Following in the wake of early Polynesian navigators, this voyage takes you to the farthest reaches of Oceania. From remote and enigmatic Easter Island, to the historically significant Pitcairn Islands through the “low islands” of the Tuamotu Archipelago to Tahiti, you’ll visit islands that are virtually inaccessible and untouched. The voyage begins in one of the most isolated landfalls of Polynesia: Easter Island. Walk the length of untouched tropical beaches, meet the descendants of H.M.S. Bounty mutineers, and drift dive or snorkel through an atoll pass.
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Arrive in Santiago, Chile. Upon arrival, transfer to the Ritz Carlton in central Santiago. Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The Andes Mountains can be seen from most points in the city. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The city is now home to a growing theatre and restaurant scene, a rising skyline, including the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago. Join your cruise staff in the evening for a welcome reception.
Departing early on your second morning, fly to Easter Island where you will check into the Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa (or similar) for two nights. Explore volcanic calderas, jagged lava fields, and sweeping grasslands to discover the colossal moai statues, the astonishing legacy of a long-lost culture. Join archaeologists to examine these statues and discuss their meaning and creation; visit burial sites, quarries, and intricately carved ceremonial altars. On Day 4 the real expedition will begin when as you embark on the National Geographic Orion.
Set sail from Easter Island on your journey west, listening to talks by the experts as you sail for two days. The exploration will begin in Ducie Atoll, where you will spend time watching for frigate birds and boobies and snorkeling or diving among spectacular reefs. The next stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Henderson Island, an uplifted atoll that is uninhabited and virtually untouched by humans. On hikes and Zodiac excursions, discover the island’s four endemic bird species, rich flora and fauna, and fascinating geology.
Many of the mutineers of the legendary Bounty made their home on Pitcairn Island in the late 18th century, and about 50 of their descendants still live here today. Meet the residents and hear a few words of the unusual Pitkern dialect—a combination of English “sailor speak” and Polynesian phrases. Visit the gravesite of the last surviving Bounty mutineer, John Adams, and see the Bounty’s anchor, which was salvaged in 1957.
Spend a day at sea scanning the horizon with the naturalists, or relaxing on deck with a good book. Then arrive at Mangareva, the largest of the Gambier Islands, and famous for its black pearls. Venture underwater to snorkel or dive, meet islanders to learn about their culture and the missionaries who made their home here, and go on a hike with the naturalists.
Begin your exploration of the “Dangerous Archipelago” in Pukarua, where you’ll be greeted by traditional dancers. Navigate reefs and islets during a day at sea and then in true expedition mode, explore one of the uninhabited atolls such as Tahanea. After a festive welcome with traditional dancers in Fakarava, one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, learn about the island’s pearl industry, and walk its pristine beaches. Snorkel the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world famous drift dive.
Arrive in Papeete, French Polynesia and take a tour of Tahiti before your flight home.