FOLLOW THE VOYAGE:
Through The Islands & Atolls Of Micronesia
Manila to Kavieng | 9 November 2023 to 4 December 2023
Master: Matthew Fryer, Expedition Leader: Melanie Faithfull & Cara Cavanagh, Guest Lecturers: Alasdair McGregor, Greg Watson, Michael Hermes, Jeremy Robertson & Cristiana Damiano
Jump To: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24
Day 1: Apo Reef, 10 November 2023
After an early brunch, we arrived at Apo Island by boat, where the friendly local guides welcomed us.
These guides, along with the expedition crew, led us on various adventures across the island.
Some opted to explore the light tower, offering panoramic views of the fringing reef and the island, while others decided to take a scenic walk through the forest and mangrove system.
This walk led us along a wooden boardwalk to the lagoon, where we spotted a great billed heron and kingfishers.
Greg shared fascinating facts about mangroves, highlighting their vital role in the ecosystem.
For those who preferred a more relaxed experience, some of us found shade under the trees, enjoying the scenery and engaging in conversations with the locals.
Meanwhile, those who ventured to the reef edge with snorkel and fins were greeted by a diverse and healthy reef system.
Plate corals and various fish inhabited the reef, and a reef wall dropped from the surface into the depths along the edge, allowing us to witness this thriving ecosystem.
This experience deepened our understanding of the benefits of a protected marine area.
Upon our return to the ship, Mike hosted a presentation on the Voyage Book Club, after which we mingled and enjoyed the Captain’s Welcome Drinks before the dinner service.
Day 2: Sibuyan Island & Cresta De Gallo, 11 November 2023
This morning, we set out for a visit to the picturesque mountainous island of Sibuyan.
Welcomed by a traditional local performance, we then boarded minibuses headed to the forest.
In the forest, we had the pleasure of meeting Mayor Arthur, a dedicated conservationist working tirelessly for the preservation of the island’s ecosystem.
Our visit also included indulging in local snacks and coconuts, exploring local paintings and souvenirs, and witnessing unique weaving practices.
As a special moment, each of us had the chance to plant our very own tree within the forest.
Following this, a small group ventured to Lambingan Falls for a forest walk and a refreshing dip in the cold water.
Meanwhile, the rest of us explored the charming village town of Magdiwang, interacting with friendly locals.
Some even had the opportunity to visit the Mayor’s house and the local basketball court.
Our day concluded back at the Pier with a Remembrance Day celebration.
The local schoolchildren crafted boats from coconut husks adorned with Australian flags, floating them into the water as we all observed a minute of silence.
In the afternoon, we made our way to Cresta de Gallo Island, where we were welcomed by a captivating dance performance.
Some chose to explore the island on foot, while others enjoyed a swim or snorkel in the crystal-clear, cool waters.
The coral gardens displayed a delightful diversity, teeming with vibrant fish.
Later in the day, we savored some bubbles and charcuterie boards, relishing the sunset that painted magical colors over the water.
As a small rain shower approached, it created a huge rainbow that adorned the sky, adding a touch of enchantment to the scene.
Day 3: Kalanggaman Island, 12 November 2023
We arrived at the picturesque long island of Kalanggaman for a day of exploration. The entire island had sunbeds, cabanas, coconuts, and kayaks all ready for our use.
The calm conditions of the day made the experience even more perfect. We explored two snorkel sites, each on opposite sides of the island.
On one side, accessible from the sandy beach, we found scattered coral bommies and a vibrant array of fish life. On the other side, a large coral garden close to the shore awaited us.
Access was either from the sandbar, swimming around, or walking over the rocky reef.
This area featured big plate corals and numerous colorful encrusting corals, with schools of fish darting along the reef.
In the morning, the small sandbar spit extending from the island was submerged underwater.
By the afternoon, it emerged fully, allowing us to take a walk along its shiny white sand.
Mike led a group to an archaeological site he had uncovered earlier in the morning.
Despite its size, the site was filled with pottery and shards, and Mike spoke about its relevance in the area.
In the afternoon, we had the option to return to the beach or snorkel from the Xplorer, which was anchored off the reef edge.
Back on board the ship, Cristiana hosted a presentation on Coral Reef ecosystems.
Her talk was fascinating, covering various programs she has been involved in to help conserve our oceans.
Day 4: Limasawa & Santa Sofia, 13 November 2023
Our morning began on Limasawa Island with a heartwarming cultural immersion in the local town.
Welcomed by a line of enthusiastic school children waving flags, we stepped into a town square resembling a lush green forest, complete with verdant grass and a bustling atmosphere.
