Voyage Log: Papua New Guinea Circumnavigation | Cairns to Darwin

11 January 2024 – 15 February 2024


Jump To: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |  Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6Day 7


Day 1: Keelung, Taiwan

24 October 2023

After the handover of Taiwan from Japan to the Republic of China in October 1945, Keelung was established as a provincial city of Taiwan. By 1984, the harbor became the 7th largest container harbor in the world. It was here that guests were to board Coral Adventurer (CA) for a cruise south, along the east coast of Taiwan and down through the Philippines, describing an erratic course visiting small, rarely visited islands until eventually reaching Manila, the nation’s seething capital.

Keelung itself was a typical busy Chinese city. Commerce was king – from small family eateries full of smoking woks and hungry customers, to a modern and efficient commercial port. Interspersed were small areas of tranquility – highly detailed and vividly coloured Taoist temples as well as a surprisingly restful shoreline. Those who wanted bedlam, of course, headed straight for the city’s famous night market. Guest gathered in the afternoon and lines were thrown at 4:00pm. After the usual mandatory safety drills conducted by purser Sara, Expedition Leader Dawn introduced the expedition team and the itinerary for the next few days. Many of the guests were veterans from previous Coral Expeditions cruises, so, with bubbles in hand, everyone celebrated their good fortune as the ship set a course for adventure.



Day 2: Hualien

25 October 2023

Guest and expedition staff had no time to rest. After the anticipation of departure, we had an easy steam down the Taiwanese east coast until Hualien, our jumping-off point for a big, full day off-ship. We were headed to Taroko Gorge, one of the great natural treasures of the island. Were it not for the fact the state of Taiwan is not recognised by the UN, this place would be right up the list of UNESCO World Heritage listings.

Ship’s company boarded local buses (lacey curtains no charge) and, after 50 minutes or so of driving, arrived at the park’s main gate. Two days before there had been a significant earthquake that had caused several major landslips, some of which had impacted and closed the access roads. Accordingly, traffic was reduced to one lane only at designated times. It was imperative that we met those times, so, after some adroit re-scheduling between the team and local guides, we set of into an increasingly spectacular landscape.

The park covers more than 92,000 hectares in the northern section of the Central Mountain Range. It features high mountains and sheer gorges. Many of its peaks tower above 3,000m in elevation Much of the rock is marble – hard and resistant, not easily eroded – so the resulting valley is narrow with very steep sides. Everyone enjoyed the wonderful views from pullouts, bridges and our lunch stop high in the surrounding hills. Our activities were largely ignored by a bold troop of Formosan Macaques – Taiwan’s only monkey. Upon our return to the vessel, Guest Lecturer Stella encouraged everyone to ‘Let’s learn Filipino’, her native tongue. Captain Mark Neill then put his hand in his pocket for Captain’s Welcome Drinks, accompanied by canapes by chef Dylan and team.

Day 3: At Sea

26 October 2023

Today was a sea day. The Philippines beckoned, but we had some country to cover. The Philippines are part of Asia both geographically and bureaucratically. Accordingly, emigration procedures can be long, drawn-out and complex, often involving many people from many local jurisdictions. Fortunately for the guests all they had to do was a face-to-face with their passports in hand. That done, Guest Lecturer Michael gave his first talk – ‘The Region’s history in 20 Objects’ using authentic objects to explain the culture and history of our intended destinations. Stella then returned with a provocative presentation; an eyewitness account of the nonviolent revolution that removed the Marcos dictatorship, entitled ‘Bloodlines of Southeast Asian Politics’. After lunch Dive Instructor Chrissy held her first orientation to the many waterbased activities that were to be a feature of this trip. In a day of firsts, Guest Lecturer Greg then delivered his presentation ‘My Island Home’, an introduction to island biogeography, or why organisms live where they do. Many guests also chose to chat with new colleagues, read a book, browse the snacks or simply gaze out to sea and serene bliss.


Day 4: Claveria

27 October 2023

We encountered an incredibly friendly reception this morning at Claveria, with dancing and singing and plenty of “Mabuhay!” in the local fish market depot, re-imagined as a reception space. We all enjoyed watching the communal fishing activity off the beach, despite some patchy rain, this traditional practice known as Daklis. Unfortunately, due to the running tide we weren’t able to see the result of this communal work. We also got an opportunity to see the traditional practice of rice harvesting and threshing. We were fortunate that they had thoughtfully left a small corner of their field unharvested, so that we could learn about the way it was done traditionally. [There were mechanical harvesters in the vicinity]. This morning I think we were all overwhelmed by the reception we received. I reflected that the only way you might encounter such a welcome where I come from [Jervis Bay NSW], would be if we were the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. A police escort, roads closed, all agencies – Police, Fire Brigade, Coastal Guard, Ambulances involved – and we went through the towns and villages without impediment, contrary to all the traffic lights. In the afternoon, after lunch, Lead Chef Dylan led a presentation on the life of a chef on a Cruise ship, and as a bonus had a cooking lesson [and tasting] to cap It off.



