- Search for Komodo dragons—which can grow up to 10 feet—on a hike with rangers in Komodo National Park.
- Immerse yourself a dazzling world of coral and tropical fish while snorkeling or diving the reefs of Raja Ampat.
- See ancient rock art in West Papua and venture into the mountains of beautiful Flores Island to meet weavers practicing techniques passed down through generations.
- Ride a Zodiac to the stilt villages of Papua’s remote Asmat region and discover the vibrant artistic traditions of its indigenous people.
Set sail from Bali on a voyage to the fabled archipelagos of Indonesia, discovering spectacular tropical islands and the ancient cultures that call them home. Experience the thrill of spotting Komodo dragons in the wild, and snorkel or dive amid extraordinary marine life at the coral reefs of the Moluccas, Raja Ampat, and West Papua. Take part in exuberant welcome ceremonies at the remote villages we’ll explore along the way, and step back in time on the legendary World War II battlefields of the Pacific theater. From Bali to the Spice Islands and on to the Solomon Islands, encounter timeless island traditions and some of the most pristine marine habitats in the world.
This trip is operated in collaboration with Lindblad Expeditions.
Depart on an overnight flight to Bali and transfer to your hotel upon arrival. Meet your expedition team and fellow travelers at a welcome reception this evening.
Check out of the hotel and head into the countryside this morning. Our destination is Ubud, a haven for art and culture where silversmiths and wood-carvers ply their trades among art galleries and serene gardens. As we wind our way up into the hills to the town, we’ll pass exquisite Hindu temples, lush forests, small villages, and terraced rice fields cut into the hillsides. Enjoy lunch and free time to wander through the galleries and workshops of Ubud, before heading to Benoa to embark the ship.
National Geographic Orion through Day 19
Our first stop is the Indonesian island of Satonda, a small circular island formed from an ancient volcanic cone. Spend the morning snorkeling or diving the vibrant reefs or hike inland to the island’s sacred lake. Continue to the island of Sumbawa, where villagers welcome us with a lively demonstration of their traditions, including a wedding ceremony and a ritual boxing match.
Explore Komodo National Park, home to the world’s largest living lizard—the Komodo dragon, which can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 330 pounds. Learn about the conservation of these prehistoric giants on a hike with park rangers and spot the dragons in their natural habitat. Then enjoy an afternoon of swimming, snorkeling, or beachcombing at Pink Beach, named for the coral fragments that lend their color to the sand.
Once an important Portuguese trading center for sandalwood, the island of Flores is now known for its natural splendor and its ikat weaving tradition. Venture into the rugged interior to the weaving village of Watublapi, where artisans still use handspun yarn made from local cotton, as well as traditional natural dyes. Learn more about the island’s culture during a performance of music and dance.
Sail into the Maluku Archipelago, also known as the Moluccas or the Spice Islands. In the southern waters of the Moluccas lie the Banda Islands, a major producer of nutmeg and mace. Here, a kora kora, or traditional war canoe, escorts us to the tiny isle of Banda Neira, the former hub of the Dutch East India Company. Stroll past Dutch colonial architecture and visit 17th-century Fort Belgica, built to protect the profitable spice trade. Just across a narrow waterway, the near-perfect conical volcano of Banda Api rises, quietly steaming away. In this enchanting setting, enjoy a chance to swim or snorkel in crystal clear waters.
Our next destination is Raja Ampat, or Four Kings, an archipelago off New Guinea’s Bird’s Head Peninsula that has the richest coral reef biodiversity in the world. Located at the heart of the Coral Triangle, the reefs are home to 75% of known coral species as well as more than 1,300 types of reef fish. Spend two days exploring this incomparable marine world. Snorkel or dive off Misool Island—one of the four “kings”—discovering groves of colorful coral fans, giant clams, and all manner of marine life, from manta rays to anemone fish. Glide in Zodiacs and kayaks around the limestone pinnacles and gem-like coves of these lush karst islands. Birders may join a pre-dawn nature walk to try to catch a glimpse of the ethereal red bird of paradise.
Soaring mountains, pristine rainforest, and dozens of the most ancient tribes on the planet can be found in this amazing section of Indonesia. Use Zodiacs to get up close to rock art dating back thousands of years near the fishing village of Kokas. Encounter the fascinating skull caves and rock art of the Macassan culture and see the remains of secret underground bunkers built here by the Japanese during World War II. Witness the traditional gaba-gaba, or stick dance, and learn about the myriad cultures that have passed through this region.
Enjoy a day at sea as we follow the southern coast of Papua toward the Asmat region, home to indigenous hunter-gatherers known for their wood carvings. Mudflats and mangrove forests stretch along the shore, and raised wooden boardwalks link one village to the next. Elaborately painted “warriors” greet us to bring us to one of these stilt villages, where we’ll attend a fascinating welcome ceremony. Our subsequent exploration will be dictated by the tides, as we venture to neighboring villages by Zodiac and get acquainted with the ancient culture of the Asmat people.
Sail through the Arafura Sea to Torres Strait. During the last ice age, when sea levels were more than 300 feet lower than they are today, these water bodies were a land bridge that connected Australia and New Guinea. Transit the shallow Torres Strait, scattered with islands that were once landlocked hills, and enter the Gulf of Papua. As we cruise, we’ll be on the lookout for places to spend some time exploring a deserted beach or snorkeling a vibrant reef.
Just off the southeastern tip of Papua New Guinea lies the tiny island of Samarai. Once a bustling port and administrative capital, Samarai was evacuated during World War II and many of its buildings deliberately destroyed to deter invasion by the Japanese army. When the war ended, Samarai rebuilt but never regained its earlier importance. See the vestiges of the past on a visit to this quiet town and meet with its friendly residents. As we depart, be sure to be out on deck as the ship cruises past the beautiful neighboring islands on its way to the Solomon Sea.
Our expedition concludes in the Solomon Islands, an archipelago of nearly a thousand islands that gained independence from Great Britain in 1978. Disembark in Honiara, a former U.S. supply depot on the island of Guadalcanal—a critical battleground in the Pacific theater during World War II. Visit wartime sites including Red Beach and the vital airbase at Henderson Field, and ascend into the hills above Honiara where some of the fiercest battles took place. Later, transfer to the airport for our flight to Brisbane, and check in to our hotel.
Depart this morning for your flight home, arriving the same day.