru, the land divers on Pentecost Island, the spectacular water music of Champagne Beach. Adventure awaits in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, home of flamboyant cultures and innumerable local dialects. Each day brings something new on this voyage, from Fiji to Australia via Melanesia.

Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.

Itinerary

Day 1, Apr 26, 2023
Lautoka, Fiji / Embark

It doesn’t get much sweeter than arriving on the sun-soaked shores of the Sugar City. Lautoka, Fiji’s second-biggest settlement, opens up a world of blissful beaches and turquoise seascapes, while its dense jungle lures the adventurous deep into its embrace. Step ashore where the first Fijians landed, and you'll understand instantly why they chose to make this island paradise their heavenly home. Experience rich Fijian life, and see dramatic displays like warrior dances and remarkable local practices like firewalks, which kick up burning embers into the night's sky. Legend says the city took its name after two chiefs faced each other in a duel. A spear pierced one of the chiefs, leading to the shout of “lau-toka!” or “spear hit!” Sugar is Lautoka’s main trade, but its botanical gardens are a sweet insight into the tropical plant life that thrives here—from pearl white lilies to tall, fragrant orchids. Explore temples, charming cafes, and mills, or barter for some of the juiciest mangoes you’ll ever taste at the city’s lively market. You'll only be able to resist the beaches for so long, and it doesn’t get much more stunning than the Blue Lagoon, a heavenly blend of woven together turquoise shades. Remote, wild, and unspoiled, these are some of the best tropical beaches in the world. There's more rejuvenating relaxation at the mineral-rich mud pools and spas, fueled by the volcanic activity below. Savala Island is a teardrop of sand offshore, and another beautiful place to wander with the soft powder between your toes, or swim and snorkel among its envied reefs thronging with fish life. Embark on the Silver Explorer and depart in the early evening.

Days 2-3, Apr 27-28, 2023
Yasawa / At Sea

Nabukeru is the largest village on Yasawa, located within the grouping of the roughly 20 volcanic islands that make up the Yasawa Islands in Fiji. Until 1987 these islands were closed to land-based tourism and could only be viewed from aboard a vessel. With their clear, aquamarine waters and ecologically diverse tropical, mountainous landscapes, these islands were the location for the filming of the romantic adventure film The Blue Lagoon (both the 1949 and 1980 versions). Opposite Nabukeru is Sawa-i-Lau, an island famous for the limestone caves of the same name. The Sawa-i-Lau caves can only be accessed by climbing stairs from the beach, passing a small door, and then jumping into the larger cave’s pool. The second cave and pool can only be reached by swimming at low tide through an underwater tunnel. Nabukeru villagers assert that the cave is the heart of the Yasawas.

Excursions here include snorkeling in a blue lagoon limestone cave or going ashore to experience the warmth, friendliness, and traditions of the local Fijian people. Day 3 is at sea.

Day 4, Apr 29, 2023
Pentecost Island, Vanuatu / Ambrym Island

Pentecost is a lush mountainous, tropical island stretching over 37 miles from north to south. It was named after the day on which the first European, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, sighted it on May 22, 1768. There are no towns on Pentecost; most of the islanders live in small villages and grow their own food in small gardens. Local traditions are strong, including the age-old ritual of land diving. This unique ritual was first given international exposure by David Attenborough in 1960. Later, in the 1980s, New Zealander AJ Hackett used the idea to invent bungee jumping. Every harvest season from April to June, the people of southern Pentecost construct the towers around a lopped tree, using saplings and branches held together with forest vines. It can take up to five weeks to complete. Each young man who jumps must carefully select his own liana vine. Men and boys as young as seven jump from platforms at different heights (between 30 and 90 feet) with only those vines attached to their ankles. The intention is to touch the ground with their heads or shoulders. This ceremony is believed to ensure a good yam harvest. It is also a fertility rite for men. You'll go ashore to witness the incredible spectacle.

In the afternoon, explore Ambrym Island, a volcanically active island with dark sand beaches. Ambrym is known as the island of magic and is the source of five local languages that all evolved on Ambrym. This handful of languages contributes to the well over 100 languages of Vanuatu. Some of Ambrym’s magic takes place in the lush greenery of the local community of Ranon. Here the people perform a very special and traditional “Rom” dance. Participants prepare their masks and costumes in secrecy and the dance is reserved for special occasions. You'll go ashore to take a tour of the local community and see this very unique dance that involves chanting and men in ornate costume, a mesmerizing sight to behold.

