Campbell Island, here viewed over a sleeping Southern Royal Albatross, is a stunningly beautiful stop. Photo: Steve Howell
“Unique” is an overused word these days, but it can be rightly applied to these remarkable islands that lie between the Subtropical and Antarctic Ocean Convergences south of New Zealand. Each island group has its own character and its own avifauna—an incredible and under-appreciated diversity of life within a small area, akin to the more famous Galapagos Islands but dominated by seabirds.
Breeding species include three endemic crested penguins, nine endemic albatross taxa, six endemic shags, and even parakeets and pipits. The subtropical Chathams have Shore Plovers, Northern Buller’s Albatrosses, and two endemic shags; the stark Bounty Islands hold almost all the world’s Salvin’s Albatrosses; the Antipodes have their endemic parakeet and Antipodean [Wandering] Albatross, plus Erect-crested Penguins; Campbell is home to the Southern Royal Albatross; Macquarie has millions of Royal Penguins, thousands of Southern Elephant Seals and King Penguins; Enderby Island in the Auckland group is a pristine jewel of restored island biodiversity; an the Snares have millions of Sooty Shearwaters plus Snares Crested Penguins.
The relatively short at-sea transits between islands are never dull, with up to ten albatross species accompanying the boat as well as good numbers of many other tubenoses.
Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Christchurch, with a get-together dinner at our hotel, where we can meet staff and fellow passengers. Night in Christchurch.
Day 2: Today we’ll take a short charter flight out to the Chatham Islands and settle into the Spirit of Enderby, our home for the next two weeks.
Day 3: Today we’ll go ashore at Waitangi, the main settlement on the Chatham Islands, and near the landing we may see the endemic Chatham Island (CI) Shag and CI Oystercatcher. Local buses and Land Rovers will transport us down the South Coast to the Tuku Reserve. Here, on private land and guided by the local people, we’ll enjoy a walk in some remnant native bush and hope to see the endemic CI Warbler and CI Pigeon. We’ll return to Spirit of Enderby in early afternoon and cruise the island’s southern coastline in search of Magenta and Chatham Petrels, two of the rarest seabirds on Earth.
Day 4: Early this morning past we’ll cruise past Mangere and Little Mangere Island, from which the endemic Black Robin was rescued in the 1970s, when the total population was only six birds. At South East Island (Rangatira), one of the world’s greatest nature reserves, we’ll cruise by zodiac (landings are not permitted) to see the superb little Shore Plover (now extirpated from the main New Zealand islands) and the rare Chatham Island Oystercatcher. We should also see Pitt Island Shag, Tui, Tomtit, Red-crowned Parakeet, and marauding Brown Skuas. In the afternoon we’ll cruise around Pyramid Rock, a spectacular basalt outcrop south of Pitt Island. This is the only breeding place of the handsome Chatham Island Albatross.
Day 5: As we head south toward the Bounty Islands, pelagic birding should be good (up to 31 species of tubenoses have been seen in a single day on this stretch of ocean!). Species should include various albatross species (at least 12 species are possible today), Soft-plumaged and Gray-faced Petrels, Subantarctic Little Shearwater, Broad-billed, Fairy, and Fulmar Prions, and Gray-backed and White-faced Storm-Petrels.
Day 6: Arrive at the Bounty Islands, inhospitable granite knobs lashed by the Southern Ocean and the northernmost of the NZ Subantarctic islands (or “Subs”). Sea and weather permitting, we plan early morning zodiac cruises around these wildlife-packed stacks covered with Erect-crested Penguins, Salvin’s Albatrosses, and New Zealand Fur Seals, as well as Fulmar Prions and the endemic Bounty Island Shag. We then depart towards the Antipodes, so-named as they lie on the opposite side of the Earth from London, England.
Day 7: Antipodes Island is one of the most isolated, least known, and rugged of the Subs. Landings are not permitted, but we plan to cruise the coastline by zodiac, where we have a good chance of seeing the endemic Antipodes and Reischek’s [Red-crowned] Parakeets and the Antipodes subspecies of New Zealand Pipit (perhaps a species in its own right), as well as both Erect-crested and Rockhopper Penguins breeding along the coastline.
Day 8: At sea en route to Campbell Island, and another great day for pelagic birding. Species commonly seen in this area include up to 10 albatrosses, Soft-plumaged, Mottled, and White-headed Petrels, and Gray-backed and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels. This region of the Southern Ocean is one of the few places where Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion, and Antarctic Prion occur together, providing a good opportunity for comparison.
Day 9: Arriving early in the morning, we’ll spend the day exploring the island by foot from Perseverance Harbor. Campbell Island is a magnificent island; rats have recently been removed successfully, which has meant encouraging increases in small bird numbers, most notably the New Zealand Pipit. There are great birding and photographic opportunities on this island, especially for nesting Southern Royal Albatross and the flowering megaherbs.
During the day ashore we should also see Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Northern Giant-Petrel, Campbell Island Shag, Brown Skua, Red-billed and Kelp Gulls, Antarctic Tern, and even Redpolls and Dunnocks, far from their original homes in Western Europe. The regeneration of megaherbs since the removal of sheep in the 1970s is a spectacle to behold, and was described by the great English botanist, Sir Joseph Hooker in 1841 as a “flora display second to none outside the tropics.”
