Embark the Silver Explorer and depart on your exciting 13-day expedition – “Pearls of the Pacific”. This evening, after settling in and setting sail, you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and participate in a mandatory safety drill. Tonight you are invited to familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.
For the first day of your journey, excursions ashore highlight both the historical and natural aspects of Fiji. In the morning pay a visit to the island of Ovalau located off the east coast of Viti Levu. It is one of the smaller islands of Fiji, but its town of Levuka has the honor of having been Fiji’s very first capital where King Cakobau reigned and where the deed of cession to Queen Victoria was signed in 1874. Many of the old buildings in the town have remained nearly unchanged since the late 1800s, and during your walking tour of the town see Fiji’s first government school, the popular Ovalau Club, and the “Cession Stone” commemorating the signing of the Deed of Cession between Fiji and Great Britain. You will meet many of Levuka’s residents and hear stories from the town’s rich and interesting past.
For guests wishing to explore outside the city, join members of the Expedition Team for a hike through pristine rainforest to the village of Lovoni, situated within the crater of an extinct volcano. As you hike learn from local guides about jungle medicines and bush food, and take in the magnificent natural beauty of the surrounding area. At the conclusion of your hike there will be a welcome opportunity to take a refreshing swim.
In the afternoon the Silver Explorer relocates to Leleuvia, an island resort almost completely surrounded by a reef, ideal for snorkeling. Your onboard marine biologist will describe the different kinds of coral and colorful reef-fish that can be seen close to the shore. The little island even offers good birding. Or, if you prefer, you can relax in the shade of palm trees, enjoying the songs of local guitarists.
The proximity of the Tonga Trench has caused the Lau Islands to be raised out of the water, and as a result, ships can no longer use Fulanga’s formerly deep reef-passage. Take your Zodiacs to explore the lagoon and its dozens of mushroom-shaped little islands. Once inside the lagoon you might visit one of the small villages along the north side. Fijian tradition states that a visit must begin with a Yanqqona – a Kava-ceremony – and all Silversea guests are invited to participate. Several of the rock islands have beautiful beaches and depending on the tide you will either enjoy an afternoon on the beach or continue with your exploration of this seldom-visited paradise. Hikers also have the option to trek across the uplifted coral onto the seaward side of the island.
Having left Fiji, cruise next to the Kingdom of Tonga. Silver Explorer will retrace the route of the famous British ship HMAS Bounty, and your onboard historian will expand on the story of the “Mutiny on the Bounty” in preparation for your visit to the Vava’u archipelago. The waters surrounding the archipelago are a favorite stomping ground for humpback whales, so be sure to have your binoculars handy throughout the day today.
In the Vava’u archipelago, the flat top of Mount Talau is famous both as a landmark and as a legend. The story goes that its peak was cut off and stolen by Samoan warriors. Anchor alongside elegant yachts in the bay, and once ashore, begin your visit with an excursion to the Botanical Garden. A knowledgeable local guide will describe the heritage of the island’s plant-life and specifically point out species that have medicinal properties. Afterwards, head to the beach where you can cool off with a refreshing swim or snorkel. Enjoy traditional entertainment and a chance to shop for arts and handicrafts before returning the ship.
For guests wanting a more energetic outing, enjoy a guided island tour by mountain bike! Breathe in the fresh island air en route to a picturesque beach where you can swim in tropical blue waters. Cycle along at a leisurely pace, passing by homes, villages and plantations; observing locals going about their daily routines; and stopping for photo opportunities at the most scenic viewpoints. Alternatively, outdoor enthusiasts can instead explore the island on a full-day guided kayak tour. Kayak inside Swallows Cave and over colorful coral reefs teeming with tropical fish and have a chance to swim at a few of the island’s many pristine beaches. At Mala Island Resort stop for lunch and a chance to snorkel along the stunning coral reef at the Japanese Gardens.
In the afternoon the Silver Explorer will relocate to the Ava Pulepule Kai channel, where you will take to the Zodiacs to explore some of the islands. Various types of seabirds nest or roost here, and you may even see flying foxes hanging in the trees. During your Zodiac cruise explore Swallows Cave and its nesting swiftlets.
Today is a special day, as you will all become time-travelers: although you will have left the Kingdom of Tonga in the evening of October 22, 2014, arrive in Niue shortly after lunch of October 22, 2014, ahead of your departure! Cross the International Dateline between Tonga and Niue, and an Expedition Team member will explain the intricacies of the dateline and all it implies.
Niue, or “The Rock” as it is known to its inhabitants, is one of the largest raised coral atolls in the Pacific, an island type named “Makatea” after an island in French Polynesia. Your arrival coincides with the Niue Constitution Celebrations, celebrating 40 years of self-governing in free association with New Zealand. Celebratory events may include canoe races, fishing competitions and also traditional dancing and singing performances. Also spend some time exploring Niue’s coast, stopping at areas of historical and scenic interest including an opportunity for some snorkeling and swimming in Niue’s crystal clear water.
