In 1891, when Paul Gauguin arrived in Tahiti, he captured the charm, culture and languid grace of the natives in oils.
Call on Raiatea and its reef-bound lagoon and Taha'a, it's companion island, where you'll enjoy a full day of exploration. Begin your journey to a paradise in the capital of Tahiti, the largest and most populated of the French Polynesian islands. You will have the day to explore the island that was once the cultural, religious, royal and political heart of Polynesia, and, according to legend, and lore, as well as Tahiti's most significant archeological sites.
Motu Mahana, an islet adjacent to Taha'a, is our very own South Seas paradise featuring white sand beaches with swaying palms, crystal-clear waters and gentle breezes.
Immediately recognizable by the basalt tombstone of Mount Otemanu rising from the ocean, this half-atoll, half-mountain is surrounded by a spectacular lagoon and a series of smaller islands. Covered in an abundance of fresh fruits and flowers, spectacular mountain peaks, peaceful multi-hued lagoons and palm-fringed beaches a€“ Moorea's awesome beauty is unsurpassed. Tahiti and French Polynesia - by Lonely Planet - $22.99This practical guide to Tahiti and French Polynesia includes a good overview on history, culture and nature, and helpful travel details for your journey.
Explore the must-see places, like Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine National Park and the marine-rich Valdes Peninsula, along with some of the regiona€™s newest parks and reserves where we have special access.
We cruise up the expansive estuary, a maze of channels and islands, hoping to view the rarely observed Franciscana, or La Plata dolphin, as well as the local and rare Olroga€™s gull. Enjoy the shipa€™s amenities: have a massage, work out in the gym, savor time in the library, and listen to talks by the staff on photography and the marine environment of the Patagonia Shelf. A UNESCO Site, Peninsula Valdes is a wildlife haven where endangered southern right whales come to mate and calve their young. Leaving the whales behind, we journey further into the peninsula, stopping to look at guanacos (a wild relative of the llama), maras, armadillos, and a Magellanic penguin colony. For a small port village isolated along a rugged coast, Puerto Deseado has a distinctive maritime history. The remote Argentine coast has been visited by countless expeditions through history, including Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle. One of the highlights of the day is a stop at Isla Magdalena to watch the amusing Magellanic penguins (also called jackass penguins for their characteristic bray) at their nesting sites, poking their heads out of their burrows.
One of Patagoniaa€™s crowned jewels, Tierra del Fuego is a beautiful island known as the a€?Land of Firea€™ at its most southern tip a€” home to remarkable wildlife.
After sailing through the famous White Narrows yesterday, we arrive at Puerto Natales to begin our three-hour drive through Chilean Patagonia to the monumental Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere World Reserve. We have another opportunity to explore the Chilean Fjordsa€™ myriad islands and maze of channels. Our transit of the scenic Beagle Channel takes us through protected waters in view of the snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Darwin, which makes up the Western Peninsula of Tierra del Fuego. Our focus today is on Yendegaia, a stunning piece of wild nature that stretches more than 95,000 acres. Today we round the southernmost tip of the continent, named in 1616 by Dutch navigator Willem Schouten.
Disembark in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, with time to explore before our private LAN charter flight to Buenos Aires.
National Geographic Explorer is a state-of-the-art expedition ship, and the latest addition to the Lindblad fleet.
You won't find his paintings here, but the original models still call this piece of French Polynesia home. As an exclusive Paul Gauguin event, guests will spend a full day exploring this idyllic, isolated island, and relaxing with a delicious barbecue lunch and Polynesian entertainment featuring strolling musicians and singers.
Ancient Polynesians called it Parapora, or a€?firstborn,a€? because they thought it was the first island created after Raiatea.
Choose from several, like a jitney tour on a€?Le Truck,a€? or a 4-wheel-drive safari, or a glass-bottom boat ride.
During your visit, you might wish to shop for local crafts, embark on a dolphin-watching expedition with a marine biologist and witness these fascinating animals in their amazing natural habitat, or try out some of the local pineapples a€“ said to be the most delicious in all of French Polynesia. Perhaps you will choose to trek on the a€?Trails of the Ancientsa€? or snorkel one of the world's most beautiful lagoons.
You won't be the same as when you first set sail a€“ these exotic isles are said to touch people in magical ways.


