Secrets of Melanesia: Spirit of Enderby

Vanuatu and Solomon Islands

Sail into a world that few have experienced; idyllic islands and isolated villages where unique time-honoured traditions and elaborately costumed dancers welcome us. Discover the beauty of the outer Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and their rich history. Birding excursion available

  • Hidden gems of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
  • Remote islands with people still living a traditional lifestyle.
  • Remnants of World War II activities
  • Rare bird species with optional specialised birding programme with customised excursions.
  • Incredible marine diversity with opportunity to snorkel and kayaking
  • Freindly local children who often come out to join us in their dugout canoes.
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'.

Stewart's Take

A rare and special journey to remote, beautiful and culturally-rich islands

Overview

Sail into a world that few have experienced; idyllic islands and isolated villages where unique time-honoured traditions and elaborately costumed dancers welcome us. Discover the beauty of the outer Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and their rich history. Birding excursion available.
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! 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.

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Expedition Vessel: M/V Spirit of Enderby

Spirit of Enderby expedition ship

The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition cruising. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in March 2012 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins, approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top New Zealand and Australian chefs. The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.

For full information about this vessel click here:

Included
  • All meals and 24 hour tea and coffee station aboard the ship.
  • Use of snorkel equipment where available.
  • All shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac excluding optional specialised birding and kayaking programmes.
  • Programme of lectures by noted naturalists.
  • All onshore tips, service taxes and port charges.
  • Comprehensive pre-departure material.
  • Airport transfers at the beginning and end of your voyage.
Excluded
  • Extensions,
  • passport, visa, immigration fees,
  • baggage/accident/travel protection plan,
  • items of a personal nature such as bar, email, and laundry.
  • Gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion.
  • Airfares are an additional cost.
Additional charges:
  • Discovery Fund $600 USD pp
Optional extras:
  • Kayaking Supplement: $995 pp
  • Birding Supplement: $500 pp
Deposits - Reservations require a deposit of 25% at the time you receive a booking confirmation from Expeditions Online. A payment link will be sent to you and this may be paid by major credit card. Bookings within 90 days of departure require full payment. Final Payments - Balances are due 90 days prior to departure. Cancellations - All requests for cancellation must be received in writing to Expeditions Online. Cancellations received 180 days or more prior to departure, are refunded less a $US750.00 per person administration fee. For cancellations received within 179 and 91 days of the embarkation date the full deposit will be forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 90 days prior to the departure date the total price is forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 90 days and full payment has not yet been received, the total price will still apply and any unpaid monies are due immediately. We strongly recommend that you obtain adequate trip cancellation insurance. Booking Terms - Please read carefully the General Booking Conditions for Expeditions Online. This voyage is operated by Heritage Expeditions and you additionally travel under their terms and conditions as the operator as well as of the Shipping Company/transport carrier. Details will be forwarded to you at the time of booking.
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