Vanuatu's 83 islands range from lush forests to active volcanoes to palm-fringed beaches and are home to a thriving local culture that maintains ties to sorcery and mythology. Coral Princess has just released a schedule of five-night adventure cruises that explore the lesser-known wonders of the tiny South Pacific nation.
Cruising aboard Coral Princess's luxury expedition vessel Oceanic Discoverer, the new Vanuatu itinerary departs from – and returns to – the capital of Port Vila. First stop is Ambrym Island, where the ship anchors in the glow of two active volcanoes, Mt Marum and Mt Benbow. Ambrym is known as 'Black Island' because of its black sand beach and its black magic history, the threads of which are still woven through spiritual artefacts, carvings and tribal dances.
Maewo Island is said to have been the inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai in James Michener's epic novel, Tales of the South Pacific. Coral Princess guests can disembark for bush walking and bird watching excursions on Maewo Island and swim off the island's beautiful beaches.
The largest island in Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo, is another nature and water-lover's playground, with natural attractions like the beautiful Blue Hole (ideal for swimming), and picturesque Champagne Beach. Some of the world's best wreck dive sites are in Vanuatu, where one can see American military equipment from the Second World War. Experienced SCUBA divers can dive to the sunken troopship the SS President Coolidge, with plenty more to see either snorkelling or from a guided glass bottom boat tour.
The Oceanic Discoverer travels with a purpose-built excursion vessel, Xplorer, a fleet of inflatable Zodiacs and a glass bottom boat, allowing guests to intimately explore this remarkable destination, guided by naturalists and experts who interpret the natural, cultural and historical highlights of the region. In true expedition style, the itinerary may vary to take maximum advantage of opportunities to go snorkelling or diving, or visit local villages and attractions.
Prices start at $3,150 per person twin share in a Main Deck B stateroom, including accommodation, all meals, lectures and services of expedition staff on board, group transfers, most activities during the cruise, and landing fees. There are four departures from Port Vila in late November and early December 2007.
Carrying a maximum of just 72 guests, the Oceanic Discoverer is designed to provide all the comfort and facilities of larger cruise ships, yet is small enough to enable access to reef and island sites inaccessible to other vessels.
For further information and reservations contact Coral Princess on 1800 079 545 or visit www.coralprincess.com.au .