Once all guests have embarked the Silver Explorer, depart on your exciting 12-day expedition – “The Volcanic Islands of Japan & The Mariana Arch”. You will be introduced to your Expedition Team. This evening you will also meet our onboard Japan Specialists who will accompany you throughout your entire time in the country.
In 1859, Hakodate was one of the first ports opened for foreign trade. Since then, Hakodate has thrived as a fishing port and a gateway to Hokkaido, where you will spend the afternoon exploring the beautiful Onuma Quasi National Park together with your Japan Specialists. Onuma Park encompasses a lake area of marshes with 126 inlets and 18 bridges that connect various islets. Set before the magnificent backdrop of the dormant Mt Komagatake volcano, the park is renowned as one of the most scenic landscapes in all of Japan.
Gather in The Theater to hear fascinating tales of adventure and to learn more about the region’s endemic wildlife and remarkable nature. Knowledgeable Lecture Staff members are experts in a variety of scientific fields. Other onboard diversions include spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Center, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences.
As you approach the small volcanic island of Miyakejima, your onboard geologist will present a history of the island’s formation theorized to have occurred 150,000 to 10,000 years ago during great eruptions from the bottom of the sea. Go ashore for a nature walk led by your onboard ornithologist and geologist as well as local guides. Together they will explain various volcanic activities and point out the island’s interesting bird life. At the Mt Sanshichi observation deck take in the panoramic view of sky, sea and earth dramatically separated by a long stretch of black lava along the horizon. See the historic Shiitori Shrine, which was partially swallowed by mudflow during an eruption in 2000. At Nippana Shinzan we will learn how it was formed overnight during an eruption in 1983, and admire the colourful gradations of lava and volcanic ash. All the while we are on the island we will be scanning the skies, identifying bird species by sight and by their songs with the help of our onboard ornithologist.
Southernmost in the Izu Island Chain, Hachijojima is a volcanic island with two mountains: Mt. Mihara (700.9m high) and Mt. Hachijo-Fuji (854.3m high). The plan for today is to escape the typically hot and humid weather with a visit to Hachijo Botanical Garden located in the natural forests of a lava field, and Nanbara-Senjoiwa Beach. In the botanical garden be immersed in a colorful world of tropical foliage and surrounded by the sounds of birdsong as we stroll through each unique “zone”. At the beach, black plateau lava created by eruptions of Mt Hachijo-Fuji stretches along the seashore. For guests ready to take on a more challenging activity, join members of the Expedition Team and your Japan Specialists for a nature trek at Mt Hachijo-Fuji. This outing concludes with a walk at the legendary tama-ishigaki cobblestone wall.
The name Torishima is translated as Tori=bird, shima=island – literally “bird island” – a fitting name for this uninhabited volcanic island that Japan has declared a Bird Sanctuary, Natural Monument and National Wildlife Protection Area. Located in the Izu Islands chain about 100 miles due south of Tokyo, Torishima is home to about 3,000 Short-tailed Albatross. This rare species is known to breed on only four islands in the North Pacific, with close to 80% nesting on the volcanic ash slopes of Torishima. As the island is an active volcano (last eruption in 2002), you will not make a landing here. In fact, only scientists are granted permission to land on Torishima, and only by helicopter. Instead, circumnavigate the island’s entire coastline while listening to your expert ornithologist describe all about the endangered Short-tailed Albatross and the story of their successful conservation. Birders will surely spend every moment out on deck photographing this beautiful species with its lovely yellow head and neck. The onboard geologist will describe current threats to the Short-tailed Albatross including soil instability and the potential impact of another volcanic eruption.
