Papua New Guinea & the solomon islands
The South Pacific islands of Melanesia lie to the north and east of Australia; from Papua New Guinea in the west to Fiji in the east. This is one of oldest and most culturally complex regions of the world. People live daily in small-scale societies, whose seeming simplicity is overlaid by complex family ties and trade and exchange networks. Even today one sees how small trading canoes link distant communities and cover vast distances. At home we see how the daily round of crop growing, hunting, and fishing, is enriched by many rituals.
Uncover the hidden gems of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands on this expedition cruise. Savor the warm hospitality of the local peoples and be entertained by spectacular cultural performances. Remote, but not isolated, the great-grandchildren of cannibals will likely whip out their cell phones to take pictures of you. From the rich arterial of New Guinea’s Sepik River sail north across the Bismarck Sea to the remote shores of the Admiralty Islands. The largest, Manus, has the lowest population density in all PNG; its people still living a traditional lifestyle. Next delve into WWII history, and the culture and wildlife of New Ireland and New Britain. At Nissan Island be the excuse for a party-like festival where you are the guest of honor. Then enter a long isolated part of Melanesia as we are amongst the first travelers to return to Bougainville in over two decades. Sailing through the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Solomon Islands, new vistas and unexpected encounters await both above and below the surface...
For serious birders the region offers remote islands with once-in-a-lifetime species. The birding potential is exceptional and to maximize the opportunities there is an optional specialized birding program with customized excursions.
These waters also offer some of the greatest marine diversity in the world, with the beauty beneath the surface not to be missed. Snorkeling is akin to an ocean aquarium of spectacular reefs, coral gardens and masses of colorful fish, all waiting to be discovered.
This amazing voyage is operated by Heritage Expeditions out of New Zealand. Part II of the voyage continues on through the Solomon Islands to Vanuatu. The expertise of their leaders shows in the remote places visited (some islands hadn’t seen an outside ship since the previous year’s visit), and the reception received from the locals. The expedition staff somehow stage-manage everything from amazing birds to baby hawksbill turtles and poisonous coral snakes, from forest hikes to tumbling waterfalls, and snorkeling along coral reefs as rich and diverse as any we've seen.
The expedition is offered annually, in October (springtime in Melanesia).
14-days, including 12 nights aboard the ship, plus a night in Madang, plus travel days.
50 participants, plus expedition staff, hotel staff and crew.
Our expedition begins with an overnight in Madang, on the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea, and ends on arrival in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
DAY BY DAY EXPEDITON ITINERARY:
Day 1: Madang, PNG
Arrive in the port town of Madang and transfer to the Madang Resort for the first night. This evening meet with your fellow travelers and the expedition team over dinner at the resort.
Day 2: Madang, PNG
Madang is picturesquely situated on a peninsula surrounded by islands and waterways and is a thriving community renowned for its traditional artists, world-class diving opportunities and the richness of its surrounding forests. This morning start the day with a visit to the Lababia Wildlife Management Area with its tall forest and rich diversity of wildlife, before returning to Madang to explore the markets with your Guides. Optional excursions this morning for bird enthusiasts. This afternoon board the Spirit of Enderby, settle into your cabin and join the captain and your expedition team on the bridge as we set sail.
Day 3: Sepik River, PNG
Sure to be one of the highlights of our expedition, The Sepik river is the longest river in Papua New Guinea, flowing from the highlands to the Bismarck Sea. This rich arterial is the lifeblood of the people, animals and birds that call it home, and has fostered great traditional artists. We plan to explore the river by Zodiac following tributaries and channels in search of local wildlife. We also meet with the villagers and marvel at their artistry, with the opportunity to purchase carvings directly from the artists.
Days 4 & 5: Manus Province, PNG
Seldom visited and little known, Manus Island is considered a jewel in the crown of Papua New Guinea. Biologically isolated, the islands are home to a high proportion of endemic species including the Superb Pitta which is likely to be one of the birding highlights of the expedition. Manus province has the lowest density of people in all New Guinea with its people still living a very traditional lifestyle. The waters around Manus offer some of the most spectacular and rich reefs in the region; seldom explored waters promising a myriad of opportunities.
Day 6: Mussa Island, PNG
Far to the north of New Ireland and considered a separate bioregion we have allowed a full day to explore in true expedition style Mussa Island and its surrounding waters. Mussa Island represents one of the western-most extensions of the Lapita culture. Debate continues as to whether this was caused by reverse migration or possibly represents one of its earliest known sites as people moved out of Asia. Spend time with the local people to learn about their special culture and life on this remote outpost in the Pacific.
