The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand & Australia

The Ultimate Penguins & Seabirds Photography Adventure

A very special Southern Royal Albatross on a 'nest with a view' on the very scenic Campbell Island. (Pete Morris)

A very special Southern Royal Albatross on a 'nest with a view' on the very scenic Campbell Island. (Pete Morris)


Thursday 16th November - Monday 4th December 2017
(19 days)

Leader: Heritage Expeditions leaders
Group Size Limit: 15


Potential photographic highlights

  • Remarkable zodiac cruise around the Snares Islands with great photo opportunities with Snares Crested Penguins amongst others.
  • The unique Auckland Islands with breeding Yellow-eyed Penguins and a number of other approachable species.
  • Vast number of Royal and King Penguins on Macquarie Island, and plenty of other photogenic wildlife.
  • The remote Bounty, Antipodes and Campbell Islands, with their fantastic seabird colonies including breeding Salvin’s and Southern Royal Albatrosses, and Erect Crested Penguins.
  • The rare wildlife of the Chathams, including the attractive Chatham Island Albatross.

The great advantage of taking this particular cruise, if you are especially interested in photographing the subantarctic islands’ fantastic wildlife, is that the itinerary and day to day schedule are strongly wildlife-orientated.

The subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia are amongst the most isolated and least known places in the world. There are seven groups of islands in the region. The Chatham Islands, the Bounty Islands, Antipodes Island, Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands and Snares Island are sovereign territories of New Zealand, while Macquarie Island is a territory of Australia. They all differ markedly in size and form and have contrasting vegetation. They are important refuges for a wide range of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. They are also breeding grounds for the countless seabirds and marine mammals that range over vast areas of the Southern Ocean. All the islands have been designated as nature reserves – the highest form of legal protection that can be given to a natural area by the governments of New Zealand and Australia. The integrity of these remote islands and their natural values is maintained through strict controls on entry. Visitor numbers are restricted and only 600 visitors a year are allowed to land in the New Zealand subantarctic islands and only 500 at Macquarie Island. There are further restrictions on the number allowed ashore at any one time or on any one day. Our subantarctic islands expedition includes landings on the Auckland Islands, Macquarie Island, Campbell Island and the Chatham Islands, and zodiac cruises at Snares Island, Antipodes Island and the Bounty Islands. With a maximum of only 48 passengers plus staff on the expedition we are well within the allowable daily limits and everyone can go ashore at one time. The result is that we can spend entire days, not hours, ashore on some of the most remarkable islands in the world with incredible photographic opportunities. This specially extended itinerary provides the most comprehensive cruise around the subantarctic islands that is available and will allow us to experience the full range of the wonderful birdlife, other aspects of natural history and scenery that these fascinating islands have to offer.

The birdlife of the subantarctic islands is dominated by their spectacular seabirds. Quite a number only breed in this area, and amongst the specialities we will hope to photograph are several species of penguins, albatrosses and other seabirds. We will also have the chance to photograph some unique land birds and flowering vegetation (including the famous megaherbs).

We shall be sailing on the Professor Khromov (capacity 48 passengers), a ship operated by Heritage Expeditions (who call her Spirit of Enderby). Ships of this class are Finnish-built vessels under Russian registry that were built in the 1980s and early 1990s under commission from the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. They were originally intended for oceanographic research, but were subsequently adapted for expedition-style cruising following the financial cutbacks that later affected all formerly Soviet research programmes. These ships are, of course, not ‘cruise ships’ in the traditional manner and will appeal most to those for whom exploring wild places and enjoying wild nature, rather than enjoying luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers, is the prime attraction. Cabins are furnished with two berths and have some storage space and an outside view (many having en-suite bathroom facilities). Public facilities include restaurant, lounge/bar, lecture facilities and library. Food is plentiful, of good quality, waiter-served and prepared by European, New Zealand or Australian chefs. The ship carries a small complement of guest lecturers, including a naturalist, who give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the subantarctic region and also guide shore excursions. As much of the sailing as possible is done at night, thus maximizing opportunities for going ashore and enjoying the beautiful subantarctic landscape to the full. For more detailed information about the vessel, please click here.

Landings are carried out by means of a fleet of Zodiacs, the rugged, fast-moving inflatables developed by Jacques Cousteau for expedition work which allow safe landings on remote coastlines in all types of conditions. The sheer speed and efficiency with which the crew carry out these landings, coupled with the small complement of passengers, allows everyone plenty of time ashore, a key factor when considering any Antarctic cruise.

 

Itinerary

Day 1 Overnight at Invercargill at the southern tip of South Island for an overnight stay.

Day 2 After breakfast we will transfer to our ship which will be berthed at the nearby Port of Bluff. After boarding we will make ready for departure, setting a course for Snares Island to the south of New Zealand proper. This first leg of our journey will provide our first opportunity to photograph pelagic species which are likely to be abundant around our ship, and will include several species of albatross. Indeed, being often surrounded by these giants of the ocean will be a highlight of the trip.

