Wild Polynesian Escape: Tahiti to Bora Bora

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Between the storied islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora lies the coveted diving destination of Rangiroa, the steep volcanic cliffs and remarkable grottoes of Makatea, and the ancient Polynesian cultural site of Marae Taputapuatea on Ra’iatea. On a five-night expedition to one of the last places on Earth to be settled by humans, dive and snorkel in clear, warm water with rays, sea turtles, sharks, and whales; see paradise come to life in the iconic landscapes of jagged green peaks, pristine beaches, and the bluest of blue waters; and connect with local culture with visits to Polynesia’s most significant ancestral site and a family-run vanilla plantation.


• See iconic and awe-inspiring landscapes like Bora Bora’s verdant Mount Otemanu, jutting 2,400 feet above turquoise waters, and Makatea’s steep cliffs, which drop straight to deserted beaches

• Dive and snorkel in crystalline waters, experiencing an awe-inspiring undersea world of 16-foot manta rays, green sea turtles, black-tipped reef sharks, and enormous schools of fish

• Swim into an otherworldly grotto on Makatea and float in a hidden cave surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites

• Learn about Polynesian history and culture at sights including Marae Taputapuatea, a UNESCO World Heritage site


DAY 1: Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Arrive in Tahiti and proceed directly to National Geographic Orion for embarkation. While in port this morning, take some time to freshen up and settle into your cabin as we prepare to depart. Alternatively, choose to walk around downtown Papeete and visit the central market where vendors sell fresh fruit, pareos, art and coveted black pearls. Join us for lunch aboard and be on deck as we set sail from Tahiti toward the Tuamotu Archipelago. This afternoon meet the staff and fellow travelers and settle into island time. (B,L,D)

DAY 2: Rangiroa

The atoll of Rangiroa is a ring of slender islands known for some of the best diving and snorkeling in French Polynesia. The turquoise lagoon at its center is the second-largest in the world. Kayak, snorkel, and scuba dive in the rich waters here, home to large schools of pelagic fish, manta rays, dolphins, and sea turtles. (B,L,D)

DAY 3: Makatea

An uplifted coral atoll, the island of Makatea is one of the most unique landforms in the Pacific. A makatea is a raised coral atoll that is tilted due to plate tectonics and appears much different than the other islands in the region, containing spectacular, vertical cliffs. This specific island of Makatea gives its name to all other uplifted coral atolls worldwide. Spend the day exploring the island’s limestone caves and grottos with your expedition team and local guides, or search for endemic fruit doves and myriad seabirds. (B,L,D)

DAY 4: Ra’iatea / Taha’a

Encircled by a single fringing reef, and sharing a common lagoon, Ra’iatea and Taha’a are islands well worth exploring. One of the most important cultural sites in the Polynesian world, Marae Taputapuatea was a center for Polynesian seafarers and the location from which they set out for Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawai’i and New Zealand. Our afternoon is spent at Taha’a where we’ll visit a family-run vanilla plantation and spend time snorkeling in the crystalline lagoons where we’ll encounter black-tipped reef sharks. (B,L,D)

DAY 5-6: Bora Bora / Disembark / Papeete / Home

Be on deck at sunrise this morning to take in one of the South Pacific’s most iconic images: the angular crags of Bora Bora’s Mount Otemanu. Spend the morning exploring Bora Bora and then join us for lunch aboard. In the afternoon, take a short flight back to Papeete where a hotel room will be available for you to rest and refresh before your international overnight flight home. (Day 5: B,L,D)

Please Note:

Itineraries are subject to change.


National Geographic Orion

Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition

Length: 103 metres

Passenger Capacity: 102 (in 53 cabins)

Built: 2003 / Refurbished 2014

Engineered for maximum comfort and safety, Orion is equipped with the latest technology including large retractable stabilizers, sonar, radar, and an ice-strengthened hull. A shallow draft plus bow and stern thrusters provide the convenience of being able to maneuver close to shore. 14 Zodiacs ensure quick disembarkation and offer the ideal transport for up-close exploration.

National Geographic Orion meets strict specifications for environmental protection and the on board waste management systems meet the stringent Antarctic operational standards enabling us to travel to the most pristine environments. A host of advanced design features and technology ensures sustainable marine environmental practices.

National Geographic Orion accommodates 102 guests in 53 cabins, including several with balconies. She is spacious and modern, with a variety of public rooms that offer panoramic views of the passing landscape. Friendly and informal, Orion fosters a welcoming atmosphere where like-minded guests share in exceptional experiences and enrichment.

Her public rooms include a dramatic window-lined main lounge, as well as an observation lounge and library perched at the very top of the ship, with plentiful observation decks. The spacious lounge is the heart of our expedition community, and is suited for spirited cocktail hours, informative presentations and our nightly tradition of Recap. In addition, a dedicated theater provides a unique setting for specialist presentations or films and slideshows. Both the main dining room and outside buffet easily accommodate all guests at once for open seating dining. On selected nights, weather permitting, our dining room menu is also available on the outside deck.

While Orion interiors are elegant, life aboard is always casual, with no need for formal clothing. And you’ll find shipboard services like laundry, in-room cabled internet, and public-area wifi.

WE – 2023
Images courtesy of Wild Earth Travel