South Pacific: Secrets of Melanesia

Sail into a world that few have ever experienced; idyllic islands and isolated villages where unique time-honoured traditions and elaborately costumed dancers welcome us into their world.

Sail from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, to discover the beauty of the outer Solomon Islands and on to Vanuatu. Relax as our ship glides into secluded bays, and takes us to remote oceanic islands where the art of traditional navigation lives today.

On Santa Isabel, the rhythms of life continue little changed, with daily life centred around the village and family. Malaita is culturally rich, the traditional currency, Malaitan shell money, is still made on the island and is used as a dowry, and worn as a status symbol.

Vanuatu has produced a kaleidoscope of cultures, and more than 100 indigenous languages. With over 80 habitable islands, islanders have closely guarded their own cultures and languages. Our expedition embraces some of these cultures and languages, as well as a window into one of the happiest places on the planet.

On our journey you will also have the opportunity to experience some of the greatest underwater encounters in the world, with an abundance of marine life and coral gardens drawing you in to explore a magical underwater world. During frequent snorkel excursions throughout the expedition, everybody will have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty beneath the waves.

For birders, this itinerary offers once-in-a-lifetime species on remote islands where few have been before, and endemic birdlife such as the Solomon Sea Eagle, or the Vanikoro White-eye, may be seen. The birding potential is exceptional, and to allow birders to maximise the opportunities on the expedition there is an optional, specialised birding programme with customised excursions.

A picture postcard paradise awaits as we uncover the ‘Secrets of Melanesia’.

Arrive in the port town of Honiara and transfer to the Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel for the first night. This evening meet with your fellow travellers over dinner at the hotel.

This morning, enjoy a tour of Honiara visiting historical sites including the iconic Japanese and American war memorials. Birdwatchers will head to Mt Austen in search of some of the Solomon Islands’ most spectacular birds including the Solomon Sea Eagle. Board the Spirit of Enderby this afternoon.

One of the largest in the Solomon Islands, most of Isabel remains unexplored and undiscovered. We explore the remote southern shores around Thousand Ships Harbour. Beautiful uninhabited islands dot the waters and verdant forest covers slopes which surround the harbour as we are treated to a warm welcome and have the opportunity to explore the forest and coral reefs.

Mountainous Malaita has pristine rivers and unexploited tropical forests, we enter the seldom visited Kwai Harbour, here the local people choose to live on small artificial islands off the coastline, we are treated to a rapturous welcome on tiny Ngongosila Island where the houses stand shoulder to shoulder. In this one small area, several tribal groups overlap and these differences are readily apparent in dance and language. This afternoon, the beautiful uninhabited Leli Island is the ideal snorkel site

Makira is the most easterly of the main islands in the Solomon’s archipelago. This morning we anchor in the calm waters of Star Harbour. Join the naturalists for a Zodiac exploration of the abundant mangrove forests that line the shores, and take a short walk to Makira’s south coast where the villagers live much as they have for millennia. We spend time with the locals, who share with us their traditional song and dance. If we are lucky, the local boys might be surfing on their hand-carved palm wood boards.

Nendö is the largest of the Santa Cruz Islands and the location of the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira’s unsuccessfully attempt at establishing a colony in 1595. It is also the home of red feather money, sourced from the Scarlet Honeyeater. Venturing inland, we visit a village where the ancient traditions are still very much alive. Watch the manufacture of red feather money, and join the locals in dances which reverberate through the ages.

The Duff Islands are a cluster of 11 small islands on the edge of the vast Pacific Ocean. We navigate the Zodiacs through the shallow passages in the reef to visit the only inhabited island, Taumako. Here we are welcomed by the Polynesian-speaking local people, who live on hand-crafted artificial islands of coral stone within the lagoon. These islands are exceptionally remote, and the are people largely cut off from the outside world; we learn about their continued use of traditional sailing canoes.

Today we explore the archipelago of Vanikoro, with its five islands encapsulated by a dramatic barrier reef which offers superb snorkelling. French explorer Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse famously disappeared here after both his vessels, La Boussole and Astrolabe, struck the reef in 1788. On the shore we visit a monument to Le Pérouse, erected by fellow explorer Dumont Durville in 1827. Join the naturalists on a forest walk in search of the endemic Vanikoro White-eye and Monarch, or marvel at the delicate Vanikoro Orchid. We also have a good chance to see the recently rediscovered Vanikoro Flying Fox.

This morning we arrive in Vanuatu at the northern outpost of Vanua Lava, the largest island in the Banks Islands, crowned by active volcano Mt Séré’ama. Visit the administrative centre of Sola, or for a more active option, climb through the waterfalls behind the town for some excellent views over the bay. This afternoon we explore the nearby offshore islands for snorkelling and beachcombing, the surrounding waters home to the recently discovered Vanuatu Petrel.

Enjoy a full day on Vanuatu’s largest Island, Santo; location of James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. Early morning sees the birders ashore in search of many of Vanuatu’s endemic birds. Indulge in a swim in the crystalline waters of Champagne Beach with its famed powdery white sand. This afternoon we will enjoy Zodiac cruises to the iconic blue holes of Santo. For those with an interest in the history of the island, there is a visit to Lugainville and Million Dollar Point.

The Spirit of Enderby will visit Ambrym, renowned as the island of volcanoes and magic throughout Vanuatu. We plan to head ashore at Ranon on the northern coast where the traditional Rom dance is still practised and custom carving is alive and well. A short walk through the forest brings us to the ‘arena’ where masked dancers emerge from the forest. The forests of Ambrym offer some excellent walks to go in search of the local birds and plants, accompanied by our naturalists. This afternoon enjoy a final snorkel excursion.

Arrive into Port Vila early morning and disembark. Upon disembarking a transfer to your central hotel or the airport will conclude your voyage.

Price

MAIN DECK TRIPLE: US$ 5,495 pp
Has one bunk (one upper and one lower) and one lower berth, wardrobe, drawers, a desk and wash basin. The nearby showers and toilets are shared with other Main Deck cabins.

MAIN DECK: US$ 6,495 pp
Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private washbasin. Shared shower and toilet facilities nearby with other Main Deck cabins. These cabins have a porthole.

SUPERIOR: US$7,495pp
One bunk (one upper and one lower berth), writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.

SUPERIOR PLUS: US$ 8,100 pp
Two lower berths, writing desk, wardrobe, and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.

MINI SUITE: US$ 8,750 pp
Separate bedroom with a double bed and a single bed or sofa in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe and drawers. Private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Mini Suites have windows

HERITAGE SUITE: US$ 9,495 pp
Large lounge area, separate bedroom with double bed, single bed in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe, drawers, and fridge. There is a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. Large forward and side facing windows with great views.

Inclusions

  • Pre/Post cruise transfers
  • one night hotel accommodation in a twin share room (incl. dinner/breakfast)
  • all on board ship accommodation with meals and all shore excursions and activities .

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Discovery Fund (Payable on board) $600.00 USD pp
  • items of a personal nature
  • laundry, drinks, gratuities
  • international/domestic flights, visas, extensions and travel insurance.
  • optional specialised birding programme (Birding Supplement US$450 pp )Programme of lectures by noted naturalists