Secrets of Melanesia:

Solomon Islands & Vanuatu

Secrets of Melanesia: Solomon Islands & Vanuatu

DAYS 12

PLACES VISITED Solomon Islands / Vanuatu

Sail into a world that few have ever experienced; idyllic islands and isolated villages where unique time-honoured traditions and elaborately costumed dancers welcome us into their world. Sail from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, to discover the beauty of the outer Solomon Islands. Relax as our ship glides into secluded bays, and takes us to remote oceanic islands where the art of traditional navigation lives today. On Santa Isabel the rhythms of life continue little changed, with daily life centered on the village and family. Malaita is culturally rich, the traditional currency, Malaitan shell-money, is still made on the island and is used as a dowry, and worn as a status symbol.

Vanuatu has produced a kaleidoscope of cultures and more than 100 indigenous languages. With over 80 habitable islands, islanders have closely guarded their own cultures and languages. Our expedition embraces some of these cultures and languages and offers a window into the happiest country in the world.

Our journey offers some of the greatest underwater experiences in the world, with an abundance of marine life and coral gardens that draws you in to explore a magical underwater world. During frequent snorkel excursions throughout the expedition everybody will have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty beneath the waves.

For birders this itinerary offers once in a lifetime species on remote islands where few have been before, endemic birdlife such as the Solomon Sea Eagle or the Vanikoro White-eye may be seen. The birding potential is exceptional and to allow birders to maximise the opportunities on the expedition there will be an optional specialised birding programme with customised excursions.

A picture postcard paradise awaits us as we uncover the 'Secrets of Melanesia'.

Sail into a world that few have ever experienced; idyllic islands and isolated villages where unique time-honoured traditions and elaborately costumed dancers welcome us into their world. Sail from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, to discover the beauty of the outer Solomon Islands. Relax as our ship glides into secluded bays, and takes us to remote oceanic islands where the art of traditional navigation lives today. On Santa Isabel the rhythms of life continue little changed, with daily life centered on the village and family. Malaita is culturally rich, the traditional currency, Malaitan shell-money, is still made on the island and is used as a dowry, and worn as a status symbol.

Vanuatu has produced a kaleidoscope of cultures and more than 100 indigenous languages. With over 80 habitable islands, islanders have closely guarded their own cultures and languages. Our expedition embraces some of these cultures and languages and offers a window into the happiest country in the world.

Our journey offers some of the greatest underwater experiences in the world, with an abundance of marine life and coral gardens that draws you in to explore a magical underwater world. During frequent snorkel excursions throughout the expedition everybody will have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty beneath the waves.

For birders this itinerary offers once in a lifetime species on remote islands where few have been before, endemic birdlife such as the Solomon Sea Eagle or the Vanikoro White-eye may be seen. The birding potential is exceptional and to allow birders to maximise the opportunities on the expedition there will be an optional specialised birding programme with customised excursions.

A picture postcard paradise awaits us as we uncover the 'Secrets of Melanesia'.

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ITINERARY
Secrets of Melanesia: Solomon Islands & Vanuatu
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Day 1: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Arrive in the port town of Honiara; make your own way to the Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel where overnight accommodation is included in your expedition for the first night. This evening meet with your fellow travellers over dinner at the hotel.

Day 2: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Honiara was founded as a military base during World War II and was witness to the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. This morning, enjoy a tour of Honiara visiting historical sites including the iconic Japanese and American war memorials. Birdwatchers will head to Mt Austen in search of some of the Solomon Islands’ most spectacular birds, including the Solomon Sea Eagle. Board the ship this afternoon. After familiarising yourself with your cabin and the ship join the captain and expedition team on the bridge.

Day 3: San Jorge & Utuha Islands, Santa Isabel
One of the largest in the Solomon Islands, most of Isabel remains unexplored and undiscovered. We will explore the remote southern shores around Thousand Ships Harbour which is nestled between San Jorge Island and the high peaks of southern Santa Isabel. Beautiful uninhabited islands dot the waters and verdant forest covers slopes which surround the harbour as we are treated to a warm welcome and have the opportunity to explore the forest and coral reefs during our visit.