Day 7: Kavieng, New Ireland, PNG
Today we spend the day in and around historic Kavieng at the northern end of New Ireland. Significant evidence from the large Japanese occupation remains around town but today the area is a developing hub for tourism because of the rich diversity of the surrounding land and sea. The birders will leave early for the highlands to the south while the rest of the group spends the morning exploring the town of Kavieng and its history. Later snorkel in the clear waters of the local reefs.
Day 8: Rabaul, New Britain, PNG
Six beautifully cone-shaped volcanoes ring Rabaul’s dramatic flooded-caldera harbor. Visit the bubbling hot springs and take in magnificent views of the harbor and volcanoes from Observatory Ridge. The island is also dotted with historic WWII sites.
Day 9: Nissan Island, PNG
A tropical atoll bathed in rich tropical currents, Nissan Island’s waters abound in marine life. Seldom has anybody had the opportunity to discover this world which promises abundant pelagic fish life and pristine coral reefs. Ashore there are still reminders of the brief but intensive World War II activities during which the islands were recaptured by Kiwi and British forces from the Japanese occupiers. During our time ashore we will meet with the friendly locals and search the dense woods for some of the elusive birds that occur here. Later snorkel over the coral reefs to discover another world.
Day 10: Bougainville Island, PNG
We plan to be amongst the first expeditioners to re-discover the treasures of Bougainville, long isolated and in a strange way protected by the conflict which swirled around its shores. Today it is emerging once again as a newly vibrant and remarkably pristine island paradise, home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the region both above and below the waters. We plan to explore the area around Arawa which offers great opportunities to access the island’s interior and reefs.
Day 11: Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands
Today we arrive in the Solomon Islands on the remote northern coast of Choiseul Island. Here the mountains tumble to the sea, broken only by torrents of fresh water cascading from the highlands. This was once the home of the Choiseul Crested Pigeon and while it no longer walks the forest floor many other species still enliven the forest. We Zodiac cruise deep into the mangrove forest towards
the Sui River Falls searching for Dugong and crocodiles. Here Kina shell money was manufactured and used extensively in trade around the neighboring islands. It is still valued and protected by the village elders to this day.
Day 12: New Georgia Islands, Solomon Islands
The volcanic New Georgia Islands are found in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands and are characterized by extensive reefs and lagoons, rugged terrain and an abundance of rivers. Birding enthusiasts will relish landing on Kolombangara Island, where we hope to see the rare Roviana Rail along with other endemic bird species. For those more interested in the marine environment, nearby Ghizo Island has some of the best snorkeling. Perhaps a visit to Ghizo Township, with small waterfront stores and an open air market will offer wood or stone carvings that the people of the Western Province are famous for.
Day 13: Santa Isabel Island, Solomon Islands
The Arnavon Islands are north-west of Santa Isabel in the midst of an area rich in marine biodiversity and one of the most important rookeries in the western Pacific for the endangered Hawksbill Turtle. The islands also support a high diversity of terrestrial fauna, with 41 species of birds, 6 species of bats, and at least 7 species of terrestrial reptiles. Sensational snorkeling can be experienced around the islands. In the afternoon we Zodiac cruise a chain of largely unpopulated islands off the northwestern tip of Santa Isabel Island before visiting the village of Kia. This is the largest village on Santa Isabel Island and is a sight to behold as the houses are built on stilts over the transparent lagoon waters.
Day 14: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Located on the northern coast of Guadalcanal, by the Mataniko River, Honiara was founded by the British as a military base during World War II. Honiara was witness to the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where the Allied forces eventually overcame a Japanese invasion. Today we enjoy the option of touring Honiara, visiting historical sites including Henderson Airfield, war memorials and the open-air war museum. A second tour heads to the rainforested slopes of Mount Austen in search of some of the Solomon Islands’ most spectacular birds including the Solomon Sea Eagle.
For those disembarking a transfer to your hotel or the airport will conclude your voyage OR join us to discover the Secrets of Melanesia. To allow time for disembarkation procedures we do not recommend booking flights from Honiara before midday.
2017 Expedition Dates: October 8-21
2017 Expedition Rates: Twin cabins start at $7995 + $600 local fee, per person.
Vessel: Spirit of Enderby/Professor Khromov
For more information on this Melanesia Discoverer voyage, or the follow up Secrets of Melanesia voyage (Solomon Islands to Vanuatu) please call or e-mail. An additional Papua New Guinea Explorer voyage is offering annually in April as well...