Birding Downunder -

The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia

19 Day Itinerary

Ship: Spirit of Enderby (Professor Khromov)



The Snares, Bounty, Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell and Macquarie Islands occupy the stormy latitudes of the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties, known also as the Albatross Latitudes. The region hosts the most diverse collection of seabirds in the world. More than 40 seabird species – at least 11 percent of all the worlds’ seabirds – breed in the Sub Antarctic region, and over 120 species have been observed at the islands or in the surrounding ocean. Ten of the world’s albatross species- some 40 percent- breed in the region, five of them nowhere else.

Among the world-wide family of petrels, shearwaters, fulmars and prions, 21 species or 30 percent breed on the Sub Antarctic Islands. Penguins too, are special in the Sub Antarctic region. Of seven penguin species breeding here, three (Snares crested, Erect crested and Royal) are endemic to the region. The land birds indicate, through their diversity, just how long these islands have been isolated. No fewer than 15 species are Sub Antarctic endemics.

Our “Birding Downunder” expedition which has been voted “the best ever pelagic birding expedition” includes all of these islands as well as the Chatham Archipelago which lies just north of the Sub Antarctic region and is renown for its high degree of endemism. Expedition includes plenty of time ashore and zodiac cruising with experienced local “birders” to see and photograph the many island endemics.


Day 1
Arrive at the city of Invercargill, New Zealand's southernmost city. Established by Scottish settlers with its wealth in the rich farmland – sheep and dairy farms predominate. On arrival please make your own arrangements to transfer to the Kelvin Hotel in the central city. A detailed programme will be available to you when you check in at reception. Dinner is at the hotel which is an opportunity to meet fellow expeditioners.

Day 2
Breakfast at your leisure in the dining room at the hotel. Your programme will advise a time for bags out and then we will be transferred to the Southland Museum to view the special Subantarctic display in the Museum before being transferred by coach to the Port of Bluff (27 km south of Invercargill) to board the Spirit of Enderby. Depart for the Snares Islands.

Day 3
The Snares is the first of the Subantarctic Islands we will be visiting. It is an amazing island - more birds nest on this small island than there are seabirds around the entire British Isles. We will arrive early morning, landings are not permitted so we zodiac cruise the sheltered eastern side.
Cruising in the sheltered bays we should see the endemic Snares crested penguins, tomtits and fernbirds. Cape pigeons, Antarctic terns, white-fronted terns and red-billed gulls are around the coastline. There is an estimated six million sooty shearwaters nesting on the Snares Islands. Buller’s albatross breed here from early January onwards.

Day 4
We arrive at Enderby Island, a great island to view birds and wildlife in the Auckland Island group. Our plan is to land at Sandy Bay, the main breeding ground for the New Zealand (Hooker’s) sea lion. We’ll also be able to observe the following species:- Southern royal albatross, Northern giant petrel, Auckland Island shag, Auckland Island teal, Auckland Island banded dotterel, Auckland Island tomtit, bellbird, pipit, red crowned parakeet, yellow- eyed penguin and light-mantled sooty albatross. We will spend some time searching for the Subantarctic snipe which we have a very good chance of seeing. Other more common species we will see include goldfinch, song thrush, blackbird, European starling, red-bill gull, redpoll. On Derrycastle Reef there is a good chance to see bar-tailed godwit, turnstone and perhaps other migratory waders.

Day 5
This morning we will cruise to Carnley Harbour in the south of the main Auckland Islands. There will be an opportunity for the energetic participants to climb to the Southwest Cape shy albatross colony. Gibson’s wandering albatross nest above the colony amongst the tussock, we should get good views of these birds as they will be nesting at this time. Those remaining on board will have an opportunity to zodiac cruise along the coastal forest with a chance to see New Zealand falcon and enjoy close encounters with other bush birds. We depart the Auckland Islands in the mid afternoon and head south west to Macquarie Island.

Day 6
At sea we will have a series of lectures supported by videos of the biology and history of the Subantarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean. The Subantarctic Convergence Zone is traditionally very close to the area we are sailing through so we should expect the birdlife to reflect this as we get closer to Macquarie Island. We will be at sea all day, another opportunity to see pelagic species, including wandering albatross species, royal albatross, shy and white-capped albatross, light-mantled sooty albatross, grey headed albatross, black browed albatross, white-chinned petrel, mottled petrel, white- headed petrel, cape petrel, diving petrel, grey backed and black bellied storm petrel.

Days 7 & 8
Arrive at Macquarie Island which is the only place to see the royal penguin and there is an abundance of these. King penguins are also found in large numbers. Two other penguin species breed on Macquarie Island - the gentoo and the rockhopper. Along the coast we will see the imperial (Macquarie) shag. Redpolls can be seen as can the European starling along the cliff edges. We plan landings at both the ANARE base and at Sandy Bay. We will also zodiac cruise Lusitania Bay, where there is a huge king penguin colony. We continue our exploration of Macquarie Island and then depart for Campbell Island on the afternoon of our second day.

Day 9
At sea en-route to Campbell Island, we will see a similar range of species as we saw en-route to Macquarie Island from the Auckland Islands.

