Day 1 Rabaul, Papua New Guinea – Embark
Set at the eastern end of the island of New Britain, the tropical port town of Rabaul has always been famous for its spectacular setting. Nestled beside Simpson Harbour, the township is surrounded by six volcanoes, one of which, Mt Tavurvur, is still active today. During more than 100 years of settlement, Rabaul has been rocked by massive volcanic eruptions and war, a testament to the resilience of the townsfolk who have rebuilt after each event.
The most recent major volcanic eruption was in September 1994 when Tavurvur and Vulcan covered much of Rabaul and surrounding villages with volcanic ash. This eruption saw the growth of the nearby coastal town of Kokopo which has now become the administrative and tourism centre for East New Britain, replacing Rabaul in that role. The area played a significant role in WWII and the Japanese occupation in 1942 saw the building of hundreds of kilometres of tunnels underneath the town and the Gazelle Peninsula as protection against constant Allied bombing raids. It is almost hard to miss the rusting relics left over by the retreating forces. In one tunnel are five huge barges that were pulled along rails to the shore and back by prisoners of war. Dozens of sunken aircraft and ships dot the harbour and to the north are sea caves used as a drop-off point by Japanese submarines.
As you depart, Orion will cruise right past the active volcano, Mt Tavurvur.
Day 2 At Sea
Day 3 Wewak, Papua New Guinea
Wewak is the capital of the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea. It is located on the northern coast of the island of New Guinea, the largest town between Madang and Jayapura. Between 1943 and 1945, during World War II, Wewak was the site of the largest Japanese airbase in mainland New Guinea. The base was subjected to repeated bombing by Australian and U.S. planes, most notably in one massive attack on August 17, 1943. Directly to the west of the town centre is a peninsula known as Cape Wom, which was the site of the surrender of Japanese forces in New Guinea. A small memorial stands here.
Wewak serves as our official port of exit from Papua New Guinea. Whilst officials clear the ship and her paperwork, you will have the opportunity to find out more about the provincial capital of East Sepik Province. The included expedition today will visit the site of the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a large Gothic-like cathedral that almost seems out of place in it's surroundings. Visit Cape Wom, the site of the Japanese surrender where Lieutenant General Adachi signed the surrender documents and handed his sword to Major General Robertson on 13th September 1945. A war memorial marks the site and the wartime airstrip is still in place. Another memorial in town has been erected at the site of the Japanese war graves and nearby is the Japanese/PNG Peace Park which will also visit. On top of one of the hills gives a great look over the top of Wewak and it's coastline, several Japanese anti-aircraft gun emplacements sit quietly rusting away, otherwise seemingly untouched since the end of the war. The main town food markets and another market focussing on artifacts will also be visited today.
Day 4 Jayapura, Papua Province
Jayapura is just a short distance from Wewak, over the border from Papua New Guinea into Indonesia's Papua Province (formerly known as Irian Jaya) but the differences are striking. Wewak almost seems to have stood still since PNG's independence in 1975, whereas "next door" Jayapura is a thriving developing city. From 1910 to 1962, the city was known as Hollandia and was the capital of a district of the same name in the northeast of West New Guinea. It was briefly called Kota Baru and Sukarnopura before assuming its present name in 1968. The literal meaning of Jayapura, as of Jaipur in Rajasthan, is 'City of Victory'.
You will be welcomed by enthusiastic dancers in traditional dress, initiating us in true local tradition with sago, gifts, and spices placed on an honoured ancestral tray. Today drive up to Gunung Ifar to view the WW II monument to General Mc Arthur with its spectacular view of Sentani Lake and Cyclope Mountain. Then drive to Sentani lake for an excursion by boat to a small island in the middle of the lake where you can visit the village of Assei. Walk into the village to learn of the local people lives and share in their daily activities. People of this village are mainly fishermen, but they still do some art works and plenty of painting on bark, which will be available for purchase from the village hall. In the afternoon the tour continue to Abepura to visit the Museum before returning to the ship. This tour includes lunch ashore.
Day 5 Urbanasi Atoll, Papaido Islands, Papua Province
Urbinisi Island, in the Papaido Island group is that classical tiny little island with white sand beaches, surrounded by coral that you image Robinson Crusoe sitting on waiting for his rescue. Essentially uninhabited, although regularly visited by passing fisherman and nearby villagers, there are some small abandoned buildings on the island but not much more other than it's naturally beautiful surrounds.
The snorkelling from the beach today should be excellent. A diverse range of corals and fish await us just offshore. Easy snorkelling from the beach is available, as well for the more adventurous snorkelling from the Zodiacs further off shore will be possible. The expedition team will run guided snorkelling expeditions today. Relax in the shade on the beach and pretend to be Robinson Crusoe with your ship mates for the day.
Day 6 Mapia Atoll, Papua Province
Mapia Atoll is actually north of the equator, the only destination on this voyage to be so. It is a classic atoll structure in the middle of nowhere, as remote as it gets. Spend the day in clear waters, snorkelling and swimming or simply relaxing. There is a lighthouse on the atoll, which may or may not be manned during your visit.
Not a lot can be said about today other than you are just about as remote as you can get. Very few people get to step ashore, swim and snorkel in such a beautiful and remote location as this. Mapia Atoll will be yours for the day!
Day 7 Raja Ampat, Papua Province
“Raja Ampat”, or “Four Kings” archipelago encompasses more than 3.6 million hectares of land and sea off the north-western tip of Indonesia’s West Papua Province. Located in the Coral Triangle, the heart of the world’s coral reef biodiversity, the seas around Raja Ampat possibly hold the richest variety of marine species in the world. Today have a choice of landings and destinations, the Captain and expedition team will choose the best to suit the conditions on the day. One island you will certainly visit is Gam Island where you will be welcomed with traditional dances.
Today you will visit the village of Yanwabnor on Gam Island for an exciting welcome ceremony. The culture in the Raja Ampat group is significant and is noted in history as the link between the Malayan East Indies and Papuan New Guinea. After the formal welcome you will be able to explore the village. The rest of the day today will be spent at another location in the Raja Ampat area, it may be Pulau Jerief or another nearby island such as Kri. Either way enjoy an excellent destination to one more enjoy the superb snorkelling of this area.
Day 8 McClure Gulf, Papua Province
Sailing at night through the most westward point in your journey along the coast of the island of New Guinea, reach the McClure Gulf. Interestingly, thanks to the one time transmigration program the government ran for many years in the region, many of the population here are Muslim. These differences will be evident in their cultural performances today. This area is also home to some significant rock art, which you will go in search of in the Zodiac fleet.
Your day today will be split into two halves. In the morning visit Kokas Village in Fak Fak province. Kokas is a village of approximately 500 Muslim West Papuans, the beaches of Kokas contain the remains of wartime bunkers, attesting to the occupation of the Japanese forces in WWII. Disembark the Zodiacs at a long cement jetty, where friendly villagers will greet you and help you ashore and into the village for a cultural performance and welcome. A series of dances will be performed including the local version of the bamboo stick dance seen across Asia from Cambodia to the Philippines. Here the dance is called Gabagaba, a dance in which two women jump between clicking bamboo poles. After your time in the village relocate for an afternoon Zodiac cruise in search of ancient Papuan rock art. The exposed rockwalls in the bay display sprayed pigment from layers of stenciled hands with varying tones of red (from ochre), black (from ash), and white (from ground limestone). Predominant designs show hand stencils, fish, birds, angled boomerang-like objects, and depictions of mixed animal-human figures.
Day 9 At Sea
Day 10 Sangliat Dol & Weluan Beach, Yamdena Island
This traditional village in the Tanimbar islands of Maluku is the center of the ancient "boat" culture of Maluku. In the centre of the village is a stone boat. Not a boat that was ever meant to float, but a boat built to symbolise the arrival from the sea of the original inhabitants of Maluku. Most villages simply abandoned their giant stone boats and the culture that was attached when they were moved to the coast. But Sangliat Dol was different. Although on the coast a steep rise starting immediately from the foreshore meant that the original village built for safety and security on the hill top, was already close to the coast. The village of Sangliat Dol was therefore not required to move during the colonial period and the legacy of that is their giant stone boat and the culture associated with it remains intact today. A giant stone stair case leads from the beach to the hill top ceremonial area.After the ceremony the six host families will take their adopted guests on a mini-tour of the village, including seeing the host families housing and cooking areas, an ikat weaving display, and a market area selling ikat weavings, wooden carvings very similar to those found in new Guinea and possible even old Dutch artifacts such as plates and coins. At the end of the morning, as guests finish at the markets they will descend the staircase, again with dozens of locals assisting, back to the beach, the zodiacs, and the ship for lunch.
The remainder of the day after the visit to Sangliat Dol will be spent at Weluan Beach outside of Saumlaki town, the capital of Yamdena and the main administrative area for southern Maluku. Here a wide range of local artifacts including many carvings that almost resemble the style found slightly further east in New Guinea, can be found and purchased if desired.
Other products such as the local eucalyptus oil and a potent spirit distilled from the inflorescence of the sugar palm will also be on display. The brave may even sample this distilled liquor! Swimming and rides in local sailing canoes will be available and a giant Christ Statue, (not quite in the same league as Rio!), overlooks the beach giving spectacular views of the beach and nearby township.
Day 11 At Sea
Day 12 Darwin, Northern Territory
Darwin is Australia’s closest city to the equator and the gateway to the Top End. Following bombing during World War II, Darwin was more a frontier town of crocodile and buffalo shooters and pioneer cattlemen. After the city was wiped out by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 it was rebuilt as Australia’s cosmopolitan northernmost tropical capital. Beyond the city lies Litchfield National Park (about 2 hours drive) and to the south-east the teeming wetlands of Australia’s largest national park, Kakadu. Much architecture remains from the city’s early periods, with museums, markets and an incredible diversity of restaurants to keep visitors entertained. The harbour foreshore area is a great place to discover the city’s maritime links. Take a relaxing cruise on an old pearl lugger, a thrilling flight in a seaplane or a gentle hovercraft trip. Spend a day out fishing for barramundi, jewfish, golden snapper and threadfin salmon, or go for the adventure of scuba diving around shipwrecks. At sunset, savour a taste of Asia’s night markets at Mindil Beach, where you can browse the food stalls for a picnic dinner on the beach.