This voyage uncovers some of the hidden gems of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, providing great opportunities to snorkel in rich coral seas, explore its stunning coastal and riverine landscapes, highly diverse cultures; and for birdwatchers especially, see avian species you will see nowhere else.
The voyage will first head to the Sepik River - the third largest river in the world by volume and culturally rich artery through the northern lowlands of Papua New Guinea. You will visit numerous villages where wood carvings and paintings provide doorways into rich and varied cultures along this river.
From the Sepik, you will sail north across to the remote shores of Manus and Mussau Islands. Manus is an isolated place, with the lowest density of people in all New Guinea - its people still living a very traditional lifestyle. Isolation has led to a high proportion of endemic species, which includes the Superb Pitta. Waters around the island offer some spectacular coral reefs.
Heading further east takes us to New Ireland where birders can head to the highlands, whilst those keen on coastal cultures and coral can enjoy an archipelago of islands within a barrier reef which encircles the northern tip of this narrow island. Continuing to New Britain, the focus is on the epicentre of recent volcanic activity at Rabaul. Six cone shaped volcanoes ring Rabaul's dramatic flooded-caldera harbour, whilst at Observatory Ridge we can overlook bubbling hot springs.
The voyage will then cross the Buka Channel and at Nissan Island can see reminders of the brief but intensive World War II skirmishes, during which the islands were recaptured by Kiwi and British forces from Japanese occupiers. Few people make it to this remote spot, where the reefs are excellent and forests are home to more of New Guinea's unique birdlife.
Bougainville is a physically dramatic island where conflicts now resolved, have kept the culture of the place very different and special. Isolation has once again played its part in harbouring unique species and some excellent coral reefs.
From Bougainville to the Solomon island of Choiseul, where you will explore coastal mangroves in search of Dugongs and Crocodiles. You will experience more great coral reef and birdwatching opportunities at the New Georgia Islands and Santa Isabel, before ending your journey in the capital, Honiara.
For birders this itinerary offers once in a lifetime species on remote islands where few have been before. The birding potential is exceptional with many highlights including the Manus Friarbird, Mussau Monarch and the Paradise Drango. Endemic to the Solomon Islands you will be on the lookout for the Roviana Rail and Solomon Sea Eagle. Allowing birders to maximise the opportunities available to them there will be an optional specialised birding programme with customised excursions.
These waters within the Coral Triangle also offer some of the greatest marine diversity in the world; and you will have ample to snorkel and appreciate the beauty beneath the waves.
Small Ship Expedition
This voyage will be on an ice-strengthened expedition ship carrying just 50 passengers. Equally at home in the polar seas as in the South Pacific, she will carry a fleet of zodiacs to allow you to explore the remote rivers, beaches and villages of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. You will be accompanied by an experienced expedition team made up of naturalists and guides, who will provide a series of lectures throughout the trip.
Birdwatching: While there will be ample opportunity for birdwatching from the ship, Zodiacs or on landings, those with a keen interest in birds are recommended to add on the birding supplement. Accompanied by your birding guide, the group will access the highlands and other remote areas, usually early in the morning, to see the best of the region’s birdlife. Please contact us for comprehensive birding notes for this departure.
Snorkelling: The waters surrounding Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are part of the Coral Triangle, an area of over 5.7 million kilometres (2,200,000 sq miles) of ocean, sometimes referred to as the ‘Amazon of the Seas’. The Coral Triangle is recognized as the global centre of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation. It covers just 1.6% of the world's oceans, it contains 76% of all known coral species in the world and encompasses the highest diversity of coral reef fishes in the world (more than 3,000 species) with 52% of Indo-Pacific reef fish species and 37% of the world’s reef fishes found here. You can hope for almost daily snorkelling excursions to be offered throughout the trip to explore the stunning shallow reefs and marine life found here.
14 Day Itinerary
Embark: Madang, Papua New Guinea
Disembark: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Day 1: Madang, Papua New Guinea
Arrive in the port town of Madang and transfer to the Madang Resort for the first night. This evening meet with your fellow travellers and the expedition team over dinner at the resort.
Day 2: Madang
Madang is situated on a picturesque peninsula surrounded by islands and waterways. It is a thriving community renowned for its traditional artists, and the richness of its surrounding forests. This morning you will leave Madang for verdant highlands close to the township where we can find tall lowland rainforest. There may be time to visit a small highland village where we will probably hear the beat of the Kundu drum . You will arrive back in Madang with time to explore the colourful markets with your Guides. An optional early morning excursion will be offered for those on the special birding programme.
In the late morning you will board your ship, settle into your cabin and join the captain and your expedition team on the bridge as you set sail.
