Remote and enigmatic, the Marquesas are islands that belong to the past. Some of them virtually untouched since the era of European exploration, their isolation has given way to a proud people whose unique Marquesan dialect is a direct link to the ancient Polynesian language of Maohi. Indeed, it is believed locally that the spirits of the ancient Maohi live among the islands’ saw-toothed peaks and lush, verdant valleys, and the limestone caves and grottos that we’ll explore. Herman Melville penned his indulgent novel Typee based on his time on Nuku Hiva and established himself as the “man who lived among the cannibals,” and Robert Louis Stevenson landed here aboard his yacht Casco in the late 19th century. At sea you’ll encounter cetaceans, potentially the rare melon-headed whales, and you’ll dive among manta rays.
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Arrive in Papeete, Tahiti early this morning and take a short, very scenic flight to the nearby atoll of Rangiroa. After a brief tour of the island, embark National Geographic Orion.
Begin your exploration of the “Dangerous Archipelago” at Fakarava, one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. After a festive welcome with traditional dancers, 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. Continue to Raroia, one of the easternmost atolls in this chain, and the site where Thor Heyerdahl’s famous Kon-Tiki raft made landfall in 1947.
A day at sea brings you to one of the most remote island groups on earth, the Marquesas Islands. Begin the exploration of this archipelago at Hatiheu Bay, on the north shore of Nuku Hiva Island. Visit ancient petroglyphs and witness a spectacular dance performance at a Marquesan me’ae, or hike up the valley with the naturalists and local guides in search of rare birds and spectacular views. Later, sample local foods in the village, and peruse unique arts and crafts.
At Hiva Oa, go ashore at the village of Puamau to visit the stunning Marquesan me’ae, Iipona, and photograph one of the largest tikis in Polynesia. Stop for a fresh-baked French baguette before a short visit to Calvary Cemetery and the gravesites of French artists Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel.
Be sure you’re on deck this morning to photograph the volcanic pillars of Hanavave Bay, as Orion approaches one of the most storied shorelines in the entire Pacific. Visit a remote village where you’ll see displays of uniquely Marquesan arts and crafts. Choose a challenging hike to a remote waterfall, or take Zodiacs to the next bay where local transport takes you on a birdwatching foray deep into the Omoa Valley.
Your last two days in the Marquesas are open for exploration. Scuba dive with manta rays, search for rare cetaceans with your naturalists and marvel at the rugged volcanic silhouettes of these legendary islands from the Zodiacs and kayaks.
Let nature be the guide for these days, as you explore some of the more than 80 islands and atolls that make up this seldom-visited archipelago. Snorkel or dive stunning healthy reefs, kayak and stand-up paddleboard on turquoise lagoons, and walk pristine beaches beneath coconut palms.
An uplifted coral atoll, the island of Makatea is one of the most unique landforms 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.
Disembark in Papeete this morning and tour Tahiti before your flight home.