National Geographic Expeditions takes you on a voyage of discovery from New Caledonia to New Zealand, with a focus on some of the most extraordinary lagoons in the world.

Sailing from Nouméa to Auckland, you will travel in the company of both a National Geographic photographer and expert, who through lectures, workshops and one-on-one discussions, will give you a deeper understanding of the sights and significance of your journey and teach you how to capture the story of this incredible expedition through your own photography.

After joining Le Soleal in Nouméa, you will sail to Kouaré Island which will reveal you all its beauty and the richness of its seabed. From here we will continue the exploration of the idyllic islands of New Caledonia with visits to Mare and Lifou, with their white sand beaches, emerald clear waters, and lush tropical vegetation. Sailing north, we will visit Hienghene, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, classified for the incredible biodiversity of its coral and famed for its black limestone cliffs.

Sailing in the company of both your National Geographic Expert and photographer, you will have the unique opportunity to learn about, experience, and photograph these fascinating cultures with the very best insight and guidance to leave you with a deeper understanding and an unforgettable voyage.

Visiting the remote Norfolk Island, you will be as struck by the beauty of Emily Bay lagoon as you will be by its fascinating history. Identified as an Important Bird Area due to its endemic species, Norfolk Island is a nature-lovers delight.

In the far north of the New Zealand archipelago, you will visit the Bay of Islands. This destination has welcomed many voyagers to New Zealand, including the Maori of 700 years ago. Your welcome to New Zealand will be completed with a traditional Maori ceremony.

Your cruise will end in Auckland. Bordered by two seas, this New Zealand city will surprise you with its modernity and its cosmopolitan atmosphere and is the perfect destination to adjust back to the bustle of modern life before heading home.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard PONANT's Le Soleal, part of the Sisterships fleet.

Trip highlights

Sail with a National Geographic photographer, who will be available for lectures, workshops, and one-on-one sessions to help you capture the story of your journey, whether you are a seasoned photographer or just using your phone.

Sail with a National Geographic Expert, a leader in their field who will bring to life the insights and stories of their work, and will guide you to experience this region through the lens of National Geographic.

Explore the diversity of New Caledonia, from the world’s most beautiful shores to its cultural discoveries, and visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the lagoons of New Caledonia from Hienghène.

Explore of the Loyalty Islands archipelago: Maré’s unspoilt landscapes and Lifou’s exceptional marine life.

Explore the history and culture of Norfolk Island, one of Australia’s most remote islands.

Discover the art and traditions of the rich and varied Kanak culture.

By travelling with National Geographic to the Pacific Islands, you will also be doing your part to protect it, as part of the proceeds of your trip are returned to the National Geographic Society, who works to further the understanding and protection of our planet.

Itinerary - 10 Days

1 Nouméa, New Caledonia

Your voyage starts in Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia. While the first European to sight New Caledonia was James Cook in 1774, the islands had already been inhabited for over 3000 years by highly skilled navigators, the Lapita. Nouméa was founded in 1854 by the French and originally called Port-de-France, before becoming the headquarters of the United States military for the South Pacific campaign in World War II. As we start our voyage, embrace the tranquil beauty, traditional cultures and stark outside influences that have shaped these islands and the cultures we will meet throughout the next 11 days.

2 Kouare Island

Aboard our Zodiacs®, you will sail along the turquoise waters of New Caledonia’s coral reef, the second largest in the world. Landing on Kouare Island, in the heart of the southern lagoon, you will encounter an idyllic environment: this small, uninhabited land is a marine area listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, and the marine wildlife thrives here. From the white-sand beaches where marine turtles and sea snakes like to lay their eggs, to the abundant underwater world home to multi-coloured fish, beautiful coral, and marine reptiles, you can live an unforgettable snorkelling experience.

3 Maré Island

Secluded and wild, Maré Island is located in New Caledonia and it’s the southernmost of the Loyalty Islands group. A raised coral atoll, or makatea, this coral platform has been raised out of the sea by tectonic actions, resulting in a relatively flat island with impressive cliffs that plunge into the sea where the reef edge used to plunge into the depths. You will see unusual cut-out reliefs sculpted by time, while the turquoise waters of peaceful lagoons lap on white sand beaches, rimmed with coconut palms and Cook pines. Inland, the central plateau shelters numerous caves and water “holes”. Maré Island is also known as “the market garden of New Caledonia”. Don’t forget to eat the island’s succulent avocados.

