French Polynesia: Beyond the Postcard August 2-11, 2018

Dear W&L Traveler,

The South Pacific has entranced the Western imagination for centuries — ever since the first European explorers returned home with enthralling stories of azure seas, coral atolls, and pristine shores. On this multifaceted expedition through what is arguably Earth’s most beautiful archipelago, we’ll venture into the heart of French Polynesia, exploring its culture and natural history beyond the enchantment of its dazzling façade.

On land, we’ll bike or take a jeep ride into lush island interiors to encounter unique flora and fauna and connect with local populations. We’ll also discover Polynesia’s deep spiritual heritage as we visit the region’s fabled marae, including Marae Taputapuatea. This sacred meeting ground, which just earned UNESCO World Heritage status in July, was the point from which Polynesian seafarers began their bold expeditions into the broad Pacific. We’ll ponder the history and the mystery of this renowned diaspora with cultural experts. At sea, we’ll have myriad opportunities to linger in turquoise lagoons and shimmering reefs vibrant with kaleidoscopic marine life.

The modern and comfortable National Geographic Orion will be our home for this journey, and an expert expedition team will add incomparable dimensions to our experience. Four naturalists/cultural specialists will illuminate every facet, two divemasters and an undersea specialist will enhance opportunities for diving and snorkeling, and an ethnomusicologist will curate exclusive musical performances. Orion is the only expedition ship exploring the South Pacific with National Geographic photographers. Among our photo experts for this voyage will be Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jay Dickman.

Few have the chance to experience the South Pacific the way we will on this exceptional expedition. I hope you are inspired to join us, August 2-11, 2018. To make your reservation, please return the reservation form or call 540.458.8723.


Robert Fure, Ph.D., Director of Special Programs

Hidden Polynesia: Revealing a Living & Ancient Culture

Palm-lined turquoise lagoons. Soaring, emerald-encrusted mountain peaks. Pristine reefs bursting with a kaleidoscope of marine life. These are the idyllic notions that lure visitors to French Polynesia, but beneath the sublime exterior there beats a spiritual pulse, linking the island people of today with their ancestors of yore. Nowhere is this ancient rhythm more palpable than on Raiatea, the “Sacred Island” that is home to one of Polynesia’s most important cultural sites, Marae Taputapuatea (recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site). Built as a monument to Oro, the god of war, this open-air temple reigned as the center of spiritual power over 3,000 years ago.

You’ll venture on to neighboring Huahine, once the home of Tahitian royalty, where you’ll find the highest density of well-preserved ancient marae along with archaeological artifacts dating from 700 A.D. The last half of the voyage turns your attention back to the region’s acclaimed natural wonders—snorkeling Fakarava, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; drifting in Rangiroa’s lagoon, the second largest in the world, or exploring enchanting grottos on Makatea.

The Perfect Platform to Explore Land & Sea

Modern and elegant with a gracious, sunlit ambiance, the 102-guest National Geographic Orion will be your base for this unforgettable adventure to the other side of the world. Her generous decks and expansive windowed interiors take full advantage of the sun, ocean breezes, and jaw-dropping scenery.

Orion’s unique adaptation for ocean exploration makes her ideal for discovering the region’s spectacular undersea. The ship is equipped with scuba gear for up to 24 divers and complete snorkeling gear for all 102 guests aboard. A marina platform makes loading divers, snorkelers, and gear into Zodiacs for forays exceptionally efficient and safe. For those who prefer to stay dry, Orion is equipped with a glass-bottom Zodiac that offers remarkably clear observations of the undersea. She is the only expedition ship traveling in the region with an undersea specialist, two divemasters, and undersea video technology, including an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) capable of exploring depths up to 1,000 feet to provide video to enjoy in brilliant HD from the comfort of the ship’s lounge.