Day 5, Apr 30, 2023
Champagne Beach

As world famous beaches go, Champagne Beach is one of the big hitters. In 2003, CNN ranked it number nine in its list of top 100 beaches and independent travel specialists permanently include it on their list of 50 best beaches worldwide. It’s one of the world’s greatest natural beauties: picture-perfect white sand, turquoise water, and nothing—save for the occasional cow or curious turtle—around. With only coconut plantations and a few friendly locals to keep you company, this might just be the island of your dreams. The glorious name “Champagne Beach” was given to the island in the 17th century, when Pedro de Quirós believed he had reached the famous unknown southern land or the “Terra Australis Incognita.” He believed the effervescent bubbles of volcanic origin that bubble up from the crystal clear waters were reminiscent of the bubbles of Champagne. Additionally, the coastline is shaped like an art deco Champagne saucer, so the name stuck! The beach is located on the largest yet least populated island in the 40-island Vanuatu archipelago, near the village of Hog Harbor on Espiritu Santo Island. This morning you can swim the sparkling clear waters of Champagne beach where fresh water bubbles up through the denser saltwater and watch traditional cultural groups perform in a truly unique display of local culture.

Day 6, May 1, 2023
Vanikoro, Solomon Islands

Vanikoro is part of the Solomon Islands’ Temotu Province. Although Vanikoro is usually considered as one entity, there are two major inhabited and several smaller uninhabited islands almost entirely surrounded by a reef. Vanikoro’s population has two distinct origins: the majority is Melanesian and lives mainly on Teanu and Banie’s northern shore; the Polynesian inhabitants live along Banie’s south coast. One of the most famous French expeditions in the Pacific saw its two ships wrecked on the southwestern reef of Vanikoro in 1788 and a cenotaph has been erected in Manevai Bay to honour La Perouse and his team of officers, sailors, and scientists. Today you can go snorkeling or visit Usili village, which include a village walk, the option to take part in community craft activities such as making baskets and mats, cooking breadfruit, sewing palm leaves, and even making bows and arrows.

Day 7, May 2, 2023
Santa Ana

Port Mary is the name of the bay adjacent to Ghupuna, the main village in Santa Ana. A bright white-sand beach with huge shade-giving trees runs along the shoreline in front of the tidy village. The houses here are made with local materials and most are built on stilts. Islanders generally welcome visitors with traditional songs and dances performed by members of the three different villages on Santa Ana. Some local people will also set up stands offering souvenirs for purchase. The Solomons are best known for strings of traditional shell money and elegant carvings based on local stories and legends.

THis afternoon's excursions include snorkeling in the clear waters or a visit to Ghupuna, followed by an optional hike into the forest for birdwatching.

Days 8-9, May 3- 4, 2023
At Sea / Njari Island

A day at sea brings you to Njari, a small island almost entirely covered in trees with just a small sandspit at its eastern end. A labyrinth of reefs and coral heads make an approach quite difficult. Recently a small wooden jetty has been built on the southern side. The small beaches invite one to relax, but swimming from the beach is almost impossible as the corals are too close. To enjoy the underwater world one has to enter the water from Zodiac snorkel platforms, a short distance from the shore, where an amazing array of fish and coral will be visible. Two hundred and seventy nine different fish species have been seen during a single dive; the fourth-highest fish count ever recorded—an indication of why this island is considered a top spot for snorkeling in the Solomon Islands. Elect to go snorkeling from a platform just off the beach, relax on the beach, or go for a guided birdwatching walk.

Days 10-11, May 5- 6, 2023
Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

If surreal and unique experiences are your thing, then the Papua New Guinean town of Rabaul should tick your travel boxes. Found on the northeastern tip of New Britain Island (the largest island off mainland PNG), Rabaul, the former provincial capital, has quite a remarkable location. The town is inside the flooded caldera of a giant volcano and several sub-vents are still quite active today! The lively city was almost entirely devastated by Mount Tavurvur in 1994, covering the city in ashfall, but thankfully costing no lives. Since then, thanks to Rabaul’s deep-water port, commerce has been up, and a few shops and hotels have managed to find an audience. However, Rabaul’s remote location, together with the volcano still being one of the most active and dangerous in Papua New Guinea, means tourism is not rife. Rabaul has an impressive WWII history that includes a 300-mile network of tunnels dug by Japanese POW designed to conceal munitions and stores. After the Pearl Harbor bombings, the Japanese used Rabaul as their South Pacific base for the last four years of WWII, and by 1943 there were about 110,000 Japanese troops based in Rabaul. Post-war, the island was returned to Australia before it was granted independence in 1975. 

One of your excursions here is to witness the spectacular Fire Dance performance, a nocturnal sacred dance presented in the traditional manner by the men only. The other is a scenic drive around Rabaul to learn about its history and see panoramic views of the surrounding islands and bay.

Day 12, May 7, 2023
Jacquinot Bay

Jacquinot Bay is a large open bay on the eastern coast of the island of New Britain. It is a tranquil place with white sandy beaches and tropical palm trees. There is also a well-known beautiful waterfall with freezing cold water that flows out of the mountainside right onto the beach. But during WWII, however, it was not a quiet place. It was, in fact, an important base for the Australian Army who liberated it in November 1944. This base was used to support Australian operations near Rabaul that were conducted in early 1945 in conjunction with advances on the northern side of New Britain. In the afternoon, depart the ship by Zodiac and land at the pebbled Wara Kalap waterfall beach to be welcomed by local villagers doing traditional dances. Then enjoy some swimming in the strong flow of the cool river coming from the waterfall, followed by an optional hike.