The scene was alive with numerous local stores offering shaded seating arrangements adorned with chairs and tables.
Within this vibrant setting, an array of activities awaited our exploration – from Henna painting and traditional Babayin writing to a delectable assortment of food and local snacks, all lovingly prepared by the community.
Among the highlights was the exquisite Lechon, a spit-roasted traditional pig.
Our visit included a tour of the National Shrine of the First Mass, followed by a scenic hike to the summit of Magellon’s Cross, offering breathtaking bay vistas.
To cap off our delightful morning, we indulged in tricycle rides around the town and were treated to a captivating theatrical dance performance before bidding farewell to the town square.
The afternoon unfurled with diverse adventures, with snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Santa Sofia being a popular choice.
Here, the shallows boasted an impressive 80% coral cover, adorned predominantly by soft corals, teeming with a rich diversity of fish life.
It resembled an enchanting coral garden nestled at the base of a cliff face.
Meanwhile, aboard the other Xplorer, we enjoyed a coastal cruise that commenced with a warm welcome from the Mayor of Padre Burgos at the port.
Our leisurely journey traced the picturesque coastline, where cliffs and palm trees embraced the shoreline.
Our expedition reached its delightful culmination at Tangkaan beach, where locals warmly waved at us from the shoreline, adding a final touch of hospitality to our memorable day.
Day 5: Bucas Grande & Daku Island , 14 November 2023
This morning, the Xplorers embarked on a journey to the Sohoton Cove Tourism Centre.
Donning helmets and life vests, we boarded local boats and began our adventure through a maze of islands.
The boats puttered along, allowing us ample time to soak in the scenery of the limestone labyrinth.
Navigating through a small cave, we emerged to further twists and turns of the archipelago, passing a remarkable colony of flying foxes hanging from the trees along the limestone cliff faces.
Our next stop was a lagoon teeming with millions of golden stingless jellyfish in various sizes, inviting to dive in for an up-close encounter.
Returning to the Centre, we relished a refreshing swim off the ship’s back platform, nestled in a scenic cove.
During lunch, we ventured to Daku Island, where friendly locals welcomed us at the beach.
We indulged in our specially prepared Boodle—a delightful treat—while swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking in the clear waters.
A smaller group embarked on a brief cruise around the island’s perimeter, pausing to watch surfers riding the waves at a small break.
As our afternoon in the Philippines drew to a close, we bid a fond farewell to our Shorex Agents, Jen and Manu.
Day 6: At Sea, 15 November 2023
Before breakfast, Chrissy hosted a morning stretch and Yoga class, providing a relaxing and mindful start to the day.
Following breakfast, Alasdair began the day with a presentation on Colonialism.
Subsequently, we embarked on our first bridge and engine room tours.
After lunch, Jeremy delivered a lecture on the bird species we had been observing during our voyage.
Among them were Brown boobies, which plunge into the waters to catch flying fish throughout the day.
We then enjoyed afternoon tea and later engaged in Mike’s presentation, where he showcased his collection of Micronesian artifacts.
Finally, we participated in a cocktail-making class.
Day 7: At Sea , 16 November 2023
Our second day at sea commenced with an engaging talk from Jeremy, ‘The Sex Lives of Birds.’
Following this, we gathered in the Bridge Deck Lounge for a morning tea.
Subsequently, Greg’s presentation, ‘In a Savage Garden: a Carnivorous Cornucopia,’ enlightened us about plant adaptations, turning some into predators, and highlighted various carnivorous plants we had encountered in Bucas Grande.
Chief Engineer AJ then hosted an insightful Engine Room presentation, delving into the intricate workings of the ship, sparking numerous questions from us all.
Later in the afternoon, we received a briefing on our upcoming Palau day tours, followed by a concise 10-minute discussion from Mike about Palauan culture and history.
Alasdair presented his talk, ‘An Artist Adrift,’ exploring how his travels influenced different aspects of his art.
Before dinner, the expedition team joined us for pre-dinner drinks and showcased a photo slideshow, featuring captivating shots from our journey through the Philippines.
Day 8: Palau , 17 November 2023
Today, we had the chance to board local boats and cruise through a maze-like labyrinth of rock islands, exploring the underwater wonders of Palau.
Then, we enjoyed a morning bus tour that took us to explore the Etpison Private Museum, Palau International Coral Research and Aquarium, and the Belau National Museum.
After learning more about the region, we set off to snorkel around the rock islands before having some free time to explore the island.