Life aboard National Geographic Orion is as welcoming as the Polynesian people, mirroring the languid pace of island life. Freely roam the accessible ship, including the bridge where you are welcome to watch the captain and officers navigate, and scan for birdlife and whales. Orion’s public spaces foster a convivial atmosphere. In the expansive window-lined lounge, the heart of the expedition community, enjoy the lively daily recap sessions and informative presentations. No assigned seating in the spacious dining room makes for easy mingling with fellow guests and the expedition staff. On deck, there are plenty of spaces to enjoy the balmy air and brilliant vistas by day or the romance of dining under stars at night.

Travel With an A+ Expedition Team

Discover the South Pacific with a veteran expedition leader, an assistant expedition leader, and a team of four naturalists/cultural specialists well-versed in the region’s flora, fauna, and human history. Two divemasters and an underwater specialist will maximize your time in the incredible undersea, while a National Geographic photographer, a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, and a video chronicler aboard will ensure you go home with amazing shots and a DVD that captures the story of your voyage. Plus, a wellness specialist helps enhance the relaxing and revitalizing benefits of life in the South Pacific.

Capture the Adventure: Take Great Photos

National Geographic Orion is the only expedition ship exploring the South Pacific with a National Geographic photographer aboard. You'll be joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jay Dickman, who has inspired many professional and amateur photographers, and is on hand to motivate and assist you. He will be flanked by a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, a naturalist trained by National Geographic photographers, to help you with your camera settings, the basics of composition, observation, and more to equip you with skills.

Now, every guest - from smartphone camera users to semi-pro shooters - can stand side-by-side with top photographers, pick up tips in the field, and take great photos. The South Pacific provides a photo op a minute and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to capture. So no worries, you’ll return home with your best photos ever, and a lifelong skill.

Expedition Highlights

  • Visit one of the most important cultural sites in Polynesia, Marae Taputapuatea on Raiatea, recently named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Snorkel or dive some of the healthiest reefs of the Pacific in the Tuamotu Archipelago.
  • Kayak or try stand-up paddleboarding in gorgeous turquoise lagoons.
  • Watch on deck as National Geographic Orion navigates Tiputa Pass into the lagoon at Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world.
  • Travel with an onboard team of naturalists, cultural specialists, dive- masters, and expert photographers.


Venture to the heart of Polynesian culture and wildness on this highly immersive expedition where options abound. Choose to kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or take a bike ride for independent exploration and to connect with these people and islands on a personal level. Explore the historic ceremonial site, called a marae, on Raiatea where Polynesian seafarers would begin their bold expeditions sailing into the unknown. Cruise among the atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago, a string of tiny islands in an azure sea that hides thriving reefs we’ll explore while scuba diving and snorkeling.

1 Depart U.S. Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Tahiti.
2 Papeete, French Polynesia/Embark Arrive in Papeete, Tahiti early this morning, check into dayrooms, and take a brief tour of the island before embarking National Geographic Orion. (L,D)
3 Bora Bora, Society Islands Begin your voyage with a view of one of the South Pacific’s most iconic images, the angular crags of Bora Bora’s Mount Otemanu. Explore the island’s interior by four-wheel drive for unparalleled views of the island’s turquoise lagoon, then snorkel, dive, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard from one of the motus on the outer reef. (B,L,D)
4 Raiatea/Tahaa Encircled by a single fringing reef, and sharing a common lagoon, Raiatea and Tahaa are islands well worth exploring. One of the most important cultural sites in the Polynesian world, Marae Taputapuatea was a center for Polynesian seafarers and the location from which they set out for Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Hawaii, and New Zealand. Spend the morning exploring this site on Raiatea, then refresh yourself with a swim in warm turquoise seas. Watch from on deck as we navigate lagoon channels en route to Tahaa, then go ashore for a visit to a small, family-run vanilla plantation. (B,L,D)
5 Huahine One of Polynesia’s best-kept secrets, Huahine is well off-the-beaten path. Once the home of Tahitian royalty, Huahine maintains the highest density of ancient marae in French Polynesia. Visit these sites with cultural experts and archaeologists who bring them to life. Venture into the lush interior of the island on a bicycle, then explore the verdant shoreline by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or Zodiac. Finish the day with a swim in the island’s crystal-clear lagoon. (B,L,D)
6/7 Tuamotu Archipelago Spend two days exploring some of the nearly 80 islands and atolls in the “Dangerous Archipelago.” Fakarava is one of the largest atolls in French Polynesia and part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Snorkel the protected reefs or ride the current into the lagoon on a world famous drift dive. An uplifted coral atoll, the island of Makatea is one of the most unique landforms in the Pacific. Spend the day exploring limestone caves and grottos with your expedition team and local guides, or search for endemic fruit doves and myriad seabirds, then snorkel and dive among clouds of colorful fish on the nearby reef. (B,L,D)
8 Rangiroa The atoll of Rangiroa is a ring of slender islands known for some of the best diving and snorkeling in French Polynesia. The turquoise lagoon at its center is the second largest in the world. Your ship passes between the islets to anchor inside the lagoon near the village of Tiputa, where local musicians greet us. Visit the village, and kayak, snorkel, and scuba dive in the rich waters here, home to large schools of pelagic fish, manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles, and hammerheads. (B,L,D)
9/10 Rangiroa/Disembark/Papeete/U.S. Disembark this morning and take a short flight back to Papeete, where you’ll connect to your international overnight flight home. (DAY 9: B,L)