She offers an extension of the informal, relaxing environment of the islands, coupled with five-star service, comfort and luxury. I am 15 years old, live in Seattle, and I recently took a 10-day cruise on the Paul Gauguin with my mom, dad, and younger sister. By special permission, wea€™ll explore Tierra del Fuegoa€™s newest and largest reserve, Karukinka. Head to the Bridge to watch for marine life, and gather in the lounge for presentations from our staff. From this port city, set on the edge of vast grasslands called the pampas, we venture into the countryside flanked by the mountain range of Sierra de la Ventana. October is the peak of the migration season, and at this time of year the cows and newborn calves can be seen, often in water as shallow as 15 feet.
Even the familiar form of penguins seems so out of place here in this strange and exotic peninsula. Today we visit a private estancia (ranch), which has been in the hands of the Soriano family for 50 years.
First discovered by Magellan in 1520, other explorers followed including Sir Frances Drake, Thomas Cavendish and Charles Darwin. The southern coast has sandy beaches and impressive geological formations with dramatic arches and caves, perfect for exploring. Begin at Cerro de la Cruz for panoramic views of the Strait of Magellan then travel the main plazas, stopping at two unique museums: the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, with its natural history exhibits, and the Braun Menendez Museum, an opulent mansion testifying to the wealth and power of sheep farmers in the 1800s. These penguins form lifelong partnerships and divide their chores equally: every morning and afternoon, the penguin couples change shifts a€” one heads out to fish, the other returns from fishing to take care of their young.
Our destination is the newest and largest protected area on Tierra del Fuego: Karukinka Natural Park. The protected fjords and inlets of the honeycombed Chilean coastline are home to dolphins, whales, seals, and Magellanic penguins, with awesome views of the Cordillera Darwin as a bonus. The landscape is big, wide and sprawling, with miles of grazing land, snow-capped mountains and razor-backed ridges.
Andean condors soar overhead, while humpback whales, Pealea€™s and the rare Chilean dolphins utilize the productive marine waters. Wea€™ve received special permission to explore here from friends and wilderness advocates Kris and Doug Tompkins, who first saw its outstanding conservation potential in 1998 and worked to preserve it. He called the cape a€?Hoorna€? after his birthplace while he was searching for a trade route to the Orient.
It is a fully stabilized, ice-class vessel, enabling it to navigate polar passages while providing exceptional comfort.
Michael Goulding (Floods of Fortune) and Brazilian biologists Ronaldo Barthem and Efrem Ferreira provide the accompanying text.
The maraes provided a physical space for the spirit of the gods to occupy during ritual ceremonies, as did the carved wooden tikis for which the region is famous. If you want to explore more of this side of paradise, perhaps you will choose our pre- and post-cruise hotel programs in Huahine, Bora Bora, Moorea, Taha'a and Papeete. We were concerned about the size of this ship and the overall atmosphere, as we are NOT big ship personalities. My sister and I participated in the Ambassadors of the Environment(AOTE) Program, which is a program for kids ages 9-17.
View the migration of southern right whales on Peninsula Valdes at the height of the breeding season.
Visit the Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist, which preserves a wide range of species native to the pampas.
With 210,000 acres, the estancia still operates as a sheep ranch and also as a nature reserve.
We see a remnant of the porta€™s past at the local museum, where remains of the Swift, a British war ship sunk in 1770, is displayed.
Weather permitting, we may cruise along one of Argentinaa€™s newest national parks, Monte Leon, which protects the coast, marine waters and inland.
When this changing of the guard begins, the penguins politely line up and waddle to and from the sea. Since 2004, it has been owned and managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, who wea€™ve been in conversation with and are thrilled to have been offered permission to explore their park.


Youa€™ll see gigantic glaciers and snowcapped peaks, thousands of islands covered with vegetation, lakes and waterfalls and come to appreciate (in the words of Herman Melville) a€?all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonia sights and sounds.a€? Our Captain and Expedition Leader will constantly be on the lookout for memorable places to explore by ship, Zodiac and kayak. Look for Andean condors, flamingos and rheas, the flightless birds that are cousins of the emu and the ostrich. A former cattle ranch on Tierra del Fuego, it boasts southern beech forests, expansive grasslands, mountains and wild rivers. Weather permitting, take Zodiacs ashore for a panoramic view from the southernmost tip of South America, and visit the family manning the weather station on top of the island. With an endless choice of things to do, from relaxing poolside with a book to playing the slots in the casino, you will never be bored.
Be sure to visit Taputapuatea, a national monument and the most important marae in the Society Islands. Unlike most whales species, which lift their tail flukes temporarily out of the water to make a dive, these right whales choose instead to hover vertically with their heads and bodies underwater, lifting their massive flukes high above the sea to catch the wind. Fifty miles of its coastline is included in Argentinaa€™s Marine National Park Austral Patagonia, and most of the vegetation and wildlife of the Patagonia steppe lives on the property. Deseado is actually a submerged estuary designated Reserva Natural Ria Deseado by the Argentine government. Spanning 1,160 square miles, this protected area is a bountiful reserve of sub-Antarctic woodlands, peat bogs, windswept steppes and snow-covered mountain ranges.
It is hard to imagine that the park could top the drive, but the Torres del Paine are an amazing sight, a cluster of jagged granite mountains topped with a thick layer of dark slate. Myriad fjords or senos indent the coast of Tierra del Fuego along the western Strait of Magellan: Seno Angostini, Seno Martinez, Seno Chico to name a few.
An Undersea Specialist operates a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and sophisticated video equipment, extending access to the underwater world. We will bid adieu to Raiatea just before dinner and set sail with the compass set for Motu Mahana. The ship is laid out and there are so many different things to do and activities off the ship that I many times wondered where everyone had gone.
This program was a great way to meet the other kids onboard and to take part in fun activities and shore excursions just for us. Over 100 species of birds are found in the area, officially declared an Area of Importance for the Conservation of Birds. We board small boats to view the steep cliffs and visit colonies of four species of breeding shags and other seabirds, including the only rockhopper penguin colony in Patagonia.
Karukinka is a showcase for the unique wildlife of Patagonia, sheltering guanaco, the endangered culpeo fox, the Andean condor and more. The park is one of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich areas in the Americas, covering about 450,000 acres of glaciers, mountains, forests, rolling hills and grasslands, colorful lakes, rivers and lagoons, and we explore and hike in the company of our Naturalists and local guides. Many are punctuated with tidewater glaciers at the end and we will cruise deep into one of the senos to explore by Zodiac and kayak. Hike the trails of Torres del Paine, the renowned reserve that guards the most magical of Patagoniaa€™s scenic treasures.
Dolphins often escort the boats and we hope to spot the distinctive black and white Commersona€™s dolphin.
By the end of the cruise all the kidsa€™ parents enjoyed meeting each other as well and were hanging out together too. Loads of closet and shelf space, nicely arranged with storage space on either side of the little dressing table with mirror. From the housekeeper maids to the waiters without exception everyone went out their way to offer excellent service. Bathroom was a good size, we had a tub, did not use, towels and shampoo were good quality, and we had a hair dryer.



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