PapeeteArrive in Papeete in the late evening and transfer to your hotel.
Papeete / Embark Caledonian SkyRelax during a morning at your leisure, then join a tour of Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia’s largest island. Pass by orchards of papaya as you drive along the stunning coast. Visit the renowned Gauguin Museum to learn about the life of the artist in the islands and the Museum of Tahiti, which traces the islands’ history. Embark the Caledonian Sky this evening.
Rangiroa, Tuamotu IslandsThough remote and sparsely populated, the far-flung Tuamotus comprise the world’s largest atoll chain. These venerable coral constructions rise just high enough above the water to be called land, and if it weren’t for their waving coconut palms, they might be entirely invisible from any distance. Step ashore on Rangiroa this afternoon, whose name translates into “vast sky.” The largest atoll in the Tuamotus, more than 400 motu—low-lying islets and sandbars—sit atop a ring of coral through which at least 100 channels flow. The dazzling lagoon is hailed as one of the world’s greatest dive destinations, and whether snorkeling or diving, you will be rewarded with unparalleled underwater vistas. Birders watch for blue lorikeets, red-footed boobies, and great frigatebirds, while a beach walk takes you to Tiputa village to meet locals who demonstrate energetic traditional dances.
At SeaAttend informative lectures on board as the Caledonian Sky cruises toward the legendary Marquesas Islands.
Considered one of the most beautiful island groups in the South Pacific, the Marquesas lie farther from a continental coast than any other islands in the world. Unlike other Polynesian islands, the Marquesas have no surrounding reefs or placid lagoons. Their wide, deep bays are havens for vessels such as ours.
Spend three days exploring this dazzling collection of islands whose breathtaking vertical peaks reach into the clouds, while carpets of lush tropical vegetation drape cliffs and canyons that descend to sea-sculpted bays. Countless sooty, fairy, and bridled terns circle tiny, rocky pinnacle islets. Zodiacs bring you ashore on a variety of islands, to be greeted on some by dancers and drummers adorned in leis and tapa cloth, and welcomed to others by the blowing of large conch shells—the traditional pu greeting. On walks you may see petroglyphs or tiki figures—representing deified ancestors—flanked by banyan trees, fragrant plumeria, blooming orchids, and silvery waterfalls. Open-air craft markets display baskets, shell jewelry, and wooden carvings. Birders search for the endemic Nuku Hiva pigeon and Marquesan swiftlet. Though the islands lack fringing reefs, snorkelers and divers will discover many colorful fish against a backdrop of sheer walls and dramatic arches covered in soft corals.
Puka Puka, Tuamotu IslandsDelightful music and dancing welcome you to this idyllic island—the first land sighted in the Pacific by Europeans. Visit the small village whose residents raise taro, bananas, and coconut palms for copra (dried coconut.) Birders search for Pacific reef-heron while snorkelers and divers explore the fringing reef.
Puka RuaCoconut palms and breadfruit trees cover the beautiful islets that surround Puka Rua’s lagoon. Garland-bedecked dancers greet you in the tiny village whose 150 hospitable inhabitants earn a living selling copra. Witness the process of coconut drying, enjoy a local crafts market, or stroll along the lagoon shores watching crested terns circling overhead. Spend the afternoon exploring this lovely atoll’s underwater wonders.
Expedition StopConditions permitting, explore one of the many uninhabited Tuamotu Islands and enjoy swimming, snorkeling, or diving.
Mangareva, Gambier IslandsGo ashore to stroll along tidy streets flanked with colorful tropical vegetation in Rikitea and ascend the slopes of Mt. Duff for nature walks. Birders search for Christmas and tropical shearwaters. Spend the afternoon snorkeling or diving in the large lagoon.
Oeno, Pitcairn IslandsRarely visited, lovely Oeno is a haven for nesting seabirds such as Murphy’s petrels, boobies, white terns, and frigatebirds.
PitcairnRemote, enchanting, and tiny at six miles around, volcano-crowned Pitcairn was the fabled hideout of the HMS Bounty mutineers in 1790. Step ashore and visit with the 50 hospitable inhabitants of Adamstown, who are the direct descendants of the nine mutineers and 18 Polynesians. The anchor of the Bounty rests beside the courthouse and the ship’s Bible resides in the church. After your island visit, the warm and inviting waters are perfect for a swim, snorkel, or dive.
HendersonSheer limestone cliffs surround this elevated coralline island, a World Heritage Site, pockmarked by caves and blowholes. Henderson’s astounding natural selection has produced ten endemic flowering plants and four endemic species of land birds, including the Henderson Island crake and Stephen’s lorikeet. In the afternoon, snorkel or dive in the marine-life-rich waters.
DucieThis small, uninhabited, and rarely-visited atoll is rimmed in white sand beaches that in turn surround a crystalline lagoon. As you walk along the shore, witness a vast variety of seabirds—tens of thousands nest here, including Murphy’s and Phoenix petrels, masked boobies, frigatebirds, and red-tailed tropicbirds. Underwater forays bring you face-to-face with legions of rainbow-hued fish in the warm, clear waters.
At SeaRelax on board as you sail.
Easter IslandSpend two full days exploring Easter Island. Visit the ceremonial center of Ahu Vinapu where the monolithic stonework is reminiscent of the Inca civilization in Peru, contributing to the theory of contact between the islanders and South America. View the intriguing stone heads, moai, built on massive stone platforms at Tahai, along with nearly 400 monolithic statues in various states of completion at the spectacular volcanic tuff quarries. At Ahu Tongariki visit the largest ceremonial site in Polynesia—a five-year archaeological restoration project was completed in 1996. Drive to the Rano Kau volcano to view the giant caldera, its sprawling floor dotted with lakes and the ceremonial village of Orongo, dedicated to the fascinating “birdman” cult.
Easter Island / Disembark / SantiagoAfter breakfast disembark the Caledonian Sky and enjoy a short tour before heading to the airport for your afternoon flight to Santiago. From Santiago, board your flights home.