The remote Bonin Islands are known in Japan as the Ogasawara island group. This archipelago has earned the nickname “Galapagos of the Orient” for the unique plant and animal species that have evolved here, and for this reason was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2011. The second largest island in the Ogasawara “family”, Hahajima means “mother island” and is home to a fascinating variety of endemic wildlife. Among these are a number of unique snail species as well as Hahajimameguro (also known as Bonin White-eye) a bird species found only in Hahajima. While sighting of these creatures cannot be guaranteed, see the indigenous Ogasawara mulberry tree during your hike along a scenic walking trail through the jungle. Upon arriving at the peak of Mount Kofuji, which is located near the island’s southern tip, enjoy fantastic views. Weather, tides and ocean conditions permitting, take a side trail leading down to the beach and have an opportunity to swim and snorkel in the clear blue waters. Though there is little evidence to be seen of the island’s military and whaling history, the onboard historian will describe the island’s role in World War II and how Hahajima was once one of Japan’s important whaling sites. In the late afternoon set sail for Chichijima, where you will dock overnight in preparation for an exciting day of activities tomorrow. On your approach to the island, keep your eye on the sea, as bottlenose and spinner dolphins as well as sperm whales are commonly seen during this time of year.
For your second day in this remote archipelago, explore the “father island” – the largest in the Ogasawara family of islands and yet another fantastic avian destination. Birding enthusiasts will hope to spot as many species as possible, and the possibilities are many! They include: Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Red-tailed Tropicbird and Lesser Frigatebird. Bulwer's and Bonin Petrels, Matsudaira's Storm Petrel, and possibly the White-necked Petrel. Laysan “Aho-Dori” or “Fool Bird” Albatross, Black-footed Albatross, and perhaps even the rare Short-tailed Albatross. Shearwaters one may see include Streaked, Short-tailed, Wedge-tailed, Sooty, and the endemic Bannerman's Shearwater.
Weather permitting, there will also be opportunities for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing on one of the island’s pristine beaches. If possible, hope to visit Minamijima to see its much-photographed natural stone arch reflected in a turquoise blue lagoon and, of course, to capture your own images of this beautiful scene. Before returning to the Silver Explorer, observe the local handicraft of Takanohazaiku, which uses Tako tree leaves to make jewelery, small boxes, and more.
Binoculars and camera in hand, head out on deck to watch for seabirds. Attend informative lectures that will prepare you for the upcoming ports-of-call and the adventures that lie ahead. Peruse an array of titles and topics in the well-stocked Library, enjoy the finest cigars and cognacs at the Connoisseur’s Corner or indulge in any of the other special amenities offered aboard ship.
The Northern Mariana Islands are a chain of tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean, about 120 miles (193km) north of Guam. Among these 15 islands, Pagan Island consists of two stratovolcanoes joined by a strip of land that is less than 2,000 feet wide at its narrowest point. The island was completely evacuated in 1981 when a large eruption forced the small Micronesian community to relocate to Saipan. The northern volcano is still active, and today plan to observe one of the more recent lava-flows. To get there, follow an old runway used by the Japanese during the 1940s, where the remains of several bunkers and planes can still be seen. Your walk through the forest to the edge of the most recent lava flow is less than a mile, and your hike up the ridge will reveal a scenic view of two lakes. Be on the lookout for the rare animal species found on Pagan, such as the Marianas fruit bat, the Micronesian megapode, and the impressive coconut crab. Related to the hermit crab, this species can weigh up to 9lbs (4kg) with a leg span of more than 3ft (0.91m)!
Saipan is the largest of the Mariana Islands and home to more than 48,000 of the Northern Mariana Islands’ 61,000 residents. American forces entered the Marianas in 1944 and World War II relics can be seen throughout the islands. At the American Memorial Park learn more about the island’s military history. Scattered throughout the park are Japanese pillboxes, fuel storage tanks, bunkers and other structures from the war. Some guests may choose to see additional World War II sites including the Last Command Post where Japanese troops made their final stand against the invading US forces, Banzai Cliff with its beautiful view and grim history, and Suicide Cliff where hundreds of Japanese soldiers jumped to their deaths rather than surrender. Guests can also opt to spend the morning snorkeling and exploring Bird Island. This rocky outcrop above a coral reef is a nesting place for large numbers of seabirds, and its surrounding waters are a protected marine sanctuary.
During lunch the Silver Explorer will sail south towards the smaller island of Tinian, Saipan’s quiet neighbour. Here, Asian visitors come to gamble at the local casino, but for the rest the main attraction is the village of San Jose. Enjoy a swim at Taga or Tachogna beach, contemplate the prehistoric latte stone pillars of the former House of Taga, and see the World War II airfield where the atomic bombs were loaded onto aircraft headed for targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer and transfer to the airport for your flight home.