Subantarctic Wonders: Galapagos of Antarctica

13 Day Itinerary

Ship: Spirit of Enderby (Professor Khromov)

To the south of New Zealand are six groups of islands, remote from each other and from New Zealand. These are the Sub Antarctic Islands, they are among the world’s wildest places. Some are close to pristine. The larger ones have suffered from the introduction of alien animals in the past but, island by island, animal by animal, they are slowly being cleared of introduced fauna and restored to something like their original condition.

This region hosts the most diverse collection of seabirds in the world. More than 40 seabird species – at least 11% of all worlds’ seabirds – breed in the Sub Antarctic region. Land birds and small invertebrates animals, including insects, are surprisingly numerous, diverse and in some cases breathtakingly rare. The land birds indicate, through their diversity, just how long these islands have been isolated. No fewer than 15 species are Sub Antarctic endemics. This expedition visits four of the six island groups including Snares, Auckland’s, Macquarie and Campbell. There is no other comparable expedition in the world, for an introduction and understanding of the dynamic and diverse southern ocean eco-system this is a “must do” expedition.


Day 1
Arrive at the City of Dunedin, the Edinburgh of the South. Its strength comes from the rich history of development during the gold rush of the 1860’s, and its current status as a University Centre and base for ecotourism. On arrival please make your own arrangements to transfer to the Southern Cross Hotel in the central city. A detailed programme will be available to you when you check in at reception There will be an informal get together at the hotel for dinner this evening. This will be an opportunity to meet other participants and staff.

Day 2
After breakfast there will be a transfer of your luggage and then yourselves to the vessel in the Port of Otago, Dunedin. Once we have embarked and cleared Customs we will let go the lines and steam down the protected Otago Harbour, under Taiaroa Head and then southwards to the Snares Island.

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. We make a landing 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.

Days 10 & 11
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 12
At sea en-route to the Port of Bluff. A chance to relax and reflect on what will have been an amazing experience. Lecturers will take the opportunity to recap the highlights of the Expedition and we will enjoy a farewell dinner tonight as we cross the last few miles of our journey.

Day 13

We arrive at the Port of Bluff. After breakfast and customs formalities have been completed we will disembark. A coach will transfer you and your luggage to the central city of Invercargill or to Invercargill Airport.

Landings at the Sub Antarctic Islands are by permit only as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at Snares Is.
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


(Please note that this is an occasional cruise and is not offered every season)

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