Day 4: Malaita
Mountainous Malaita is home to one-third of the Solomon’s total population and features pristine rivers and unexploited tropical forests to explore. This morning we plan to visit the beautiful uninhabited Leli Island, an ideal snorkel site with its calm clear waters and abundant array of fish and corals. In the afternoon we plan to be among the first to visit a remote and hard to reach village where we will experience a rapturous warrior welcome from the Kawio mountain people. One of the most traditional communities in the Solomon Islands, enjoy an authentic slice of village life as we learn about their conservation efforts.

Day 5: Makira
Makira is the most easterly of the main islands in the Solomon’s archipelago. This morning we anchor in the calm waters of Star Harbour. Join the naturalists for a Zodiac exploration of the abundant mangrove forests that line the shores, and take a short walk to Makira’s south coast where the villagers live much as they have for millennia. We spend time with the locals, who share with us their traditional song and dance. If we are lucky, the local boys might be surfing on their hand-carved palm wood boards.

Day 6: Nendö – Temotu Province
Nendö is the largest of the Santa Cruz Islands, which lie to the south-east of the Solomon Islands. The Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira unsuccessfully attempted to establish a colony in 1595. Biologically these islands share more in common with Vanuatu. It is also the home of red feather money, sourced from the Scarlet Honeyeater. Venturing inland, we visit a village where the ancient traditions are still very much alive. Watch the manufacture of red feather money, and join the locals in dances which reverberate through the ages.

Day 7: Duff Islands
The Duff Islands are a cluster of 11 small islands on the edge of the vast Pacific Ocean. We navigate the Zodiacs through the shallow passages in the reef to visit the only inhabited island, Taumako. Here we are welcomed by the Polynesian-speaking local people, who live on hand-crafted artificial islands of coral stone within the lagoon. These islands are exceptionally remote, and the people are largely cut off from the outside world. We learn about their continued use of traditional sailing canoes and marvel at some of the most beautiful yet isolated islands you will ever encounter.

Day 8: Vanikoro
Today we explore the archipelago of Vanikoro, with its five islands encapsulated by a dramatic barrier reef which offers superb snorkelling. French explorer Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse famously disappeared here after both his vessels, La Boussole and Astrolabe, struck the reef in 1788. On the shore we visit a monument to Le Pérouse, erected by fellow explorer Dumont Durville in 1827. Join the naturalists on a forest walk in search of the endemic Vanikoro White-eye and Monarch, or marvel at the delicate Vanikoro Orchid. We also have a good chance to see the recently rediscovered Vanikoro Flying Fox, considered extinct until a recent visit by Heritage Expeditions!

Day 9: Vanua Lava
This morning we arrive in Vanuatu at the northern outpost of Vanua Lava, the largest island in the Banks Islands which is crowned by the active volcano Mt Séré’ama. Walk the main street and enjoy the carefully manicured tropical gardens of the administrative centre of Sola, or for a more active option, climb through the waterfalls behind the town for some excellent views over the bay. This afternoon we explore the nearby offshore islands for snorkelling and beachcombing.

Day 10: Espiritu Santo
Enjoy a full day on Vanuatu’s largest Island, Santo; location of James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. Early morning sees the birders ashore in search of many of Vanuatu’s endemic birds. Indulge in a swim in the crystalline waters of Champagne Beach with its famed powdery white sand. This afternoon we will enjoy Zodiac cruises to the iconic blue holes of Santo. For those with an interest in the history of the island, there is a visit to Lugainville and Million Dollar Point.

Day 11: Ambryn
Today we visit Ambrym, renowned as the island of volcanoes and magic throughout Vanuatu. We plan to head ashore at Ranon on the northern coast where the traditional Rom dance is still practised and custom carving is alive and well. A short walk through the forest brings us to the ‘arena’ where masked dancers emerge from the forest. The forests of Ambrym offer some excellent walks to go in search of the local birds and plants, accompanied by our naturalists. This afternoon enjoy a final snorkel excursion.

Day 12: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Arrive into Port Vila early morning and disembark. Upon disembarking a transfer to your central city hotel or the airport will conclude your voyage. To allow time for disembarkation procedures we do not recommend booking flights from Port Vila before midday. Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.

Pricing

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It is always well worth to see and feel different parts of our blue earth, to meet different people and see another landscape and animals. A worthwhile trip, a lot of people will enjoy this, just like I did. READ MORE
ATIE
I’d go anywhere with you guys and know it would be fascinating, adventurous and that I’d be well taken care of. READ MORE
OLIVIA
It was a privilege to have experienced such a special place. READ MORE
KAYE
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