Day 9: At Sea , 18 November 2023
Today was a day focused on learning.
After breakfast, we delved into a lecture providing an introduction to Micronesia, learning about the locations we would explore and gaining cultural awareness.
Following that, Thomas offered an overview of the political and geographical aspects of the Federated States Of Micronesia.
Additionally, Jeremy enlightened us about Yap during a lecture on Shell Money and the significance of the Yap stone Money.
Post-lunch, we indulged in Bridge and Engine Room Tours, followed by Christiana’s presentation on sharks, the apex predators.
Day 10: Yap , 19 November 2023
This morning, upon our arrival at Yap Wharf, we divided into three groups: one for the morning bus tour, another for a morning snorkeling session, and a third group dedicated to spending the entire day diving.
Those on the tour had the opportunity to stroll among the famous stone money banks of Kaday Village.
Our local guides shared stories of the transportation of these ancient calcium carbonate stones, recounting the precarious voyages from the Rock Islands in Palau.
Subsequently, we were treated to a bamboo cultural dance performed by the young dancers of the village.
Their vibrant traditional attire, accompanied by singing and dancing, created a deeply moving experience.
In the afternoon, we ventured to a coral garden for snorkeling, where we encountered a diverse array of marine life, including sharks, Pipehorse, and a multitude of brightly colored reef fish.
Day 11: At Sea , 20 November 2023
We began the morning with Chrissy’s Yoga class, followed by Greg’s presentation titled ‘A Fool for Nature’ after breakfast.
Following morning tea, Mike presented his second session on ’20 Artifacts of Micronesia’ before we enjoyed lunch.
During our meal, we had a sighting of a whale.
The ship slowed down, and everyone gathered on the starboard side.
The whale surfaced several times, allowing us to capture some incredible photos.
We later identified it as an Amuris Whale, an exceptionally rare species described only in 2005.
Christiana then elaborated on the process of identifying this whale, which was a significant highlight of the day.
Later in the day, Adam conducted a photography workshop, followed by a practical demonstration on deck.
Afterward, Thomas provided an overview of the history of Ifalik Atoll.
Day 12: Ifalik Atoll , 21 November 2023
This morning, following a delightful breakfast, we were captivated by Alasdair’s presentation on WW11 titled “War In Paradise”.
Soon after, we arrived at Ifalik Atoll, our first destination in Micronesia.
As the Coral Adventurer dropped anchor just outside the entrance channel, we eagerly made our way to the outer decks, reveling in the awe-inspiring scenery that unfolded before us.
Upon our arrival, a vibrant crowd awaited us as the Explorers landed near the village.
People adorned in traditional clothing and ceremonial attire sang and danced, extending a warm welcome to their paradise lined with coconut palms.
Our immersion in the village life was enriching; we participated in activities like weaving and basket making, while the men proudly showcased their skill in crafting coconut rope.
Following our visit to the village, we embarked on an afternoon filled with snorkeling, diving, birdwatching, and beach landings.
The marine life was nothing short of fantastic, and the underwater terrain offered captivating vistas.
Our encounters included sightings of an eagle ray, moray eel, various species of turtles, and an array of colorful reef fish.
The divers had an exceptional dive experience at the south-western end of the atoll from the Zodiacs.
For those not snorkeling, a leisurely cruise into the turquoise waters of the lagoon presented an opportunity to explore the smaller islands teeming with abundant seabird life.
Additionally, a landing at the northern tip of the main island offered a chance for a refreshing swim.
Overall, it was a day brimming with immersive experiences, natural wonders, and cultural encounters that left us all thoroughly enchanted and fulfilled.
Day 13: Lamotrek Island , 22 November 2023
This morning, the Coral Adventurer sailed into Lamotrek Atoll and dropped anchor just off the main island.
As we arrived, the village greeted us with joyous Lei dances and songs.
The Lamotreki community had eagerly awaited our visit for weeks, and their entire village had gathered to share this extraordinary cultural exchange with us.
A vibrant showcase of their heritage unfolded before our eyes, featuring an array of cultural expressions such as handcrafted items, traditional plant medicines, and eco-friendly fishing nets skillfully woven from coconut rope.
Our morning was immersed in the warmth of the village as we mingled with locals and delved into their way of life.
The enriching experience allowed us to gain insights into the island’s unique rhythms and traditions.
Following this, we had the pleasure of diving near an isolated bommie within a channel and exploring a shallow sandy patch framed by a stunning reef.
During the dive, our divers spotted a curious leopard shark. Adding to our adventure, we also indulged in a canoe sailing experience.
