Embark Silver Explorer and depart on your exciting 16-day expedition – “In the Wake of the Bounty”. Meet some of your fellow explorers as you become acquainted with the luxurious amenities found on board. This evening, after settling in and setting sail, you will be introduced to your Expedition Team.
Today relax after your long voyage to Tahiti and embarkation. Gather in The Theater for staff introductions and briefings on Zodiac safety. The members of your onboard Expedition Team are all knowledgeable experts in their various scientific fields. They will present lectures about the rarely visited islands and archipelagoes that you will visit. Topics will include botany, anthropology and ornithology, and prepare you for the adventures to come. As your voyage follows the route of early Polynesian seafarers, your historian will also describe how your itinerary is connected to the famous breadfruit-expedition of William Bligh and Fletcher Christian.
The waters surrounding the Austral Islands are a well-known breeding ground for humpback whales, so be sure to grab your binoculars before heading out on deck to watch for cetaceans with your marine biologist. Other onboard diversions may include photographic workshops, spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Center, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences.
A rugged, mountainous landscape carpeted in lush vegetation and rimmed with a barrier reef, Rurutu is unlike other French Polynesian islands. It is not the remains of an extinct volcano, but rather was uplifted when it had been in the state of an atoll –with its reef and lagoon- and is now considered a makatea, simply meaning a raised coral island. The main village of Moerai has one the few passes leading ashore, and it is from here that you will explore the island’s tropical interior. Your first stop is at Ane Aeo, an enormous limestone cave believed to be a dwelling place of early Polynesians. Here you will be entertained by a cultural dance presentation performed against the cave’s dramatic background of stalactites and stalagmites. Next visit the ancient Marae Tararoa – once home to island royalty. Here, watch local women weaving traditional pandanus hats and baskets, and perhaps purchase one as a souvenir.
After lunch on board, join the Expedition Team for a nature walk, either along a white sand beach or, depending on the tides, atop the limestone cliffs where your ornithologist will tell you about the red-tailed tropicbird that nests on Rurutu. At the conclusion of the afternoon outing, your Rurutu hosts will offer some samples of local foods for you to taste before your return to Silver Explorer.
Having sailed southeast from Rurutu, you will find the climate is noticeably cooler in Tubuai — the main island of the five Austral Islands, best known for its involuntary role in the aftermath of the mutiny of the Bounty. Your half-day circle island tour begins with a stop at the former location of Fort George, where in 1789, Bounty mutineers attempted to settle, but after battling with the locals, they abandoned the island and the bamboo fort they had built.
Venturing further inland, next see the Royal Birth Marae that honors the birth of the Polynesian people, and also the Tattoo Marae, where you will learn how tattooing was done with octopus ink and the spike of a porcupine fish. Marae are sacred temple ruins, and during your visit here you will also enjoy a traditional kava ceremony. Kava is a beverage made from the grated root of a pepper shrub and the ceremony involves hand clapping and chanting as everyone drinks from bamboo shoot cups.
Guests interested in getting in some extra exercise can join the Expedition Team for an easy and scenic 7km walk from one side of the island through to the other. After lunch on board, all guests will enjoy an afternoon on a private motu with a beautiful sand cay surrounded by turquoise blue water. An idyllic place for swimming and relaxing.
Your third and final day in the Austral Islands is spent at the little known island of Raivavae. Imagine volcanic peaks carpeted in dense vegetation, a lagoon of iridescent blue and several uninhabited motus of powdery white sand. Raivavae’s beauty is said to rival that of Bora Bora, and it does not disappoint. Upon your arrival ashore, you will be greeted with a welcoming dance ceremony at the landing site. The Expedition Team will then lead a variety of planned activities designed to appeal to all levels of ability and interest. Hike to the summit of Mount Hiro, join a guided bicycle tour, or relax aboard a local vehicle for a scenic drive along the circle-island road. Your guide will point out ancient maraes and tikis while sharing their historical background and associated legends.
Regrouping at the marina, all guests will travel by Zodiac to a nearby motu fringed in pristine white sand. Aptly named Swimming Pool Island (Motu Vaiamanu) its natural pool is formed between two motus and the setting is absolutely breathtaking. Within the crystal clear waterslook for coral bommies and observe an astonishing assortment of underwater life with the help of our onboard marine biologist. Of course, the choice is yours to simply relax in the shade of coconut palms or join an Expedition Team guide for a leisurely birding and botany walk.
As the Silver Explorer travels from the remote Austral Islands to the even less frequently visited Gambier Islands, learn about the residents of these remote islands –not only by humans, but also by plants and animals. Your onboard biologist, historian and general naturalists will present a variety of interesting lecture topics to enrich your understanding.