Day 10
Arriving early in the morning we will spend the day exploring the island by foot from Perseverance Harbour. Campbell Island is a magnificent island. Rats have recently been successfully removed with encouraging increases in small bird numbers being observed, most notably the pipit. There is some great birding and photographic opportunities on this island especially southern royal albatross and the early flowering mega herbs. During the day ashore we should see the Southern royal albatross, Light-mantled sooty albatross, Northern giant petrel, Campbell Island shag, Southern skua, Red billed gull, black backed gull, Antarctic tern, redpoll, dunnock and the New Zealand pipit. The regeneration of the megaherbs since the removal of the sheep in the 1970's and ‘80's is a spectacle to behold.

Day 11
At sea en-route to the Antipodes. It is a day for pelagic birding. Species commonly seen in this area include wandering albatross species, Southern royal albatross, black-browed albatross, Campbell Island albatross, light-mantled sooty albatross, Salvins albatross, grey-headed albatross, Northern and Southern giant petrel, sooty shearwater, little shearwater. This region of the Southern Ocean is one of the few places where the fairy prion, fulmar prion and Antarctic prion occur together providing a good opportunity for comparison. Other species to be on the look out for include soft-plumaged petrel, mottled petrel, white-headed petrel, grey-faced petrel, white chinned petrel, grey backed storm petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel, black-bellied storm petrel and common diving petrel.

Day 12
Antipodes Island is one of the most isolated, least known and rugged of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands. Landings are not permitted, so we plan to zodiac cruise along the coastline where we have a good chance of seeing the Antipodes Island and Reischek’s Parakeet which is a strong subspecies. We will also see the Antipodes subspecies of the NZ pipit. We enjoy good views of both erect crested and rockhopper penguins breeding on the coastline. There are usually a good number of Antarctic terns and kelp gulls.

Day 13
We arrive at the Bounty Islands, inhospitable granite knobs lashed by the southern ocean, early morning to zodiac cruise. Erect crested penguin, fulmar prions and the endemic Bounty Island shag will feature on our bird lists for this morning. After the zodiac cruise we depart for the Chatham Islands. This afternoon we should see wandering albatross species, Northern royal albatross, white capped albatross, Salvin’s albatross Northern giant petrel, cape petrel, Antarctic fulmar, mottled petrel, soft plumaged petrel, broad billed prion, fulmar prion, white chinned petrel, sooty shearwater, little shearwater, grey backed, black bellied petrel and Wilson’s storm petrel. There is a possibility we could see the Chatham Island petrel and we will be keeping a close watch for the magenta petrel.

Day 14
This morning we continue toward the Chatham Archipelago with excellent opportunities for pelagic birding. We will be especially interested in looking out for the Chatham Island petrel (it has been seen on this leg of the voyage before) and also the very rare Chatham Island taiko or magenta petrel (which has also been seen on this part of the voyage before) This afternoon we will arrive at the spectacular Pyramid Rock - which is the only breeding place of the Chatham Island albatross.

Day 15
At South East Island (Rangatira), one of the world’s greatest nature reserves we will zodiac cruise (landings are not permitted) and should obtain good views of the very rare shore plover and the Chatham Island oystercatcher. We should also see the Pitt Island shag, tui, tomtit and red crowned parakeet. This afternoon we will cruise past Mangere and Little Mangere Island from where the endemic black robin was rescued in the 1970’s when the total population was only six birds. We will relate the story of how the black robin was rescued. This evening we sail across Pitt Strait to the main Chatham Islands and pass the Tuku Valley where the magenta petrel breeds.

Day 16
Today we will land at Waitangi the main settlement on the Chatham Islands. Near the landing we should see the endemic Chatham Island Shag. Local buses and Landrovers will transport us down the South Coast to the Tuku Reserve. Here on private land, and guided by the local people we will enjoy a bush walk in the hope of seeing the Chatham Island Warbler and Chatham Island Pigeon. Much of the main Chatham Islands has been developed for farming, many introduced European birds can be seen in this area. We return to the Spirit of Enderby early afternoon and depart for Dunedin.

Days 17 & 18
En-route to Dunedin we will cross what is known as the Chatham Rise. It is a relatively shallow area of water, compared with the rest of the surrounding ocean, it is also one of the best places for pelagic watching with an overlap of both northern or more temperate species and those birds from southern latitudes. We can expect to see wandering albatross species, royal albatross species, black-browed albatross, white-capped albatross, Salvin’s albatross, northern giant petrel, cape petrel, Westland black petrel, white chinned petrel, great-winged petrel, Cook’s petrel, flesh footed shearwater, Buller’s shearwater, Sooty shearwater, little shearwater, fairy prion, broad-billed prion, grey-backed storm petrel, white-faced storm petrel, diving Petrel. There could well be other species so it is a good time to be out on deck.

Day 19

We will arrive in the Inner Harbour at the Port of Otago, Dunedin. After completing formalities with Customs and Agriculture passengers will be able to disembark. There will be a central city and airport drop off.

Landings at the Sub Antarctic Islands are by permit only as administered by the governments of New Zealand and Australia. No landings are permitted at Snares, Antipodes and Bounty Islands and South East in the Chatham Is. group.
Circumstances may be encountered during our voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed during the voyage.

Photograph by Pete Morris/Birdquest

A stunning Royal Penguin emerges from the cold ocean at Macquarie Island

Map courtesy of Heritage Expeditions


Photograph by Pete Morris/Birdquest

A splendid Pacific Albatross, cruising around the Chathams!

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