Pre-Voyage Hotel Stay: Arrive ahead and settle into island time on a relaxing hotel option at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa. Call for rates and details.

National Geographic Orion

  • Capacity: 102 guests in 53 outside cabins.
  • Registry: Bahamas.
  • Overall Length: 338 feet.
  • Description: The state-of-the-art National Geographic Orion (built in 2004) joined the Lindblad-National Geographic fleet in 2014. A fully stabilized, ice-class vessel with a steel reinforced forward hull, she is at home navigating polar ice as well as small harbors in the South Pacific.
  • Public Areas: Outdoor café, lounge with bar, restaurant, sundeck, reception desk, observation lounge and library, global gallery, marina platform, and mudroom. The “open bridge” allows guests to meet the captain and officers and learn about navigation.
  • Meals: All meals are served in a single seating with unassigned tables for an informal atmosphere and easy mingling. The cuisine is international with local flair, featuring tastes of the regions we explore.
  • Cabins: All cabins feature ocean views, private facilities, climate controls, and a flat-screen TV with DVD/CD player. Equipped with ethernet and wifi connections and USB ports for mobile devices. Some cabins have French balconies. Single cabins in Category 1 and Category 3 include #301, 322, 323, and 512.
  • Expedition Equipment: Zodiac landing craft, a fleet of 24 double kayaks, stand-up paddle-boards, glass-bottom Zodiac, splashcam, crow’s nest camera, hydrophone, underwater video camera, video microscope, and a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). Plus, there is snorkeling gear for all guests, and scuba gear for 24 guests.
  • Special Features: Laundry, a full-time doctor, National Geographic photographer, Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, two divemasters, undersea specialist and video chronicler.
  • Wellness: A wellness specialist, fitness center, LEXspa treatment room and sauna are on board.

Note: Scuba divers must be certified by an internationally recognized dive association prior to the voyage, and certification cards and logbooks must be shown on board. Divers must have logged 25 dives in total and made a dive within the 12 months preceding the voyage. If you have not made an open water dive within the past year, please contact us about a dive refresher course in Tahiti prior to your voyage.


Prices are per person, double occupancy, unless indicated as solo.

CategoryDescriptionRoom #sPrice
1 Main Deck with oval window 316, 318-321 $7,690
2 Main Deck with oval window 302-312, 314, 315, 317 $9,380
3 Upper Deck—Suite with window 401-412, 414-419 $10,990
4 Bridge Deck—Deluxe suite with window 511, 515 $11,990
5 Bridge Deck—Suite with balcony 501, 503-506, 508 $14,520
6 Bridge Deck—Owner’s suite with balcony
*Cabin 509 has two windows in lieu of balcony
502, 507, 509*, 510 $16,840
1 Sole Occupancy Main Deck with oval window or two portholes 301, 322, 323 $11,540
3 Sole Occupancy Bridge Deck—Suite with two windows 512 $16,490

Note: Sole occupancy cabins available in Categories 1 and 3. Shared accommodations available in Categories 1 and 2. Note: Third person rates available at one-half the double occupancy rate in designated triple occupancy cabins.