Day 13, May 8, 2023
Kuiawa Island, Trobriand Islands

Kuiawa (Kuyau) is one of the Trobriand Islands, the northernmost islands in the Milne Bay Province. Kuiawa is found some 125 miles from the province’s capital and to the southwest of Kiriwina, the largest and best known of the islands. The Trobriand Islands are of uplifted limestone and gardening is not that easy, but Trobriand Islanders are known for their magic to improve the growth of yam, a highly desired plant for ceremonial reasons and as food. Certain islands and villages have yam houses where the larger yams are stored and displayed. Houses are strung along the main road through the village and beach almond, casuarina, and frangipani trees give shade. Trobriand Islanders are famous carvers and dancers and local groups and school classes love to compete in dancing or playing their version of cricket, especially during harvest time.

Today you can enjoy a day of snorkeling from the ship's Zodiac platforms, offering you a great variey of corals and fish; or go ashore to be greeted by the islanders with garlands and songs of welcome, and immerse yourself in the island culture.

Day 14, May 9, 2023
Tufi

Tufi is located on the southeastern peninsula of Cape Nelson in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea. It is situated on a tropical fjord, which is the work of ancient volcanic activities and was not shaped by ice as the descriptive name might lead you to believe. Surrounded by uncharted coral reefs, the underwater world has attracted many divers wanting to see for themselves how the area earned the description of having more fish than water. Although Tufi has been the administrative center of the region, traditional ceremonies are still very important, with natives wearing tapa cloth made from the bark of mulberry trees found in the local forest. Dance is predominant in the culture and performers sport fanciful headdresses decked with bird-of-paradise plumes and a rainbow of iridescent feathers. Tufi’s wide range of colorful birds and butterflies is well-known throughout Papua New Guinea, boasting several “largest,” “biggest,” and “smallest” records. Go ashore and discover the incredible biodiversity of Tufi, both on shore and in the water, and enjoy a cultural demonstration at the village, a visit to Komoa beach, and an optional snorkeling trip.

Day 15, May 10, 2023
Fergusson and Dobu Islands

Fergusson is one of the three biggest and mountainous islands in the Milne Bay Province, and part of the D’Entrecasteaux Islands. On Fergusson’s south side are the famous Dei Dei geysers—natural hot springs that periodically erupt with vapor steam next to mud pools and a warm stream. The hot springs are still used by locals to cook food in palm frond and pandanus leaf baskets placed into the boiling hot water. Birds in the area include eclectus parrots, yellow-bellied sunbirds, and the endemic curl-crested manucode, a bird-of-paradise. After a wet landing onto a white sandy beach, you will discover this village while enjoying the beautiful scenery, and hike to the geysers and hot springs, located in an area near the village where the super-heated water comes to surface in ponds and geysers.

Next to Fergusson Island and Normanby Island is Dobu, a small island in the D’Entrecasteaux Group. The island was formerly feared because of black magic and the local “witch” doctors cursing the healthy or treating the sick. An anthropological study was done by Reo Fortune in the 1930s that resulted in the book The Island of Sorcerers. The island is also part of the famous Kula ring. Participants in the exchange system pride themselves with mwali and soulava (armbands and necklaces) that are given and received still today and it is interesting to see how the traditional objects have been adorned with modern paraphernalia. A stroll through the main village on the northwestern tip will show the school and church and trails leading along the shore passing traditionally thatched houses and gardens. You can also enjoy a day of snorkeling from a Zodiac platform; look out for boulder and branching coral, soft coral, blue pullers, lionfish, crown of thorns starfish, blue linkia starfish, butterflyfish, and sargent major damselfish.

Days 16-17, May 11-12, 2023
Samarai / At Sea

Samarai is a tiny island south of Papua New Guinea’s southeastern peninsula dwarfed by neighboring islands. Once a famous trading port and the second-largest settlement in the Territory of Papua (the Australian-administered southern part of what today is Papua New Guinea), Samarai used to be Milne Bay Province’s capital until 1968 when administrators were moved to the mainland and the town of Alotau. The relocation was necessary as the 72-acre island was simply overcrowded. With only about 450 residents remaining today, it still is one of the most densely settled islands in Papua New Guinea. Day 17 is at sea.

Day 18, May 13, 2023
Cairns

Arrive in Cairns in the early morning and disembark.

Highlights

Highlights

See the land divers on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu
Witness the extraordinary Baining Fire Dance at Rabaul, Papua New GUinea
Enjoy fascinating cultural encounters throughout your voyage—traditional ceremonies, dance, and song
Multiple opportunities for snorkeling the legendary waters of Fiji and Papua New Guinea
Nature hikes, birdwatching tours, village visits

Details

Length: 18 days
Cost From: $15,800  
Arrive: Lautoka, Fiji
Depart: Cairns, Australia
Lodging: 17 nights aboard a 132-passenger vessel, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals aboard ship, including wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
Activity: Walking, Small Ship Cruising
Trip Level:

17-day cruise, cultural explorations, Zodiac excursions, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and walking tours