Day 3 Snares Island is the first of the subantarctic islands that we will be visiting. It is an amazing place (half as many seabirds nest on this one small island as there are seabirds nesting in the entire British Isles!). We will arrive off shore in the early morning, and although landings are not permitted, we will zodiac cruise the sheltered eastern side allowing close views of many attractive Snares Crested Penguins. Later we will sail for the Auckland Islands.

Day 4 As dawn breaks we will be at Enderby Island in the Aucklands group, a great island to explore. We will make a landing at Sandy Bay, the main breeding ground for the New Zealand (or Hooker’s) Sealion. As well as an impressive number of sealions we should also have photo opportunities with Yellow-eyed Penguin, Southern Royal and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, the attractive Auckland Island Shag and Subantarctic Skua as well as a number of interesting landbirds such as the flightless Auckland Island Teal, Double-banded Plover, colourful Red-crowned Parakeets and Tomtit and hopefully the delightful little Auckland Island Snipe. Later we sail south towards the main Auckland Islands group.

Day 5 After we arrive at Carnley Harbour, in the south of the main Auckland Islands, there will be an opportunity for the more energetic photographers to climb up to the White-capped Albatross colony at Southwest Cape. The scenery here is dramatic, with the wave-lashed cliffs far below and wonderful views over the southern Aucklands, while, all around one, large numbers of White-capped Albatrosses sit on their nests, display to their mates, preen each other or sail past on those long, long wings. Gibson’s (Wandering) Albatrosses nest amongst the grassy tussocks on the high plateau above the White-capped Albatross colony. We should get marvellous views of these huge birds as they will be nesting at this time.

Day 6 As we continue towards Macquarie Island, surely one of the most inaccessible wildlife Meccas in the world, the excitement will be palpable. We will be at sea all day, providing us with yet another wonderful opportunity to photograph pelagics, including a fantastic selection of albatrosses which will likely include our first Wandering (or Snowy) and Grey-headed Albatrosses.

Day 7 We will arrive at far-flung Macquarie Island, the most southerly of the subantarctic islands, in the late morning or early afternoon. We shall hope to land at both the ANARE base and at Sandy Bay. We will also zodiac cruise in Lusitania Bay. Macquarie is the only place in the world where one can observe and photograph the wonderful Royal Penguin and there is certainly no shortage of these. We will visit a large breeding colony at Sandy Bay, below which thousands of these cute creatures loaf on a sandy beach. Some individuals are so inquisitive that if you sit down they will wander over and tentatively peck at your rubber boots! The handsome King Penguin is also found in large numbers, while two other penguin species breed on Macquarie Island, the Gentoo and the more difficult to photograph Rockhopper.

Day 8 We will continue our exploration of Macquarie Island and then depart for Campbell Island.

Day 9 At sea today with more time to practice our flight photography from the decks as there are sure to be an inexhaustible supply of subjects!

Day 10 Campbell Island is a great spot. Sadly rats got ashore shortly after the island was discovered and wrought havoc with many of the smaller nesting petrels and prions. The rats have recently been eradicated, after a major campaign, but it will be some time before seabird populations recover. Nevertheless, there is still some great wildlife and an opportunity to get some good photographs, especially of Southern Royal Albatross. We will be able to sit quite close to these huge but gentle seabirds and we may well see their elaborate bill-clattering courtship ritual. We will spend a whole day ashore in order to see these and other breeding species such the beautiful, gentle-looking Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and the colourful Campbell Island Shag. The island is famous for its ‘megaherbs’, unique subantarctic flowering plants that will just be coming into bloom at the time of our visit. Campbell Island scenery is impressive with great lowering headlands, mile after mile of sheer cliffs, sweeping bays and pinnacle-shaped offshore stacks.

Day 11 At sea en route to Antipodes Island. This is another great day for pelagic species.

Day 12 We should arrive off Antipodes Island, one of the most isolated of the subantarctic islands, during the morning. Weather permitting, we will zodiac cruise the coastline. Both Rockhopper and Erect-crested Penguins frequent the coastline and will keep our shutters busy and there are usually a good number of Antarctic Terns too. In the afternoon we will set sail for the Bounty Islands.

Day 13 We will reach the Bounty Islands in time for a morning zodiac cruise. These inhospitable granite rocks are lashed by the Southern Ocean and are almost entirely devoid of vegetation. Here we will find huge numbers of photogenic Salvin’s Albatrosses as well as more Erect-crested Penguins and Bounty Island Shag. Later we will set sail for the Chatham Islands.

Day 14 Another day at sea with the cameras with the chance to photograph old friends as well as new ones such as Northern Royal Albatross, Chatham Albatross and Northern Buller’s (or Pacific) Albatross.