4 Lifou Island

Lifou is the largest of the Loyalty Islands and is a makatea, a raised coral atoll. Due to its formation by the geological uplifting of the coral platform, the island is flat with coral cliffs and is the highest of the Loyalty Islands. As you explore this outstanding natural site, note the occurrence of caves that penetrate beneath the island and give access to its fresh water. As such, these caves have played a key role in the island’s mythology. To the south of the island are expanses of long, white sand beaches and in the interior is an abundance of tropical plant life. The local community will give you insights into their rich and authentic Kanak culture that is proudly upheld to this day.

5 Hienghène

Located on the East Coast of Grande Terre, Hienghène is the ideal destination for nature lovers. Known as the cradle of the Kanak soul, Hienghène is home to coral forests, black limestone rocks, spectacular waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Hienghène lagoon is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to two marine protected areas created to protect this site, considered to have some of the most impressive coral reefs in New Caledonia. On land, you will find the iconic rock formations of the “Laying Hen” and “Sphinx”, as well as the black rock cliffs of Linderalique that rise majestically from the water. On top of all the natural wonders, the communities here are central to the Kanak art and traditions, and during our visit we’ll be able to learn more about them first-hand.

6 Port Bouquet Bay

Port-Bouquet Bay is located to the south-east of the main island of New Caledonia, a remote region more well-known as the “Lost Coast”. Let yourself fall under the spell of this wild coast with its exceptional panoramas. Its chiselled coast, between ochre rocks and lush vegetation, appears alongside the subtle tones offered by the Coral Sea. You’ll be able to visit the small village of Saint-Roch, perched on the side of deep ravine overlooking the islands of Nemou and Toupeti, where you will be welcomed in the traditional manner by the inhabitants. You’ll also be able to make the most of the beach to relax, swim or snorkel among the coral reefs of the island of Nemou.

7 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of your time onboard Le Soleal. Meet your onboard National Geographic Expert to get greater insight into the South Pacific via lectures and discussions over coffee in the bar. Meanwhile your National Geographic photographer will give initial talks and workshops to help you capture the story of your adventure with your camera, whether you are a seasoned photographer, or using your phone. Come and learn how to make the most of the incredible photographic opportunities you will find along your voyage. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below alongside one of our naturalists.

8 Norfolk Island, Australia

While it is known that Polynesians originally settled in Norfolk Island, they had already departed it in 1788, when it was used by the British as a penal settlement. It wasn’t until 1856 that permanent civilian residence began with the arrival of 194 descendants of the Bounty mutineers from Pitcairn Island. This unspoilt South Pacific island makes for a fascinating destination and the choice will be yours, whether to relax on its deserted beaches and swim among the multi-coloured fish and corals of Emily Bay lagoon, or to explore inland to see the islands endemic flora and fauna and discover its unusual history. Norfolk Island National Park is the place to see parrots hidden under the araucaria branches and tree-ferns, and discover more about the island's turbulent history at the Norfolk Island Museum in Kingston, one of Australia's oldest towns.

9 At Sea

During your day at sea and we encourage you to make the most of your time onboard Le Soleal. Catch up with our onboard National Geographic photographer for some final tips and practise your new-found skills out on deck capturing some seabird photos, or talk to the National Geographic Expert to recap on your South Pacific adventure and better understand its people and landscapes. At National Geographic Expeditions we believe that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

10 Bay of Islands, Waitangi

The Bay of Islands is located on the east coast of the Far North District of the North Island of New Zealand. One of the first Maori settlements on the North Island was established in the Bay of Islands 700 years ago with the arrival of the Mataatua, one of the great voyaging canoes that brought the Polynesians to New Zealand. The first permanent European settlement of Russell was also established in the Bay of Islands in the early 19th century. 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.

11 Auckland

Our voyage comes to an end in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest, most populated and busiest city. Located on an isthmus linking the peninsula of Northland to the expansive North Island, it seems to float between land and sea and is one of the few cities in the world to have two separate harbours on two separate major bodies of water: Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. As you prepare for your journey home take time to reflect on the experiences you have shared on your voyage and how they have changed you upon your return.

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