2012 Papua New Guinea Total Solar Eclipse Cruise Overview

Thursday – Saturday November 1 – 3 Great Barrier Reef Add-on
Day 1SaturdayNovember 3Arrive & Overnight in Cairns, Australia
Day 2SundayNovember 4Charter Flight and Overnight on ORION
Day 3MondayNovember 5Rabaul Highlights Tour & Sunset Cruise, Departure17:00
Day 4TuesdayNovember 6At Sea
Day 5WednesdayNovember 7Watam Village, Sepik River, Papua New Guinea Wet Landing
Day 6ThursdayNovember 8Madang, Papua New Guinea Dry Landing
Day 7FridayNovember 9Tami Island, Papua New Guinea Wet Landing
Day 8SaturdayNovember 10Tufi, Papua New Guinea Wet Landing
Day 9SundayNovember 11Fergusson Island, D'Entrecasteaux Group Wet Landing
Day 10MondayNovember 12Alotau, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea Wet Landing
Day 11TuesdayNovember 13At Sea
Day 12WednesdayNovember 14Total Eclipse viewed at sea off Cairns, Australia, Overnight on ORION in Cairns
Day 13ThursdayNovember 15Disembark in Cairns09:00

* WET LANDINGS: On this eclipse voyage, extensive use of ORION’s fleet of Zodiacs (motorized rubber boats) will be made to transport guests between ship and shore. Prior to going ashore, a Zodiac safety briefing will be held on board. In many instances you will land on a beach. In these circumstances it will be necessary to step into shallow water and wade ashore. This is known as a wet landing, and suitable footwear such as reef shoes or sturdy sandals is recommended.


Day 1 - Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cairns, Australia

Our Papua New Guinea expedition will begin and end in Cairns, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. All travelers will arrive on their own in Cairns on November 3, where they will be met and transferred to our hotel. The following morning, we will board our private charter aircraft for Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

Disembarkation commences after breakfast on November 15, from Trinity Wharf, close to Cairns’ city center. Travelers will be transferred to the airport for their onward flights, or travelers may join TravelQuest’s optional Great Barrier Reef/Ayers Rock and Kangaroo Island add-on packages – details to be provided.

The Cairns region is internationally recognized for its world-class attractions, superb natural features, and friendly north Queensland hospitality. It is the focal point for the magnificent Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (a World Heritage site) and is surrounded by rainforests. To the west lie the lush Atherton Tablelands; beyond are the outback plains and gorges of the Gulf Savannah. The scenic beauty of the Bellenden Ker range stretches south of Cairns to Mission Beach, while to the north, a series of long white beaches link Port Douglas to the Daintree Rainforest region and Cape Tribulation.

The city of Cairns is a delightful blend of colonial architecture, ranging from grand public and commercial buildings to wooden houses built in the distinctive north Queensland style. Browse Indigenous art galleries, shop at the night markets, or dine out on multicultural cuisine in the many bars and restaurants along the esplanade.

Day 2 - Sunday, November 4, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Set at the eastern end of the island of New Britain, the tropical port town of Rabaul has always been famous for its spectacular setting. Nestled on Simpson Harbour, the township is surrounded by six volcanoes, one of which (Mt. Tavurvur) is still active. During more than 100 years of settlement, Rabaul has been rocked by massive volcanic eruptions and war. It’s a testament to the resilience of the townsfolk that they have rebuilt after each event.

The most recent major volcanic eruption was in September 1994, when Tavurvur and Vulcan covered much of Rabaul and the surrounding villages with ash. This destruction resulted in the nearby coastal town of Kokopo becoming the administrative and tourism center for Rabaul.

The area played a significant role in WWII, and the Japanese occupation in 1942 saw the building of hundreds of kilometers of tunnels underneath the town and portions of the Gazelle Peninsula for protection against constant Allied bombing raids. It is hard to miss the rusting relics left by the retreating forces. In one tunnel are five huge barges that were pulled along rails to the shore and back by prisoners of war. Dozens of sunken aircraft and ships dot the harbor, and to the north are sea caves used as drop-off points by Japanese submarines.

Day 3 - Monday, November 5, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

As we depart, ORION will cruise right past the active volcano, Mt Tavurvur.


Day 4 - Tuesday, November 6, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

At Sea

At Sea
Day 5 - Wednesday, November 7, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Watam Village, Sepik River, Papua New Guinea Wet Landing

The meandering Sepik River is the longest river in Papua New Guinea and for years it has been a major trade artery linking the coast and the interior. Originating in the west at the PGN/Indonesia border, the Sepik twists its way toward the coast, where the river mouth is more than a mile wide. ORION will drop anchor close to the mouth of the Sepik River and the nearby village of Watam, which is home to a population of 300.

In Watam, we will enjoy a cultural display and meet some of the villagers to gain an appreciation of village life. Local artists will have carvings and woven baskets available for purchase. The dense vegetation and swampland seen along the river’s edge is home to many species of birds — watch for egrets, herons, kites, jacanas, darters, cormorants, and kingfishers. Salt and freshwater crocodiles are also common.