Day 15 Today we arrive at the Chatham Islands. This remote archipelago has been isolated for thousands of years and both the birds and plants show a high degree of endemism. Sadly, many of the species have become extinct because of extensive development and burning. As we approach the Chatham Islands we will sail past Pyramid Rock, the sole breeding ground of the Chatham Albatross, and we’re likely to get some excellent photographic chances. Later we will visit South East Island. Landings are not permitted on this island, but we will be able to have excellent close encounters with the endemic Pitt Island Shag, Chatham Island Oystercatcher and the attractive Shore Plover from the zodiacs. Only about 150 individuals of the latter survive, so to see this remarkable shorebird feeding on the wave-cut rock platforms will be one of the highlights of our visit to the Chathams.

Day 16 During our excursion on Chatham Island itself we should get close views of a few unique species such as the endemic Chatham Island Shag and the rather portly Chatham Island Pigeon, as well as enjoying the unique place.

Day 17  We say goodbye to our little ship today and take a charter flight to Christchurch where the tour ends.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel in Invercargill is of a good standard. For details of the ship, see the introductory section. Road transport is by coach.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few optional harder walks (though these are not required from a photographic perspective).

Climate: Quite mild at this season. Temperatures range from cool to warm in the north of the subantarctic islands region and from cool to fairly cold in the south (although even in the south it can feel relatively warm on a sunny day if there is no wind). It feels decidedly cold on windy days at sea in the far south, however! Sunny spells are interspersed with (often longer) overcast periods and some rain is to be expected. In mainland New Zealand the weather is generally similar in character, but temperatures are typically quite warm at this time of year.

Important: Landings on some of the subantarctic islands are by permit only as administered by the Governments of New Zealand and Australia, and on rare occasions permits are refused. It is also important to bear in mind that circumstances may be encountered during the voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the planned itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather conditions and unexpected opportunities for making additional zodiac excursions. The ship’s expedition leader will provide more information at the start of the voyage and keep us fully informed throughout. While as many landings as possible will be made, almost none of these are crucial in terms of actually seeing the local birdlife, which can almost invariably be seen from the ship or during an inshore zodiac excursion. Sometimes the cruise departure/arrival points in New Zealand may alter, but normally plenty of notice is provided.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants not already in New Zealand spend two nights at the cruise start point prior to the cruise. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving a day early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request.

Prices and dates are provisional

Tour Price: For Invercargill/Dunedin arrangements, including one night accommodation in Invercargill:

$10500 (£7240, €9545) in a Main Deck triple-berth cabin with shared bathroom facilities
$11500 (£7930, €10455) in a Main Deck twin-berth cabin with shared bathroom facilities
$13000 (£8965, €11820) in a Superior Cabin with private bathroom
$14000 (£9655, €12725) in a Superior Plus Cabin with private bathroom
$14700 (£10135, €13365) in a Mini Suite with private bathroom
$15750 (£10860, €14320) in an Heritage Suite with private bathroom.

In addition, there will be a charge to cover the landing fees levied by the governments of New Zealand and Australia of $800 (£552, €727) per person.

Kindly note that this tour is priced in US Dollars (prices in Pounds Sterling and Euros are only indicative and based on the exchange rates prevailing at the time of calculation: £1 = US$ 1.45, Euro 1 = US$ 1.1). If you are paying in Pounds Sterling or Euros your deposit and final balance payment due will be calculated according to the exchange rate prevailing at the time.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, some soft drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew, the taxi transfer to the hotel, and any fuel surcharge that may be imposed by the ship operator, are not included in the tour price. Gratuities are entirely at your discretion. The staff work very long hours to make such cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we have been told that most passengers give gratuities of around US$180-270 for such an 18 days cruise.

Single Cabin/Room Supplement: Single occupancy of most cabins can be obtained in return for an 80% supplement on top of the cruise-only price (but suites require a 100% supplement); this supplement also entitles you to single room accommodation at the pre-cruise hotel. Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement.

Deposit: 25% of the tour price (including any single supplement).

If you are paying the deposit in Pounds Sterling or Euros rather than in US Dollars, please contact us before sending payment so that we can provide you with the appropriate figure based on the current exchange rate.

Cancellation Charges: For cancellations made 121 days or more before departure, the cancellation charge is 80% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 91-120 days before departure, the cancellation charge is 100% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 1-90 days before departure, or on the day of departure or later, the cancellation charge is 100% of the tour price.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants not already in New Zealand have two nights in Christchurch before the cruise. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving a day early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

A fabulous Royal Penguin emerges from the sea on Macquarie Island (Pete Morris)

A fabulous Royal Penguin emerges from the sea on Macquarie Island (Pete Morris)

The huge feet of a Black-browed Albatross splash down on the sea behind our boat. (Pete Morris)

The huge feet of a Black-browed Albatross splash down on the sea behind our boat. (Pete Morris)

A smart Salvin's Albatross drops to its nest in the incredible colony in the Bounty Islands. (Pete Morris)

A smart Salvin's Albatross drops to its nest in the incredible colony in the Bounty Islands. (Pete Morris)

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