Board your independent flight to Australia. Lose a day crossing the International Date Line.
Arrive in Brisbane and board your flight to Port Moresby. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, with dinner and overnight at Airways Hotel.
Today join a tour of Port Moresby, visiting the National Museum and Art Center. You may also view, and purchase, high-quality carvings and handicrafts at a local shop. This afternoon, embark the Caledonian Sky.
Be on deck as the ship traces the coast of Papua New Guinea, to observe the peaks of the dramatic Stanley Owens Range that soar to 13,000 feet. This afternoon visit the island of Bonarua, where a local choir welcomes you ashore. Observe fishing and weaving demonstrations, and stroll through the enchanting village, sampling local delicacies made from sweet potatoes, taro, and yams. Birders venture into the thicket to search for island endemics, and the warm inviting waters of the Coral Sea offer a perfect introduction to the undersea wonders on your first snorkel or dive excursion of many to come.
Today visit Fergusson Island, the largest island of the group, notable for its hot springs, bubbling mud pools, spouting geysers, and extinct volcanoes. Spend the afternoon snorkeling or diving.
This morning, visit with the traditional Trobriand Islanders of Kuyawa and view energetic, time-honored dances that celebrate fishing and the seasonal yam harvest. Learn about the history of the Kula Ring, a circular pattern of ceremonial trade relationships that binds the islands of Milne Bay and eastern Papua New Guinea together in a long-established network of friendship. These islanders are also renowned for the exquisite quality of their ebony wood carvings, often decorated with mother-of-pearl shell inlays. Enjoy a walk among the villages of Kuyawa before returning to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon we anchor at a nearby island. Snorkel or dive amid kaleidoscopic coral reefs populated by parrotfish, neon damsels, and other brilliantly-hued species. Join naturalists on a walk around the island in search of flying foxes (fruit bats), sulfur-crested cockatoos, and helmeted friarbirds.
Discover the dramatic beauty of the rarely-visited Tufi Fjords. Though similar in appearance to Nordic fjords, these fjords were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. Soak up spectacular views of the sheer basalt cliffs draped with lush vegetation on a Zodiac cruise, then step ashore to meet with friendly locals. Learn about their way of life, and watch the village elders perform a traditional sing-sing wearing elaborate feather head-dresses. This afternoon, snorkel or dive along the fringing reef where you will find technicolor coral fans, plump barrel sponges, and stacked hard corals, populated by schools of barracudas, parrotfish, and triggerfish.
Today, visit the picturesque village of Lababia, gateway to one of the most important conservation areas in Papua New Guinea, the Kamiali Wildlife Management Area. Meet with locals, who welcome you with traditional songs, and learn about projects to develop a self-sustaining cycle of environmental conservation. In the afternoon, explore some of the region’s most pristine marine areas, where you may spy giant tridacna clams, vibrant anemones, and shoals of fish darting between coral branches.
The people of Tami Island are renowned for their elaborated carved bowls, religious figures, and ceremonial masks. Meet with villagers and perhaps take a ride in a hand-carved outrigger canoe. The large, protected lagoon is perfect for underwater exploration where you may find such specialties as the flamboyant Spanish dancer nudibranch and curious clownfish.
Madang is famed for its beautiful waterfront setting, perched on a fertile peninsula, backdropped by steep mountains and surrounded by a number of picturesque islands. Visit the colorful market where you will have opportunity to peruse a large selection of artifacts from the Sepik region. This area is also famed for exceptional water clarity and numerous World War II wrecks that sit in relatively shallow offshore waters.
Kopar is situated on the mouth of the Sepik River, a 700-mile-long river whose tribes are famous for their traditional carvings linked to spiritual beliefs. Depending on tides, you may have the opportunity to visit the village, where a women’s chorus welcomes you ashore. The 300 residents of this typical Lower Sepik village subsist on fish and sago, cultivated in a nearby swamp.
Alim Island is a small, uninhabited island that is home to a large colony of red-footed boobies. Observe the birds nesting in the mangrove trees, and search for black and brown noddies, white and black-naped terns, and other tropical seabirds. Sea turtles have also been known to lay their eggs on the sandy beach.
Completely encircled by an oblong reef, few passenger vessels are able to visit this small group of islands. Land on a sandy beach and meet the 350 inhabitants of charming Tingwon, and enjoy their hospitality, local delicacies, and dances. After your visit, snorkel or dive along the islets’ surrounding reef.
Six cone-shaped volcanoes, some of which are still active, ring Rabaul’s dramatic flooded-caldera harbor. Visit the bubbling hot springs and take in magnificent views from Observatory Ridge. And, learn about the island’s WWII history—Rabaul was a Japanese stronghold under Admiral Yamamoto. Tonight attend an astonishing performance of the Baining tribe’s fire dance. Tribe members in huge, magnificently crafted masks, leap and dance over crackling, red-hot coals in a centuries-old ritual to honor the local deity-spirits.
Disembark this morning and board your flight to Cairns. Check in to the Shangri-La Cairns for dinner and overnight. Board your independent flight on Sunday, arriving in the USA the same day.