ORION guests will be able to explore the river mouth of the mighty Sepik near the village of Kopar. Our exclusive access to Watam village will give us an insight into life in a remote Sepik village that very few outsiders have witnessed, even today. There are no roads or phones here, there is no electricity, and there are few luxuries to be found.

The villagers will welcome us with a special “dragon” dance and continue with a performance of the dances of their ancestors. We will learn how to make Sago, the staple food of the Sepik coastline, and the local teacher will open the school to us. Unique carvings and woven baskets will be available to buy.

Day 6 - Thursday, November 8, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Madang, Papua New Guinea – Dry Landing

Early this morning, ORION will enter the spectacular Madang Lagoon, something worth climbing out of bed for. Madang itself is a pretty town set on a peninsula containing lush gardens and magnificent vistas of tropical seascapes, islands, and inlets.

The market is a must-see — with masses of colorful produce, shell jewellery, woven bags (known as bilums), carvings, and Bilbil clay pots, which are a local specialty. The old German cemetery is close to the marketplace, and the weathered stones stand as reminders of the site’s colonial past.

Divers come from around the world to dive sites located just offshore, which encompass wartime wrecks, pelagic marine life, reef-filled shallow lagoons, and drift diving off deep drops. In the center of the harbor is the wreck of a US minesweeper (the Boston), still intact after more than 50 years.


ORION guests will be free to explore Madang and the markets today; a complimentary shuttle bus will be available.

Day 7 - Friday, November 9, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Tami Island – Wet Landing

Tami Island is a seldom-visited isle in Morobe Province not far from the town of Finschhafen. The Tami Islands are a small group of uplifted coral atolls, with two main villages on the two larger islands that contain many smaller reefs and cays. In the center is a beautiful, crystal-clear blue lagoon containing abundant marine life and stunning coral formations.

The locals will greet ORION with an authentic cultural performance. Time will be made available to purchase Tami artifacts and explore the islands and their beautiful gardens.


Our visit to Tami Island includes access to the island for swimming, snorkelling, and sea kayaking. A guided walk through the food gardens will be offered, and we will also have a beach BBQ.

Day 8 - Saturday, November 10, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Tufi, Papua New Guinea – Wet Landing

The magnificent scenery around Cape Nelson on the north coast of PNG is a well-kept secret. More than 30 fjords are carved into the shoreline. Each fjord is surrounded by dense rainforest atop sheer basalt walls, many with waterfalls plunging into the sea. Sandy beaches meet coral reefs, and the crystal-clear water is crammed with diverse marine life — a perfect combination for swimming, snorkelling, and diving.

Local villages are set in isolated areas along the coast and on the imposing slopes of Mount Trafalgar. The cultural heritage of the area is based on subsistence farming and fishing. Oro pottery and Tapa cloth are renowned throughout Papua New Guinea.

The world’s largest butterfly, the Queen Alexandra Birdwing, inhabits the rainforest, and specimens with a 30-centimeter wingspan have been found. The world’s largest grasshopper, longest stick insect, and longest beetle can also be found in the Tufi area.


ORION will cruise amidst the spectacular fjords to her anchorage location. There is access to a white sandy beach via our Zodiacs for swimming, snorkelling, and sea kayaking.


Day 9 - Sunday, November 11, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Fergusson Island, D'Entrecasteaux Group – Wet Landing

The D’Entrecasteaux group consists of three large islands (Fergusson, Goodenough, and Normanby). They are well known as some of the most steeply sided islands in the world, as well as being one of the last haunts of cannibals. All the islands are rich in flora, fauna, and natural history, and all have beautiful beaches. The surrounding ocean is rich in marine life, and is home to whales, dolphins, and dugong.

The islands were named after the French explorer Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni D’Entrecasteaux, who visited them in 1793 after his exploration of the Tasmanian coastline. The topography is mountainous, with rainforests so dense that there has never been a biological survey of Fergusson Island.

Fergusson Island is renowned for its hot springs, mud pools, geysers, and extinct volcanoes. Not far from the main township of Sanaroa, the islanders still follow ancestral traditions and cook meals in a beachside lake of boiling water. Subsistence income on Fergusson Island is centered on the trade in coconuts and pearl shells.


We will be transferred by Zodiac to take a guided walk to explore the hot springs of Dei-Dei on Fergusson Island. This amazing prehistoric landscape contains several geysers, numerous hot pools, steam vents, and salt deposits. You may even discover some of the locals cooking their food in the pools.

Day 10 - Monday, November 12, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Alotau, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea – Wet Landing

Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province, is located at the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. The rugged Owen Stanley Ranges to the west isolate Alotau, and there is no road access to the rest of the country.

Many of the population of around 10,000 rely on the sea for their livelihood, and as a result, the busy harbor is the focal point of the town. Cargo movements drive harbor activity, and there’s an array of colorful vessels to be seen, ranging from tiny canoes to well-equipped dive and charter boats.