Mangareva is the name of the main island in the Gambier group and also the name for the large barrier reef that encloses this rugged collection of high volcanic peaks. Narrow passes lead into the sheltered lagoon, restricting larger ships from entry, but Silver Explorer can easily maneuver close to your landing site, in fact miles closer than larger ships. As you step ashore, enjoy a warm welcome by the islanders and immediately be wrapped up a sensory experience with fragrant flower leis, the sights and sounds of traditional music and dance, and even a sampling of local flavors.
For guests seeking an active adventure, the Expedition Team will offer a hike to the scenic lookout atop of Mount Duff. For guests not participating in the hike, divide your time between land and water-based activities. During an exploration of Rikitea’s stone and coral buildings learn that this village of churches, convents, schools, weaving workshops and watch towers – some in ruins and some maintained – was built in the 1830s when Jesuit priests established a Catholic missionary center here. One of the highlights is the beautiful mother of pearl altar in Saint Michael’s cathedral. Mangareva’s lagoons are reknown for their pearls, and you will see many of the overwater buildings that indicate working-areas for pearl-grafting. Enjoy the rest of your time on Mangareva snorkeling, swimming and kayaking in the lagoon.
En route to Pitcairn, hear the tale of Lt. William Bligh, captain of HMAV Bounty. When part of his crew started a mutiny in Tongan waters, Bligh and his loyal men were set adrift, while the mutineers, led by Fletcher Christian, took the ship across the Pacific to find a safe place to hide.
Halfway between Peru and New Zealand, Pitcairn was the perfect hiding spot for the famed HMS Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. Not only was the island easily lost or misplaced on early maps of the region, but it can also be very difficult to come ashore as large breakers tend to build up just in front of the small harbor. Depending on the sea conditions, either go ashore by Zodiac, or will have the privilege to use the Pitcairners’ long-boats.
The goal is to visit with the islanders, descendents of the Bounty crew, and get a sense of their daily lives, far removed from the rest of the world. Listen to their distinct dialect, a combination of 18th-century English and Tahitian, and explore historic sites related to the legendary seafaring saga. Plan to visit the museum, the cemetery, the school and Fletcher Christian’s cave. Birders should be on the lookout for the endemic Pitcairn Reed-warbler, while stamp collectors will certainly want to purchase a few of the coveted Pitcairn Island stamps to keep as reminders of their visit to this remote and storied island.
On this remote and uninhabited piece of land – a raised coral island virtually untouched by man – you will get a true sense of how the landscape has appeared for endless years, while gaining an understanding of how natural selection has resulted in Henderson’s primary attraction: four endemic land birds. The onboard ornithologist will lead a guided nature walk, hoping to spot the flightless Henderson rail, Stephen’s lorikeet, the Henderson fruit dove, and the Henderson warbler. The island is also known to have ten endemic species of plant life. To protect the rare, natural state of Henderson Island, UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1988.
The easternmost of the Pitcairn island group, Ducie is a small isolated atoll, a mere speck in the surrounding expanse of ocean, uninhabited except for the 500,000 nesting seabirds that reside among the single plant species (Beach Heliotrope) that grows over seventy percent of the island. Bird species we hope to see include Murphy's petrels, fairy terns, great frigate birds and masked boobies. In this rarely visited spot, you can count yourself amongst the few to ever snorkel in the atoll’s deep lagoon waters. Learn about the island’s history, from its discovery to the 1881 wreckage of the Acadia, and hear the latest news regarding recent conservation efforts.
Join your Easter Island expert in The Theater for his fascinating lecture series about this unique destination in the Pacific and its fascinating history. Join your photographer in-residence to view a video presentation of the entire journey. Attend a briefing on the variety of giant moai sites that can be visited and other important information needed to make the most of your time ashore. On your final night together aboard the Silver Explorer, you are invited to a Farewell Cocktail Reception and Dinner.
Following breakfast, disembark the Silver Explorer and join expert guides for a half-day introduction to Easter Island’s archaeological ruins. Visit the Rano Raraku quarry where the massive moai (statues) were carved. At Ahu Tongariki, you’ll see fifteen standing moai and petroglyphs of enormous fish, turtles, human and birdman figures. Time permitting, you may also be able to explore the ceremonial village of Orongo, sacred site of the ancient Birdman Festival and the temples of Vinapu and Tahai. Your outing concludes on lovely Anakena Beach, the island’s largest white sand beach, where you can relax and ponder the mysteries of these monolithic stone sculptures.
In the morning, following breakfast on board, disembark Silver Explorer and transfer to the airport for your flight to Santiago.