On our return from snorkeling, the Xplorer had the opportunity to pause by the sail canoes, offering numerous moments for memorable photo opportunities.
Day 14: Poluwat Island , 23 November 2023
Upon our arrival at Poluwat Atoll, a picturesque island greeted us, adorned with a backdrop of swaying coconut palms against the backdrop of turquoise waters.
The village visit was a captivating experience, featuring vibrant demonstrations of local dances and a bustling handicraft market showcasing indigenous creations.
Amidst the village exploration, we wandered through its alleys, and we were offered fresh coconuts to savor as we strolled.
Subsequently, we embarked on a transfer to Alet Island, where the team had prepared a spread inclusive of refreshing mimosas.
We relaxed in the crystal-clear, warm waters surrounding the island before embarking on a leisurely walk leading us up to the historic Japanese Lighthouse.
Day 15: Truk Lagoon , 24 November 2023
We navigated into the entrance of Truk Lagoon, setting the stage for an island adventure aboard the Xplorers.
The first Xplorer catered to advanced divers, offering an opportunity to explore the Sankisan Maru, a Japanese supply ship laden with ammunition and medical supplies.
Simultaneously, another Xplorer catered to snorkelers, guiding them to explore a Japanese Patrol Boat and a Japanese Zero fighter plane submerged beneath the waters.
The exploration of these wrecks proved to be an enjoyable experience for all of us.
In the afternoon, our explorations continued with a third snorkeling spot at the Hoyu wreck and a third dive site exploring the Betty Bomber.
Additionally, we embarked on a historical walk of Etten Island and its fascinating historical airforce base.
Enthusiastic bird watchers among our group were thrilled to spot several key endemic species, including the Blue-faced Parrotfinch, Oceanic Flycatcher, and the Caroline Reed Warbler, adding a touch of excitement to our adventure.
Day 16: Day at Sea , 25 November 2023
This morning began with an invigorating session led by Chrissy, guiding us through yoga and rejuvenating stretches.
Following a delightful breakfast, Jeremy captivated our minds with his presentation titled “Navigation: the Austronesian Alternative.”
As the morning unfolded, we indulged in morning tea before diving into Greg’s intriguing presentation on “Venom: Striking Beauties,” offering insights into the fascinating world of venomous creatures.
Our post-lunch activities included an immersive Engine Room tour, unveiling the inner workings of our vessel, followed by an elegant and flavorsome Wine Tasting event.
Day 17: Ant Atoll , 26 November 2023
Our day commenced with an engaging presentation delving into the captivating history of the Nan Madol ruins of Pohnpei. Following that, we eagerly migrated to the outer decks, witnessing our Captain and the skilled bridge team as they maneuvered our vessel into the lagoon of Ant Atoll.
The morning unfolded with brunch, and then we embarked on a calm nature walk, immersing ourselves in the pristine surroundings. Later, we enjoyed a refreshing swim and snorkeling session in a calm lagoon with an astonishing 50-meter visibility, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life.
Our next adventure led us to the beach for a sunset BBQ experience. While there, a school of Black Tip Reef sharks patrolled the shoreline, offering us the unique opportunity to stand in the shallows and marvel at these magnificent creatures up close.
As the day drew to a close, we indulged in delectable cheese platters before unleashing our inner stars during a lively karaoke session, rounding off our day filled with exploration, adventure, and shared moments of joy and discovery.
Day 18: Pohnpei , 27 November 2023
This morning, we sailed into the picturesque Kolonia Harbour, framed by imposing basalt bluffs. Our group split for two exciting adventures: one headed for the Kepeho waterfall, a leisurely walk through lush tropical rainforest along a flat path accessible to everyone. Lunch by the falls was a delight, followed by a refreshing swim.
Meanwhile, the second group embarked on a thrilling journey to the Nan Madol ruins. Crossing a flooded path via a traditional boat added an adventurous twist, leading us to the grand temple within the ruins. On our return, a visit to the renowned Pohnpei pepper shop awaited us. This high-quality export, savored in Michelin-starred European restaurants, captivated us. We seized the chance to shop before our exploration continued to the historic German bell tower by bus.
Day 19: At Sea , 28 November 2023
Our day commenced with a calm Yoga session guided by Chrissy. Following this, Christiana delved into an intriguing presentation titled ‘The Explorer Gene.’ We learned how behaviour genetics, though still in its infancy, suggests the pivotal role of this gene in significant human migration expansions throughout history.