Day 3: Sepik River
Sure to be one of the highlights of your expedition, you will have plenty of time to fully appreciate this remarkable river, its birds, animals and the people that call it home. The Sepik River is the longest river in Papua New Guinea and the World's third biggest by water volume, flowing from the highlands to the Bismarck Sea. The area is well known for its traditional wood carvings. We will visit some local artists in their villages when we explore the river by Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB), watching out at the same time for bird life as we go
Days 4 & 5: Manus Province
Seldom visited and little known, Manus Province is considered a jewel in the crown of Papua New Guinea. Biologically isolated, the islands are home to a high proportion of endemic species, and your stop here is likely to be one of the birding highlights of the expedition. On your first day, you will take in the neighbouring island, Bipi, a true paradise where the local people will share their customs. Manus province has the lowest population density in all New Guinea with its people still living a very traditional lifestyle. The pristine waters around Manus and Bipi offer some of the region’s best snorkelling.
Day 6: Mussa Island
Far to the north of New Ireland and considered a separate bioregion, you will have 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. Here you will have the opportunity to spend time with the local people to learn about their special culture and life on this remote Pacific outpost.
Day 7: Kavieng, New Ireland
Today you will spend the day in and around historic Kavieng at the northern end of New Ireland. Significant evidence of 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 Kavieng, absorbing Malagan culture and enjoying the beautiful islands nearby. Later you can enjoy snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of the local reefs.
Day 8: Rabaul, New Britain
Six beautiful cone-shaped volcanoes ring Rabaul’s dramatic flooded-caldera harbour. Visit the bubbling hot springs and take in magnificent views of the harbour and volcanoes from Observatory Ridge. As you explore the island, you will see fascinating reminders of the Japanese occupation, your tour taking in the site of the enormous volcanic eruption that all but destroyed Rabaul town, and the underground bunker that was the hiding place of Pearl Harbour commander, Yamamoto. In the afternoon you will head towards the Duke of York Islands to take advantage of the excellent snorkelling opportunities.
Day 9: Nissan Island
A tropical atoll adrift in the azure waters of the Buka Channel, Nissan Island is bathed in rich tropical currents that abound in marine life. Seldom have outsiders 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, Australian and British forces from the Japanese occupiers. During your time ashore you will meet with the friendly locals and search the dense woods for some of the elusive birds that occur here. Later the snorkellers will find plenty to discover in the coral reefs that surround Nissan.
Day 10: Bougainville Island
You will plan to be among the first expeditioners to re-discover the treasures of Bougainville, long isolated and in a strange way protected due to 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. You will plan to explore the area around Arawa including the Bougainville Copper Mine site – the setting for the movie Mr Pip – with great opportunities to access the island’s interior and reefs.
Day 11: Choiseul Island
Today you will 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. You will plan to cruise by Zodiac deep into the mangrove forest towards the Sui River Falls where Dugong and crocodiles live. Here Kisa shell money was manufactured and used extensively in trade around the neighbouring islands. It is still valued and protected by the village elders to this day.
Day 12: New Georgia Islands
The volcanic New Georgia Islands are found in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands and are characterised by extensive reefs and lagoons, rugged terrain and an abundance of rivers. Nature enthusiasts will relish landing on Kolombangara Island, where you will plan to visit the reserve which protects the islands central peak and search for the rare Roviana Rail along with other endemic bird species. For those interested in the marine environment, the nearby waters are renowned for their World War II wrecks and reefs that are home to some of the highest fish counts in the world.
Day 13: Santa Isabel Island
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, six species of bats, and at least seven species of terrestrial reptiles. Sensational snorkelling can be experienced around the islands.
Day 14: Honiara, Solomon Islands
Located on the northern coast of Guadacanal, 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 the Japanese invasion. Today you enjoy the option of touring Honiara, visiting historical sites including Henderson Airfield, war memorials and the open-air war museum. The birders head to the rain-forested slopes of Mount Austen in search of some of the Solomon Islands’ most spectacular birds, including the Solomon Sea Eagle.
You will disembark today and will be transferred either to a central hotel or to the airport for your international flight home.
- Voyage as indicated in draft itinerary
- All meals, snacks, coffee and tea
- All shore excursions and zodiac activities
- Pre-voyage hotel night in Madang
- Program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced
- Transfer to central hotel or airport on day of disembarkation
- Comprehensive pre-departure material
- All miscellaneous services taxes and port charges throughout the programme
- Specialist birding programme ($500pp - must be pre-booked)
- Discovery Fund contribution ($600pp - required for all passengers, payable
- International flights (please enquire)
- Land based accommodation (please enquire)
- Pre and post land arrangements (please enquire)
- Travel insurance
- Passports and visas
- Arrival and departure tax
- Meals ashore
- Excess baggage on flights
- Items of a personal nature (alcohol unless otherwise stated, laundry etc)
Single supplement: There is no single supplement to pay if you are willing to share your cabin with someone of the same gender. For a cabin to yourself the supplement is 1.8x the per person rate
Potential Fuel Surcharge: If the cost per Brent barrel price rises significantly then there may be an additional fuel surcharge applied to some voyages.
Activity Level: Low to Medium