At their best, World Heritage marine sites are like time capsules that provide a glimpse into the oceans of our parents and grandparents. Thanks to the expert care of managers and support from the global community, we can still experience the prehistoric Komodo Dragon, the dugongs of Dungonab Bay, or the pristine volcanic island of Surtsey. Our partners at The Polynesian Voyaging Society appreciate the importance of understanding our history. They work to inspire care for the natural world through exploration. As partners of the World Heritage Marine Programme, they are currently in the last stretch of a Worldwide Voyage that included stops at several World Heritage marine sites.

The Voyage is taking the iconic sailing vessel, Hōkūleʻa, around Island Earth, and her sister canoe, Hikianalia, around the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific. Hōkūleʻa is a replica of an ancient Polynesian deep sea voyaging canoe that was built 40 years ago. Her Worldwide Voyage has taken her more than 31,000 nautical miles, including stops at 16 countries. Along the way, Hōkūleʻa has visited eight World Heritage marine sites, exchanging ideas and learning with local experts and residents at each.

According to Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society : “The Hawaiian name for this voyage, Mālama Honua, means ‘to care for our Earth.’ Living on an island chain teaches us that our natural world is a gift with limits and that we must carefully steward this gift if we are to survive together. As we work to protect cultural and environmental resources for our children’s future, our Pacific voyaging traditions teach us to venture beyond the horizon to connect and learn with others.”

Global cooperation and an appreciation for both the abundance and limits of the natural world are integral to marine World Heritage, and we are pleased to shine a light on this extraordinary voyage.  

Polynesian Voyaging SocietyCredit: Polynesian Voyaging Society

Papahānaumokuākea (United States of America)

In the summer of 2013, Hikianalia sailed to Nīhoa Island to train a new generation of apprentice navigators. The crew snorkelled in the pristine waters of Nīhoa and learned from local marine scientists about the history and current initiatives to protect Papahānaumokuākea.

Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

In the summer of 2015, Hōkūleʻa sailed along the coast of Australia and explored the Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area. Crew members dove in Townsville and Cairns and connected with the Reef Guardian Schools Program dedicated to creating future stewards of the Great Barrier Reef.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park (South Africa)

In the fall of 2015, Hōkūleʻa and her crew were welcomed to Africa by the Zulu tribe in iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Crew members explored the wetland reserve and learned from local experts about the rich cultural and environmental history of the region.

Brazilian Atlantic Islands: Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas Reserves (Brazil)

In the winter of 2016, Hōkūleʻa touched South America for the first time, visiting Fernando de Noronha, where crew members connected with environmental and cultural guides to learn about current efforts to preserve these spectacular islands, and the surrounding waters.

Everglades National Park (United States of America)

In the spring of 2016, Hōkūleʻa made her first touch ever to the east coast of North America and crew members were welcomed to the Everglades National Park. Tribal leaders joined with park officials to share the history of the Everglades and celebrate the arrival of the Worldwide Voyage to North America.

Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia)

In the winter of 2017, Hōkūleʻa re-entered the Pacific Ocean for the first time in over 2 years. On her way from Panama to the Galápagos, Hōkūleʻa crew members navigated to Malpelo as a waypoint and learned about the history of Malpelo as the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Galápagos Islands (Ecuador)

Hōkūleʻa sailed to the Galápagos Islands to learn about the long-standing work to protect the biodiversity of the archipelago’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Crew members and a delegation of students and teachers from Hawai’i met with local and global experts to discuss how island communities, such as Hawaii and the Galápagos, can be models for sustainability.

Rapa Nui National Park (Chile)

Hōkūleʻa recently re-entered the Polynesian Triangle on the way to Rapa Nui -- the single most isolated land mass on the planet. Eighteen years after her first voyage to Rapa Nui in 1999, a new generation of crewmembers, students and teachers learned about the fascinating cultural and environmental history of the island, as well as recent social and economic developments. The Hawai’i delegation exchanged ideas and solutions with the Rapa Nui community about the unique challenges and opportunities of island life.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society was founded in 1973 on a legacy of Pacific Ocean exploration, seeking to perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through experiential educational programs that inspire students and their communities to respect and care for themselves, one other, and their natural and cultural environments. Nainoa Thompson, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a master in the traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigating, was a keynote speaker at the first marine World Heritage site managers conference in Hawai'i, USA, December 2010.

Follow the iconic canoe journey here.

Polynesian Voyaging Society