Post lunch, lead chef Paul took the spotlight, showcasing his culinary expertise through a cooking demonstration. Engaging in a Q&A session, we gained insights into the secrets behind the meals he crafts. To cap off our day, Mike shared a presentation titled ‘Three Historical Accounts of Women Traversing the Globe.’ These remarkable women embarked on world-spanning journeys in different eras and circumstances, their stories deserving wider recognition.
Day 20: Kosrea , 29 November 2023
This morning, our group divided, with Group A embarking on a journey to the Famous Lelu Ruins, remnants of an ancient civilization dating back to the 12th / 14th century. Guided by locals, we strolled amidst the basalt structures intertwined with strangler Fig Trees. Exploring the Royal Tombs, we were enlightened about the burial rituals, including the intriguing process of transferring bones to the blue hole on the island’s fringing reef after flesh decayed.
Our next stop led us to the historical museum, boasting an array of artifacts. From relics salvaged from shipwrecks to Indigenous watercraft and stone tools, the museum painted a vivid picture of the island’s rich history.
Continuing our morning exploration, we ventured to the clam farm, where nature’s wonders unfolded before us. Witnessing clams spawning and learning about the farm’s commendable conservation efforts to reintroduce the once-extinct Giant Clams enthralled us all.
Following a satisfying lunch, our afternoon offered three enticing options: a guided town walk, a serene mangrove kayaking tour, or an opportunity to swim and snorkel in the mesmerizing blue hole. Before embarking on these excursions, we participated in a heartening ceremony, watching as adopted clams found their new home in the intertidal zone, poised to contribute to the rejuvenation of the island’s clam population.
Day 21: Kosrea, 30 November 2023
This morning, we started the day with an early breakfast, eager to delve into our exploration of Kosrea Island’s southern end along the outer reef. The weather was perfect, setting the stage for an incredible experience of snorkeling and diving amidst pristine conditions. Meanwhile, for those who preferred to stay aboard, Alisdair hosted a morning art class, sparking creativity amid the tranquil surroundings.
Following a satisfying lunch, our afternoon brought a unique treat—an option to indulge in a relaxing movie session accompanied by refreshing sorbet and delectable wedges for the perfect movie treats.
Later, Christiana engaged us with her insightful presentation on marine debris, culminating our marine debris think tank with a wealth of innovative ideas for repurposing shoreline waste. Remarkably, some among us had collected items during the trip and transformed them into diverse artworks, showcasing the power of creativity and environmental consciousness.
Day 22: At Sea, 01 December 2023
Today onboard was packed with diverse activities. Chrissy started our day with a serene yoga session in the Bridge Deck Lounge. Jeremy then shared insights on avian intelligence during breakfast. Zac surprised us with a lively ship shop fashion show at morning tea. Greg’s talk on rarity and extinction intrigued us before lunch. Post-lunch, we joined the Coral Adventurer Art scavenger hunt. Adam later enlightened us about cetaceans. To wrap up the day, Sam hosted a fun and engaging quiz after dinner. It was a day filled with learning, entertainment, and camaraderie aboard the ship.
Day 23: Kapingamarangi, 02 December 2023
Today began with an 8 AM breakfast before Alasdair treated us to an engaging Australian Geographic presentation, setting the tone for an exciting day.
The ship maintained its position outside the Atoll as we cruised on the Xplorers towards the village of Kapingamarangi, a five nautical mile run. The warm welcome from the entire village, adorned with leis and offering fresh coconuts, was heartwarming. The village chief greeted us formally before we split into three groups for guided tours, where we learned about the island’s life and spotted an endemic gecko. Local handicrafts, including intricately woven Christmas decorations and jewelry, were proudly displayed.
After bidding our farewells and sharing speeches, we boarded the Xplorers, heading to an uninhabited island within the lagoon. We were surprised with champagne and Mimosas, and we savored the afternoon swimming in the crystal-clear turquoise waters.
Day 24: At Sea, 03 December 2023
The day commenced with Chrissy leading a refreshing Yoga session in the Bridge Deck Lounge, setting a serene tone for the activities ahead. During morning tea in the Bridge Deck Lounge, the crew conducted safety drills while we indulged in some refreshments. Mike’s presentation on William Dampier’s exploits in Asia and the Pacific captivated our attention. Post-lunch, Adam treated us to a mesmerizing drone video capturing our trip’s highlights. Alasdair’s art pieces were showcased, offering a final chance for us to create our own masterpieces. The photo recap slideshow, along with Greg’s intriguing final presentation on drop bears, rounded off the afternoon. To bid adieu, we gathered for Captain’s Farewell drinks, reminiscing about the wonderful journey we had together.