Venture to the heart of Polynesian culture and wildness on this highly immersive expedition where options abound. Choose to kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or take a bike ride for independent exploration and to connect with these people and islands on a personal level. Explore the historic ceremonial site, called a marae, on Raiatea where Polynesian seafarers would begin their bold expeditions sailing into the unknown—expeditions that would eventually lead to populating Hawaii and New Zealand. Sail among some of the 80 atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago, a string of tiny islands in an azure sea that hides thriving reefs we’ll explore while scuba diving and snorkeling.
Arrive in Papeete, Tahiti early this morning where you will check into day rooms and take a brief tour of the island before embarking National Geographic Orion.
Begin your voyage with a view of one of the South Pacific’s most iconic images, the angular crags of Bora Bora’s Mount Otemanu. Explore the island’s interior by 4WD, for unparalleled views of the island’s turquoise lagoon, then snorkel, dive, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard from one of the motus on the outer reef.
Encircled by a single fringing reef, and sharing a common lagoon, Raiatea and Taha’a are islands well worth exploring. One of the most important cultural sites in the Polynesian world, Marae Taputapuatea was a center for Polynesian seafarers and the location from which they set out for Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawaii and New Zealand. Spend the morning exploring this site on Raiatea, then refresh yourself with a swim in warm turquoise seas. Watch from on deck as you navigate lagoon channels en route to Taha’a, then go ashore for a visit to a small, family-run vanilla plantation.
One of Polynesia’s best-kept secrets, Huahine is well off the beaten path. Once the home of Tahitian royalty, Huahine maintains the highest density of ancient marae in French Polynesia. Visit these sites with cultural experts and archaeologists who bring them to life. Venture into the lush interior of the island on a bicycle, then explore the verdant shoreline by kayak, stand-up paddleboard or Zodiac. Finish the day with a swim in the island’s crystal-clear lagoon.
Spend two days exploring some of the nearly 80 islands and atolls in the “Dangerous Archipelago.” Fakarava is one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Snorkel the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world famous drift dive. An uplifted coral atoll, the island of Makatea is one of the most unique land forms in the Pacific. Spend the day exploring limestone caves and grottos with your expedition team and local guides, or search for endemic fruit doves and myriad seabirds, then snorkel and dive among clouds of colorful fish on the nearby reef.
The atoll of Rangiroa is a ring of slender islands known for some of the best diving and snorkeling in French Polynesia. The turquoise lagoon at its center is the second-largest in the world. The ship passes between the islets to anchor inside the lagoon near the village of Tiputa, where local musicians greet you. Visit the village, and kayak, snorkel, and scuba dive in the rich waters here, home to large schools of pelagic fish, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and hammerheads.
Disembark this morning and take a short flight back to Papeete, where you’ll connect to international flights home.