Day 5: Calayan

28 October 2023

Due to the waves breaking on the beach this morning, the intrepid shore party had to dive off the Xplorer and swim the 20 odd metres onto the sandy shore. Many chose the option to walk up to the half-destroyed lighthouse, a casualty of the recent typhoon. According to Philippine regulation, the lighthouse should only accommodate four visitors at one time, but according to our Australian regulations the climbing of the lighthouse should have been no persons at any one time! A few guests chose to follow the local regulations and enjoyed the views from the skeletal lighthouse. After returning to the ship and a quick shower, we all enjoyed Mark Daffey’s presentation on travel photography accompanied with an inspirational collection of images and words – we all now, I think, hold our cameras, and compose our pictures, with a little more thought than we used to. And to cap a wonderful day, the Chef Dylan and his fabulous team put on a sumptuous BBQ dinner on the vista deck.


Day 6: Palaui Island

29 October 2023

Today we all experienced a magic moment – a tranquil sea, a beautiful island, and a variety of experiences for us to enjoy. Several of us visited the lighthouse, which had also been built to be an observation tower since Chinese pirates were a problem in these waters in the late nineteenth century. Others took to the water, snorkelling, and swimming off the sandy beaches. Some guests today took tours of the Bridge or the Engine Rooms – both being fascinating ‘behind the scenes’ experiences. In the afternoon Guest Lecturer Mike provided a talk on the Historical Trade Routes of Asia and the Pacific, and later, Guest Lecturer Stella told us of the farming of pearls in the Philippines.



Day 7: Jomalig Island, Polillo Islands Group

30 October 2023

Before venturing out this morning, Guest Lecturer Greg gave an informative and amusing presentation entitled: ‘Camouflage – Amazing Animals You’ve Never Seen’. Later in the morning, as we approached our next destination, Tim spoke to us on the theme of ‘Seafarers, Superstitions and Shipwrecks’. In the afternoon, we enjoyed a shore visit, with a long walk through low sandy country to a river, interspersed with villages, coconut plantations, and a coastal thicket. There was a little rain about in the afternoon, but not enough to spoil a beautiful afternoon walk. And to cap off the day’s activities, Sarah’s hospitality team put on a wine tasting, each wine accompanied by a specially prepared canape.



the beaches. Some took to the water whilst others were happy to beachcomb for shells. And we found some very beautiful ones too – Spider Conch shells and a large Helmet Shell. We took our photos and left the shells behind, of course. On the opposite side of Canigao to where we landed, some of us came across a monument commemorating the 500-year anniversary of the arrival of Magellan in the Philippines from the East in 1521, as a part of the first known European circumnavigation of the world. Of course, Magellan was killed in the Philippines but 19 crew of the original 270, managed to return to Spain on the ship the Victoria in 1522. In the afternoon, Yogi provided a very informative presentation on Marine Protected Areas and Marine Life of the Indo Pacific, accompanied by some of his spectacular photographs and a short video. The images of the cleaner wrasse and their cleaning stations, where all manner of fish species turn up to be cleansed of parasites, were amazing! Following dinner it was time for a Coral Expedition’s tradition on these voyages. It was time to engage what remaining brain cells we had and try to win a prize by coming up with answers to the ‘Coral Adventurer Nautical Trivia Quiz’. This was hosted by Tim in the Bridge Deck Lounge. It was chaotic and a lot of fun.



Day 15: Ticao Island and San Miguel Island

 7 November 2023

This morning we headed on shore to the historic town of San Jacinto on Ticao Island. We had the opportunity to explore the grand 100-year-old house ‘Casa Fidel’ and also the old Catholic Church. Some checked out the local chocolate and the souvenir shop. A tropical downpour did not dampen our spirits or those of large group of dancers and musicians who welcomed us in the style we are now accustomed to. In the afternoon we visited the best snorkelling site we have encountered on the whole trip. Beautiful corals and abundant fish life. Some of us trekked up the bulldozed track to the other side of the island which proved to be a good workout. This island had ancient cycad palms, a very early type of plant, which evolved in the Cretaceous period.