With the island declared predator free, the way was clear to reintroduce the endangered and flightless Campbell Island Teal which had been rediscovered in 1975 on an offshore islet. We have a good chance of seeing the teal, and even a chance of seeing the endemic subspecies of Subantarctic Snipe, which was discovered only in 1996, on another offshore islet and has begun to recolonize the main island. This evening we’ll depart for Macquarie Island, and Australian territory.
Day 10: At sea we’ll have a series of lectures illustrated by videos of the biology and history of the Subs and southern oceans. The Subantarctic Convergence Zone is usually close to the area through which we sail, and the birdlife should reflect this as we get closer to Macquarie Island. We’ll be at sea all day, another opportunity to watch numerous tubenoses, including Wandering (three taxa), Southern Royal, White-capped, Black-browed, and Gray-headed Albatrosses, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, White-chinned, Mottled, White-headed, and Pintado Petrels, Common Diving-Petrels, and Gray-backed and Black-bellied Storm-Petrels.
Days 11-12: Macquarie Island. The great Australian Antarctic Explorer Sir Douglas Mawson called Macquarie “one of the wonder spots of the world.” You will discover why, as we spend two days exploring this amazing Island. It was one of the first of the Subs to obtain World Heritage Status, due largely to its unique geology: it is one of the few places on Earth where mid-ocean crustal rocks are exposed at the surface due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific Plates.
Macquarie is also the only breeding ground for Royal Penguin, of which we should see thousands, as well as countless King Penguins and smaller numbers of Gentoo and Rockhopper Penguins. Along the coast we’ll also see Macquarie Island Shags, both giant-petrels (including some white-morph Southerns), and Antarctic Terns. Self-introduced Common Redpolls can be seen, and even European Starlings along the cliff edges!
We plan landings at both the ANARE base (where you can meet Australian scientists and base staff and get an idea of life at this remote outpost) and at Sandy Bay, and weather permitting we’ll also cruise Lusitania Bay by zodiac, where there is a huge King Penguin colony. We’ll head off back northwards for the Auckland Islands on the evening of our second day.
Day 13: At sea en route to the Auckland Island, with a similar range of species to those we saw en route to Macquarie Island from Campbell Island. Along with a few lectures, this will be a good day for seabirding or simply relaxing.
Day 14: This morning we’ll cruise into Carnley Harbour in the south of the main Auckland Islands. Our activities here are totally weather dependent, but we have a number of options. If the weather is OK there will be an opportunity for the more energetic participants to climb Southwest Cape and see the White-capped Albatross colony. For those not able to make the climb (it is quite difficult) there will be an opportunity to zodiac cruise the coast of Adams Island and Western Harbour, with a chance to see New Zealand Falcon, as well as perhaps other areas - the weather will be our dictator! We’ll anchor here this evening and during the night make our way to Enderby Island.
Day 15: Arrive at Enderby Island, one of the most beautiful islands in this group, named for the same distinguished shipping family as our own vessel. This northernmost island in the Auckalnd archipelago is an outstanding for wildlife, and is relatively easy to land on and walk around. The island was cleared of all introduced animals (pests) in 1994 and both birds and vegetation, especially the herbaceous plants, are recovering in numbers and diversity.
We plan to land at Sandy Bay, the main breeding ground for the very local Hooker’s Sealion. Most of the day is scheduled for time on land, where nesting birds include Southern Royal Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Northern Giant-Petrel, Yellow-eyed Penguin, Auckland Island Shag, Auckland Teal, Bellbird, New Zealand Pipit, Red-crowned Parakeet, and endemic races of Double-banded Plover and Tomtit. We’ll also search for Subantarctic Snipe, which we have a good chance of seeing, and on Derrycastle Reef we may find Bar-tailed Godwits, Ruddy Turnstones, and perhaps other migratory shorebirds.
Day 16: The closest Subantarctic Islands to New Zealand, the Snares are the last of the Subs we’ll visit, and we plan to arrive here in the afternoon. This is an amazing island group, some would say with more nesting seabirds than the entire British Isles. Landings are not permitted, so we’ll cruise by zodiac along the sheltered eastern shore, where we should see the endemic Snares Crested Penguin, Tomtit, and Fernbird. Pintado Petrels, Antarctic Terns, and Red-billed Gulls also inhabit the coastline, and we may see some early returning Southern Buller’s Albatrosses. Estimates of nesting Sooty Shearwaters on the Snares number in the millions, and flocks often swarm offshore in dense, insect-like clouds.
Day 17: After an overnight transit we’ll arrive early this morning in the Port of Bluff, just south of Invercargill. After a final breakfast, and completing customs and immigration formalities, we bid farewell to our fellow voyagers and take a complimentary coach transfer to either a central city point or to the airport. In case of unexpected delays due to weather and/or port operations we ask you not to book any onward travel from Invercargill until after midday today.
Updated: 18 May 2013
- Berth Prices Start at : $10,500
* Please see the Tour Information page for cabin descriptions and pricing, deposit requirements, and the cancellation and refund policies applicable to this cruise.