Inclusive Pricing

Aboard Ship

  • All meals & beverages (alcoholic & nonalcoholic)
  • Cappuccinos, lattes & complimentary refillable water bottle
  • 24-hour coffee, tea & soda
  • Hors d’oeuvres & snacks during lounge recap
  • Sauna & fitness center
  • Fully stocked library
  • The guidance and company of the expedition staff
  • Gratuities to ship’s crew


  • Meals on land, as indicated in itinerary
  • Special access permits, park fees, port taxes
  • Transfers to & from group flights
  • The expertise of the expedition staff


  • All shore activities
  • Zodiac, kayak & stand-up paddleboard explorations
  • Snorkeling, including wetsuits, masks, fins
  • Lectures & presentations in the lounge
  • Photo instruction
  • Onboard musical performances

Special Offers

  • Free Air: Book by March 31, 2018 and receive complimentary economy round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete. (Tickets must be issued by Lindblad Expeditions, new bookings only, subject to availability, and cannot be combined with other offers.)
  • Bar Tab and Crew Tips: There will be no bar bill on this voyage and tips to crew will be included.
  • Bring the Kids: We believe sharing an expedition with your kids or grandkids is a life-enhancing experience. Take $500 off for each child under the age of 18.

Terms and Conditions

  • Costs Include: Accommodations aboard ship; all meals and alcoholic (except certain super-premium brands) and nonalcoholic beverages aboard ship; shore excursions, sightseeing, and entrance fees; special access permits; transfers to and from group flights; use of kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, snorkeling and scuba equipment, and wetsuits; taxes, service charges, and tips; services of a ship physician and expedition staff.
  • Not Included: Air transportation (except where shown as included); charter airfare Rangiroa/Papeete; passport, visa, and immigration fees; individual transfers; meals not indicated; super-premium brands of alcohol; extensions; scuba diving fees; travel protection plan; items of a personal nature, such as email, voyage DVD, laundry, etc.
  • Sample Airfares: Airfare is an additional cost (except where shown as included). Round-trip Los Angeles/Papeete: Economy from $1,500; Business from $4,300; Internal airfare from $250 (Rangiroa-Papeete). Airfares are subject to change. Lindblad Expeditions will assist in making your air arrangements for a $50 per person service fee.
  • Reservations: To reserve your place, an advance payment of US$1,000 per person is required at the time of reservation and is payable by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, or check.
  • Final Payment: Final payment is due 120 days prior to departure.
  • Travel Protection Plan: Travel protection and medical insurance are available at extra cost. Information will be sent upon registration.
  • Entry and Visa Requirements: Guests are advised to verify travel documents (passport/transit visa/entry visa) for the country through which they are transiting and/or entering. Reliable and most current information regarding international travel can be found by contacting the consulate/embassy of the country(s) you are visiting or transiting through. We will not be responsible if you are denied entry or transit into a country, if you are unable to provide valid documents as per the country’s requirement.
  • Smoking Policy: Allowed only in designated outdoor areas.
  • Responsibility and Other Terms & Conditions: Certain other provisions concerning, among other things, limitations of Lindblad Maritime Enterprises’ liability for loss of property, injury, illness, or death during the voyage will be provided to all guests on the ship’s ticket sent prior to departure or upon request. By registering for a trip, the guest agrees to all such terms and conditions. Itinerary and prices listed in this brochure are as of publication date, and are subject to change. Lindblad Maritime Enterprises reserves the right to impose surcharges based on increases in the actual cost of fuel.

Cancellation Policy

Number of Days Prior to Expedition StartPer Person Cancellation Fee
180 or more days $750
179-120 days Advance payment cost
119-90 days 25% of trip cost
89-60 days 50% of trip cost
59 -0 days No refund

We strongly recommend that you purchase a travel protection plan.