Paul Gauguin Cruises shore excursions offer the most exciting tours and dramatic scenery in the South Pacific. The opportunity to experience each destination in the most authentic, meaningful way is the very essence of luxury cruising with The Gauguin. Enjoy white-sand beaches with swaying palms, hike spectacular mountain peaks or snorkel in multi-hued lagoons.
The island of Tahiti, crowned by a circle of majestic peaks, towers over the ocean with a mountainous green interior of deep valleys, clear streams, and high waterfalls. The flat coastal lands are home to fields of tropical flowers and most of the island's population. Papeete, the invigorating capital city and territorial gateway, boasts world-class resorts, spas, fine restaurants, nightclubs, and endless shopping at vibrant markets, shops, and boutiques. Tahiti is the world's definition of paradise.
The Society Islands, considered "Paradise on Earth" by savvy travelers, were explored by Captains Cook and Bligh, but they were made truly famous by the paintings of the artist, Paul Gauguin, and by the words of author, James A. Michener.
Divided into the Windward Islands, and the Leeward Islands, they were given their stylish name by Captain James Cook in 1769, when he named them after England's Royal Society- and Royal islands they certainly are. Most of these rugged islands are volcanic in origin, with a few small coral atolls mixed in. Of these, the most recognizable names are the legendary islands of Bora Bora, Huahine, Moorea and Tahiti.
A network of 15 islands in the heart of the South Pacific spread over an area the size of India with a population no bigger than a small New Zealand country town. These unique and friendly Polynesians have their own language and government and enjoy a vigorous and diverse culture with significant differences between each island. Despite some 70,000 visitors a year to the capital island – Rarotonga – the Cooks are largely unspoiled by tourism. They offer a rare opportunity for people from the cities of the world to experience a different type of vacation. There are no high-rise hotels, only four beach buggies and very little hype. Ideal for travelers seeking more than the usual clichés associated with the South Seas, each island has its unique qualities and offers the visitor a special experience.
The 78 Tuamotu Atolls are green rings of coral reef surrounding a turquoise lagoon, scattered over several hundred miles of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Some main atolls are Rangiroa, Manihi, and Mataiva. Colors seem brighter here and the water is incredibly clear. The beautiful interior lagoons have narrow openings to the ocean where rushing tides provide nutrients for exuberant coral and fish life. Diving or snorkeling in these passes, with exceptionally clear waters, is an amazing experience. Local life on these atolls is simple and peaceful. In small villages the visitor can discover the true culture of the Tuamotu, often participating in the daily activities of the Paumotu people. Lagoons are a haven for black pearl farms, fish parks, snorkeling and scuba diving. Motorized outrigger canoes or motor boats are used by locals to reach distant motu islets across the lagoon, where the day is spent collecting copra and searching for colorful seashells.
About a three hour flight from the Society Islands and the Tuamotu Atolls, the Marquesas are seemingly lost at the end of the earth. Even now, some of the islands are virtually untouched since the era of European exploration. Their isolation has created an immense pride among the people and a fascinating culture. The language is unique to Tahiti, as the lilting Marquesan dialect is traced directly to the ancient Polynesian tongue of Maohi.
Natural wonders abound as 1000-foot waterfalls cascade down sheer volcanic cliffs, and towering mountains disappear into the clouds.
Tongatapu is the largest island in the Kingdom of Tonga and home to the nation's capital Nuku'alofa. Nuku'alofa's white Victorian Royal Palace symbolizes the Kingdom of Tonga. Outside of the capital are the blowholes at Houma. The island of Eua is visible from the south-east coast. There are many beaches: Kolovai Beach and Ha'atafu Beach are on the peninsula in the island's north-west. The Ha'apai Group of islands in the Kingdom of Tonga are situated between the main island of Tongatapu and the Vav'au group further north. For the independent traveler who seeks to go back in time, enjoys walking, warmth and sunshine, likes riding a horse, going fishing, getting to know local people and is searching for peace, quietness and tranquility, then a visit to Ha'apai Islands will be a rewarding experience.
New Zealand is the youngest country on earth - the last major landmass to be discovered. It has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting both the Maori and European heritage. Amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures), some dating back almost a thousand years, are a contrast to many beautiful colonial buildings. Its awesome landscapes, lush forests, amazing wildlife and pleasant climate make it a haven for outdoor activities, and a great place to unwind. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country it has become.