French Polynesia: Beyond the Postcard August 2 - 11, 2018

Picture this: luminous shades of azure, secluded atolls, lushly forested mountain islands banded by broad beaches, breezes fragranced with the sultry perfume of gardenia. The islands of the South Pacific evoke the mystery and romance recalled by the legendary European explorers who discovered them hundreds of years ago. Today, the ships are more comfortable, but the spell of French Polynesia remains just as strong. We invite you to join us aboard the 102-guest National Geographic Orion for a splendid exploration of these fabled isles.

On this highly immersive expedition, we'll enjoy many off-board options, including kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding; biking to local villages, where we'll connect with the people and islands on a personal level; and sailing among some of the 80 atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Throughout the colorful reefs of the islands, we'll explore something few ever get to see: intact, vibrantly healthy marine habitats not found in such pristine a state anywhere else on earth. Orion is fully outfitted with gear to accommodate certified divers as well as snorkelers of all levels-from first-timers to the more advanced. Once underwater, we'll find a wealth of amazing undersea species: reef sharks, manta rays, playful clownfish, and vibrant parrotfish along with coral gardens of unprecedented color and diversity.

We'll also experience Polynesia's deep spiritual pulse on Raiatea, the sacred island that's home to Marae Taputapuatea, recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site. On Huahine, we'll explore the mysterious history of an island that maintains the highest density of marae (sacred meeting grounds) in French Polynesia. Along the way we'll explore intricately carved tikis, witness traditional dances, and immerse ourselves in thriving cultures radically different from our own. And we'll travel with an exceptional expedition team that includes four naturalists and cultural specialists well-versed in the region's flora, fauna, and human history, two dive masters, an underwater specialist, a National Geographic photographer, and a certified photo instructor. Together they will illuminate every facet of this tropical paradise.