Today will be a day to scan the seas for humpback whales, as you cruise towards Palmerston Atoll, an area chosen for scientific observation of humpbacks in the Cook Islands. Your lecture staff will have time to prepare you for your visit to the outer islands, and talk about the natural history, seabirds, and underwater creatures, as well as the early settlers and their interesting stories.
At dawn, approach the low-lying atoll of Palmerston and Home Islet where three families, all descendants of William Marsters (1831-1899), will come out to greet you and guide you into the lagoon. Once ashore, the whole community will greet you, followed by a presentation of speeches, prayers and church songs. Afterwards tour the island in small groups to see its highlights: the church, the oldest house, the cemetery, the school, the underground gardens and “Duke’s Pool” where you will be invited to swim and snorkel.
Your marine biologist will point out the varied species found in the lagoon waters, including colorful reef-fish, sea cucumbers, rays, and sea turtles. Watch too for local birdlife, identifying tropicbirds, boobies, noddies, frigate birds and terns with the help of your onboard ornithologist.
Aitutaki is rightly known as one of the most spectacular destinations in the Cook Islands. Its reef completely encompasses a large turquoise lagoon. Board the Zodiacs but before stepping ashore, a local warrior appears and challenges all visitors. Though once you have each stepped across a special stone, you are free to do as we please on the island. So, that is exactly what you will do! Your excursion continues aboard local boats, crossing the lagoon to the small islet of Tapuaetai for a delicious barbecue luncheon in a lush South Pacific setting. Look for red-tailed tropicbirds, grab some snorkeling gear and see what’s underwater or let your stroll along the beach continue out onto a sand cay.
Today is a day to relax on deck or peruse an array of titles and topics in the well-stocked Library. As you sail towards the Society Islands, guests can participate in watching for birds, whales and dolphins on deck, or head to The Theater to learn more about “French” Polynesia and the various artists that tried to make Tahiti their home.
Raiatea, meaning "faraway heaven", is not only famous for its stunningly beautiful bays and landscapes, but also its rich culture and history. The Silver Explorer will anchor in Faaroa Bay and guests can travel by either Zodiac or kayak up the Faaroa River, the only navigable river in the whole of French Polynesia whose historic waters launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand.
Your journey takes you alongside dense tropical rainforests with trees that dip gracefully into the water, to a Botanical Garden where you will go ashore with a local guide to learn more about the island’s plant life, possibly sighting the rare tiare apetahi flower.
A scenic driving tour past a vanilla plantation takes you to the dramatic and well maintained Marae Taputapuatea. As Raiatea is considered to be the birthplace of French Polynesia, this is a highly significant Marae site with many associated legends involving both the sacred and magical. In the afternoon make a Zodiac landing on the sandy beaches of tranquil Moto Iriru to swim and snorkel above colorful underwater gardens or drift snorkel through the more challenging Iriru pass.
No superlatives can adequately describe the spectacular beauty of Bora Bora's emerald-green hills and tranquil sapphire-blue lagoons. Select from a variety of excursions and activities today. Enjoy a leisurely, open-air ‘le truck’ tour of Bora Bora’s highlights: ancient marae stone temples, the Faanui Protestant Church, scenic lookout points with spectacular vistas of the lagoon and distant islands, old WWII remnants and popular Matira Beach. Sample local fruits, watch a pareo (sarong) demonstration, and stop at Bloody Mary’s restaurant before returning to the ship.
Alternatively, climb into a specially designed, open-air, off-road vehicle, to circle the island and visit some of its most dramatic sites that are only accessible by four-wheel drive. Veer inland following a trail that leads up the mountain to an amazing 360-degree panorama. From this height, you can view Bora Bora’s breathtaking multi-colored lagoons. See canons remaining from the American’s presence during WWII.
Though perhaps the most spectacular way to see Bora Bora is from the air on a helicopter flyover. This optional flight aboard a 5-seat “Squirrel” helicopter circles the island for spectacular views of lagoons fringed with white sandy beaches and a network of smaller islets.
Regardless of which tour you choose, your experienced guide will eagerly share his knowledge of the history, local legends, flora and fauna of this beautiful island. Of course, you may choose instead to simply spend the day swimming or snorkeling and savoring this idyllic tropical paradise. Local companies offer semi-submersible, glass bottom boats and snorkel safaris where one popular excursion permits you to swim with rays and with reef-sharks.
Shortly before sunset, the Silver Explorer will set sail for your final destination: Papeete.
Arrive in port in the morning. Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer.