Arrive in Brisbane and connect with your independent flight to Port Moresby. Upon arrival transfer to your included hotel for an afternoon at leisure. Welcome dinner and overnight at your hotel.
Visit the National Museum and Art Gallery with its exceptional collections of primitive arts, including Sepik River carvings, Malagan masks, and Trobriand Island fishing vessels. Board the Odyssey in the afternoon.
Numerous small islands dot the southern coast of Papua New Guinea and make an expedition stop this afternoon for an introductory snorkel or dive over colorful reefs.
Today explore these distinctive, jewel-like islands capped by active volcanoes and have the chance to snorkel or dive in the surrounding marine-rich waters. Also visit a tranquil seaside fishing village and hike to a series of hot springs and bubbling mud pools surrounded by lush vegetation.
This morning visit with the traditional Trobriand islanders of Kitava and view energetic, time-honored dances that celebrate fishing and the seasonal yam harvest. Learn about the history of the Kula Ring, a circular pattern of ceremonial trade relationships that binds the islands of Milne Bay and eastern Papua New Guinea together in a long-established network of friendship. These islanders are also renowned for the exquisite quality of their ebony wood-carvings, often decorated with mother-of-pearl shell inlays. Enjoy a walk among the villages of Kitava before returning to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon anchor at nearby Narutu Island. Snorkel amid kaleidoscopic coral reefs populated by parrotfish, neon damsels, and other brilliantly-hued species. Naturalists lead a walk around the island in search of flying foxes (fruit bats), sulphur-crested cockatoos, and helmeted friarbirds.
Traditional canoe building is a specialty of the Laughlan islanders. In this very remote corner of eastern Papua New Guinea find hand-crafted seagoing canoes in various stages of construction, with finely tuned hulls of traditional planking lashed with natural sennit fiber cord and caulked with sap. The residents of Bodaluna welcome you and stroll through the village of palm-thatched houses. Enjoy an afternoon snorkel off a pristine sandbar or an adventurous dive off the outer reef.
Ghizo Island’s natural charms are unveiled as we hike up a hillside for splendid views and watch for white-bellied cuckoo-shrikes, red-knobbed imperial pigeons, moustached treeswifts, and eclectus parrots. Divers investigate WWII wrecks in the crystal-clear waters. In the afternoon your ship cruises in the historic wake of John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 boat ripped in half by a Japanese destroyer in the Blackett Strait during WWII. Kennedy and his crew swam ashore to the tiny island later named in his honor. Zodiacs bring you to its sandy beaches and snorkel or dive over coral reefs.
During WWII the British founded Honiara as a military base. The town and the Mataniko River, which runs through it, were the front for many months during the battle of Guadalcanal. Today, this is a bustling town with lovely hibiscus and palm-tree-lined avenues. Enjoy a morning tour of Honiara and its environs, visiting war memorials; Henderson Field, the open-air war museum; and a local woodcarving academy. Later cruise Iron Bottom Sound, the site of intense WWII naval battles, and so named for the large numbers of Japanese and American ships and aircraft that sank beneath these placid seas.
Village warriors greet guests with the blowing of conch-shell trumpets as you step ashore on this small island and the local residents offer welcome with songs and elaborately costumed dances unique to their island. Santa Ana is known for its bone fishhooks and imaginative fishing floats. In the afternoon snorkel or dive the reefs to view clownfish, soldierfish, and brilliantly hued wrasses. Or join naturalists for a guided walk across the island through a shady forest. Visit a traditional "spirit house" where ancestral relics are kept. Bird sightings may include the cardinal honeyeater, Brahminy kite, and Solomon sea eagle.
A lagoon and barrier reef surround the rarely visited island of Utupua where Zodiacs take you down a fjordlike channel. Among the marshy mangrove trees learn about an ecosystem that is a beehive of biological activity. Enjoy free time to stroll through Nembo to see where villagers plant their prolific gardens, or join a snorkel or dive excursion.
Tikopia is legendary — a remote tropical paradise where traditional customs remain intact. This Polynesian-settled island lies in Melanesia, yet its people are descendants of Tongan and Wallis Island settlers. School children clad in tapa cloth harmonize songs of welcome, followed by enthusiastic dances by the young men of the village. A hike to the crater lake at Tikopia’s center may reveal fairy terns, cardinal honeyeaters, and yellow-bibbed lories. In the afternoon choose to stroll the lovely beach or snorkel on the edge of the reef where you may spot up to 60 species of fish.
This morning chose from many options to explore Luganville and its environs. WWII history unfolds as we inspect relics of this large American base — view Quonset huts and downed bombers, or choose to visit Nekat Village and participate in a traditional kava ceremony. Divers set out on an unforgettable dive over the USS President Coolidge which sank in 1942; a tapestry of corals encrust the wreck offering a haven for fishes. Naturalists accompany birders and hikers on an excursion inland to search for some 50 species of birds, including the very rare mountain starling and thicket warbler, found only at high elevations; the chestnut-bellied kingfisher; and the yellow white-eye. Conditions permitting, snorkel at Million Dollar Point, where the Allies jettisoned large quantities of surplus war materiel into the sea.
Today be welcomed by palm-leaf-clad dancers with elegantly carved headdresses before exploring traditional Linbul Village. Ambrym is known for its slit-gong drums, some carved from enormous breadfruit tree trunks. In the afternoon visit Pentecost Island, famous as the birthplace of “bungee jumping.” An exhilarating spectacle awaits as men jump from tall towers with vines tied to their feet, in a ritual believed to ensure a good yam harvest.
Disembark this morning for a tour of Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, ending at the airport for your independent flight to Brisbane. Dinner and overnight at your included hotel.
Transfer to the airport this morning for your independent flight home.