Cruise dates: 18 -29 December 2020
During this voyage, PONANT invites you to discover an exceptional itinerary in the heart of Oceania. This 12-day expedition cruise aboard Le Bellot will showcase the jewels of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, three must-see destinations in the Coral Sea.
Your cruise will begin with a visit to the Solomon Islands, with its mountainous and often rugged landscapes covered in lush tropical vegetation and bordered with white-sand beaches. Here you will be able to swim and snorkel in the crystal-clear waters.
Discover why Vanuatu is often referred to as the “happiest country on earth”. This archipelago is home to a unique blend of ancient traditional villages, picture-perfect beaches and coral reefs teeming with life. In Tanna, you will explore the imposing Mt Yasur, considered to be the most accessible active volcano in the world.
Your ship will then set sail south to reach New Caledonia. After a first stop in the Prony Bay, you will admire on the Kouaré Island, the mysterious beauty of the Great Southern Lagoon, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the far north of New Zealand, you will also fall under the charm of Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, where you will be able to attend a Maori ceremony, before reaching Auckland, your disembarkation port.
- A PONANT cruise to explore the diversity of the islands of the Coral sea and New-Zealand, from the world’s most beautiful shores to cultural discoveries.
- Christmas celebrations in an exceptional environment: change of scenery guaranteed.
- Shore visits in Zodiac® inflatables with a team of experienced naturalist guides.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Southern Lagoon in New Caledonia.
- Encounter local people: cultural performances, dances, arts & crafts.
- The Solomon Islands, a real tropical Eden.
- Vanuatu: traditional villages, tropical beaches, active volcanoes.
- On Tanna Island, visit of Mount Yasur, an imposing volcano.
- Visit the last known location of the 1788 “lost voyage” of La Pérouse in Vanikoro.
- Numerous opportunities to swim and snorkel.
Day 1 HONIARA, GUADALCANAL ISLAND
Honiara is the capital city of The Solomon Islands, administered as a provincial town on the north western coast of Guadalcanal Island. Discover this city, its beautiful landscape, and the significant role it played in World War II.
Day 2 AT SEA
During your day at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness centre. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This day without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest and entertainment.
Day 3 VANIKORO ISLAND
The French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse was stranded on Vanikoro after both his vessels, struck the reefs of the island in 1788. The complete disappearance of La Pérouse caught the imagination of the European public. It is believed that some of the men were killed by the local inhabitants, while the surviving sailors built a smaller vessel and left the island, but were never seen again. Those that remained on the island died before search parties arrived in 1826. Today guests have the opportunity to head ashore to the infamous location of this historical event. Enjoy a welcome and cultural performance whilst pondering the fate of the expeditioners.
Day 4 MOTA LAVA ISLAND
The Banks and Torres Islands form Vanuatu’s northernmost islands where local culture is still very much alive and unblemished by the modern world. Mota Lava is a stunning island of jungle clad craggy peaks plunging to long white sandy beaches lined with coconut palms. The nearby island of Ra is classically beautiful, an ideal place for travellers looking to leave civilisation completely behind. You will have the opportunity to experience the ancient culture in this rarely visited group of islands. There will also be an opportunity for swimming and snorkelling from one of the many spectacular beaches.
Day 5 SOUTH WEST BAY, MALEKULA
Malekula is the second largest island in Vanuatu and the most diverse, culturally and linguistically, with over thirty distinct languages spoken. Guests will be transferred ashore for a welcome and cultural performance. Afterwards, you will have an opportunity to witness traditional village life in Malekula, with demonstrations of traditional village practices such as weaving and Kava, and purchase genuine artefacts.
Day 6 TANNA ISLAND
A visit to Vanuatu cannot be complete without viewing the erupting Mount Yasur Volcano on the Island of Tanna. It is regarded as the world’s most accessible active volcano. Known for its spectacular persistent strombolian activity consisting of regular small to violent explosions, it has been in more-or-less continuous activity since Captain James Cook observed ash eruptions in 1774. Often referred to as “the lighthouse of the Pacific”, the glow of the volcano apparently led Captain Cook to Tanna during the first European journey to the island. Today the volcano is considered a sacred area by members of the John Frum cargo cult, who believe their deity resides in the heart of the volcano.
Day 7 PRONY BAY
The ochre red of the hills rich in iron oxide, the flora with their infinite shades of green, the intense blue of the Coral Sea and the dazzling light of the sky combine to form the spectacular landscapes of Prony Bay. Part of the marine area of Grand Lagon Sud, one of the six lagoons in New Caledonia that are UNESCO World Heritage sites for the diversity of their coral reefs and their ecosystems, Prony Bay offers some splendid landscapes. During your outings in Zodiac® dinghies and your landings in the Cap N’Dua nature reserve and the marine protected area of Casy Island, you will explore the exceptional natural and cultural heritage of this region marked by the colonial, penitentiary and mining history of the island.
Day 8 KOUARÉ ISLAND
Aboard your Zodiac® dinghy, you will sail along the turquoise waters of New Caledonia’s coral reef, the second largest in the world. When you land on Kouare Island, in the heart of the southern lagoon, you will discover an idyllic environment. On this small tract of uninhabited land, in a marine area listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, the animals rule supreme. From the white-sand beaches where marine turtles and sea snakes like to lay their eggs, take off with your mask and snorkel to discover an abundant underwater world that is home to multicoloured fish, beautiful coral, and marine reptiles. Look up to the sky and admire the incessant ballet of terns and black noddies that appear to be jealously guarding their island.
Days 9 – 10 AT SEA
Day 11 BAY OF ISLANDS, WAITANGI
On the east coast of the North Island, the Bay of Islands promises an incredible journey into the origins of the ﾓland of the long white cloudﾔ. Russell, the first harbour city founded in New Zealand by Europeans, is your entry-point into this corner of paradise. Among whitewashed houses and gorgeous gardens, Russell offers a gentle, romantic atmosphere. A few traces of its past remain, such as Christ Church, the oldest church in the country. Shimmering waters highly prized by local fishermen, beautiful beaches and wild nature make visiting this New Zealand town a picture postcard experience.
Day 12 AUCKLAND
Please Note: Itineraries are subject to change.
Images courtesy of WildEarthTravel