Australian military history is closely linked to this area. The recently completed Battle of Milne Bay War Memorial is close to the shore and has a detailed description of the battle. In August 1942, the battle for Gurney Airstrip saw the Australians win the first significant land-based victory over Japanese forces in the Pacific. Remnants of the battle are still being discovered, with aircraft, vehicles, and tanks found on land and the seabed.

Included Expeditions: Access to Alotau Township and the colorful markets is only a short walk from the wharf, past a significant war memorial and the busy harbor. For ORION guests who do not wish to walk, a complimentary shuttle bus is available. As another option, Alotau is one of the few places in Papua New Guinea to have a taxi service.

Day 11 - Tuesday, November 13, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

At Sea

At Sea
Day 12 - Wednesday, November 14, 2012Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Viewing the Total Eclipse


Local contact times for viewing at sea – Altitude of sun during totality – 13.7

Eclipse Begins 5:44:34 AM
Totality Begins 6:38:12 AM
Totality Ends 6:40:17 AM
Eclipse Ends 7:39:54 AM
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes and 05 seconds

by Eclipse Meteorologist Jay Anderson

Cloud prospects at Port Douglas are encouraging for the 2012 eclipse, with historical observations showing a 66 percent frequency of sunshine in past Novembers at the time of the eclipse. Where winds blow against a rising topography, cloud is more likely to form, a relationship that is verified by the daily satellite observations of the Queensland coast. By observing on the water where the mountains have no influence, we can improve our odds of seeing the eclipse by about 5 percent. Should it be necessary, a few more percent can be gleaned from the mobility afforded by the ship, which allows the eclipse team to position itself in a convenient gap in the clouds as totality approaches.

Day 13 - Thursday, November 15, 2012Breakfast

Cairns, Australia

Depart from Cairns, Australia.
Add-On Day 1 - Thursday, November 1, 2012

Arrive in Cairns, Australia

Upon arrival at the Cairns Airport (CNS), you will be met and transferred to the Pullman Reef Hotel & Casino. The remainder of your day is at your leisure, allowing you time to explore the area at your own pace.

Overnight – Pullman Reef Hotel Casino (2 nights)

Add-On Day 2 - Friday, November 2, 2012Breakfast / Lunch

The Great Barrier Reef

After breakfast, we will meet in the lobby for a short walk to the Great Adventures Passenger Terminal. There, we will board our Quicksilver high-speed catamaran boat for a 45-minute cruise to a spacious platform located on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. From our platform you will have an amazing Great Barrier Reef experience, allowing you to snorkel, scuba, or view the reef up close without even getting wet! This platform includes changing rooms with freshwater showers, free snorkeling gear, a sundeck, undercover seating and tables, scuba diving facilities (additional fee), a free submersible ride to see resident fish and abundant forests of coral, and even a walk-up semi-submerged platform. The use of a sun protective suit for swimming has been included for everyone in our group. During our 3-hours on the Reef, we will also enjoy an excellent buffet luncheon.

Optional Great Barrier Reef Activity: Consider adding to your reef experience an amazing 10-minute scenic helicopter flight over the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef (current cost $150 USD).

Add-On Day 3 - Saturday, November 3, 2012Breakfast / Lunch

Atherton Tablelands

Today we will travel on a full day excursion to the Atherton Tablelands, a fertile plateau, which is part of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. Our journey will include a visit to the Mamu Canopy Walkway, Lake Barrine and Skybury Coffee Company.

The Mamu Canopy Walkway provides a unique opportunity to be immersed in the rainforest. Located on the escarpment of the mighty North Johnstone River gorge, we will be perched high amongst the canopy, looking down to the rushing river below.

We will then continue on to Lake Barrine, a 17,000 year old volcanic crater, where we will enjoy lunch followed by a relaxing cruise on the lake. This 40-minute boat ride provides a close-up view of one of the most complex and amazing rainforest eco-systems in the world.

Our last stop for the day is Skybury Coffee for an informational coffee tour and enjoy a reviving cup of coffee!

This evening we’ll join our fellow Papua New Guinea eclipse cruise travelers at the hotel as we prepare for our flight tomorrow morning to Rabaul.

Trip Cost

$1,350 USD per person, based on two people sharing one room. Add $300 USD for single occupancy.

Trip Includes:

  • 2 nights accommodation
  • Meals as noted in itinerary
  • Services of a local guide
  • Admission fees
  • Airport/hotel transfers

Not Included:

  • Air travel to Sydney (SYD) and Cairns (CNS)
  • Unspecified meals
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tips to driver and guides
  • Items of a personal nature – laundry, phone calls, travel insurance, etc.

Payment & Terms

A $500 USD per person advance payment confirms your space. The balance is due July 3, 2012.

Cancellations must be made in writing by email, fax or mail. All advance payments, less a $250 USD per person cancellation fee, are refundable until February 3, 2012. From February 4 – May 9, 2012, there will be a $500 USD per person cancellation fee. There are no refunds after May 9, 2012. We highly recommend that all travelers obtain Trip Cancellation/Medical Insurance.

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