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Explore the Subantarctic and Chatham Islands
14 Nights from $ Per Person
Queenstown, New Zealand
Journey into the wilds of New Zealand’s Southern Ocean from the deep and quiet fiords of Murihiku – Southland – to the mysterious and protected wildlife reserves of the subantarctic Campbell and Auckland Islands.
Aboard Coral Geographer, discover why these islands are part of New Zealand’s Subantarctic UNESCO World Heritage site. Each wilderness experience is guided by our knowledgeable expedition team, as you spot rare birds, hike through wonderful fields of mega herbs and encounter numerous species of extraordinary albatross. Ten of the world’s albatross species breed in this region, as well as the most diverse range of seabird species anywhere in the world. You will also meet some of the world’s rarest penguins, such as the yellow-eyed, eastern rockhopper, Snares, and erect-crested penguins, and the endangered New Zealand sea lion.
You will also spend 2 days discovering the remote Chatham Islands, first settled by the Moriori people and now home to small communities that are the first to see the dawn of each new day. Here, we will meet the local people and learn about the astonishing history and nature of these special islands.
We pride ourselves on our eco-conscious values as we visit these pristine regions with the greatest respect and care. A small ship expedition to these islands is an education in pristine environments, and we will experience a glimpse into a pristine natural world without human intervention.
Your Expedition Package Includes:
Rate is based on twin share for travel 08-22 January 2022
**Single traveller pricing available, speak with your consultant
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Day 1 Depart Milford Sound
Board Coral Geographer at Deepwater Basin, Milford Sound at 2:00 pm for 3:00 pm departure. This afternoon, cruise spectacular Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, beneath world-famous Mitre Peak, which rises 1682 metres above the sound. Its triangular silhouette rises opposite beautiful Stirling Falls, falling from the top of a 162m high cliff between two towering ridges into the inky dark water. You may have a chance to feel the spray from the waterfall – according to Maori legend, it will make you ten years younger! The steep overhanging cliffs are awe-inspiring and if weather permits, you may see the late sunset lighting the peaks surrounding the sound.
Day 2 – 14
Throughout this expedition, the Master and Expedition Team may make changes to the itinerary around weather conditions and other factors to maximise your expeditionary experience. Below are the key destinations we visit.
Doubtful Sound & Dusky Sound
Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage site once described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, is characterised by 14 fiords carving through just 215km of coastline. These fiords were carved by glaciers over thousands of years, and you will see waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliffs, rainforest cloaking the steep ridges, and granite peaks reflected in the deep shimmering waters.
These mostly inaccessible and awe-inspiring landscapes were the mysterious source of powerful pounamu (New Zealand Jade), gathered by Maori from the riverbeds and boulders of the South Island – the only place it occurs. While some European settlers took shelter here, the deep isolation and rugged terrain thwarted all except the toughest from staying. Many of the flora and fauna species have developed in relative isolation, so many of the diverse plants and animals are unique to the area.
Doubtful Sound / Patea is the deepest and widest fiord, flanked by towering cliffs and adorned by cascading waterfalls. The stillness and silence of this Fiord is compelling and unforgettable, especially in the dawn light as we cruise through Te Awa-o-TÅ« / Thomson Sound and Blanket Bay into Doubtful Sound / Patea, through ‘the Gut’ and past the outer Seal Islands, Nee Islets and. You may spot fur seals lounging on the rocks, pods of dolphins, and the Fiordland penguin.
We trace Acheron Passage to Te Puaitaha / Breaksea Sound, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes on all sides as we retrace Cook’s journey. It is easy to imagine the small wooden Endeavour being dwarfed by the steep-sided fiords and encircled by the blanketing silence of the fog-cloaked peaks.
This afternoon, enter dramatic Tamatea / Dusky Sound. Cruise among the towering cliffs and sheer granite walls of Facile Harbour, cascading waterfalls, past some of the 365 small islands and explore the depths of the inlets in the zodiacs. Inaccessible by road, Tamatea / Dusky Sound is the largest and most complex of the Fiordland Sounds. It is also a designated Important Bird Area for the Fiordland Penguins that breed here. We will encounter the fur seals of Luncheon Cove.
Stewart & Ulva Island
Known in Maori mythology as Te Punga o Te Waka – The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe’ – Stewart Island (Rakiura) is New Zealand’s little known ‘third island’. Apart from the communities on the island, many people never venture to remote Stewart Island. Nearby Ulva Island is also found within the Rakiura National Park, offering a predator-free environment for rare and endangered birds including South Island Saddleback, Kakapo, Weka, Yellowhead, Rifleman, Stewart Island Robin, and the iconic Kiwi; the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi birds are known to venture out in daylight. On Ulva Island, a guided walk will provide the opportunity to spot a vast array of birdlife and hopefully a few fur seals lazing on the shore during the tour. There will be free time to explore the village of Oban, and a guided Xplorer cruise to Prices Point Whaling Station will unveil the history of the region.
Snares Islands (Tini Heke)
This morning, we sail into our first subantarctic anchorage at the Snares Islands. This small group of islands, also known as Tini Heke, are the most northern of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands and are mostly bordered by steep cliffs except on the eastern side. They are one of the most pristine places in New Zealand, as they were unaffected by whaling and sealing in the 19th century. These islands are protected as part of the Subantarctic Island World Heritage Site and landing ashore is prohibited.
If weather permits, we will cruise along the sheltered eastern side of the island to observe the seabirds that breed on the forested North East Island. The island is forested by mega herbs, some of which are rare and unique, such as the large tree daisy and stilbocarpa, and is home to many endemic bird species, including the Snares Penguin, which has more than 100 colonies on the islands. The sooty shearwater nests here in enormous numbers and are joined by Buller’s Albatross, the mottled petrel and the brown skua. The exposed coastlines also provide breeding and resting area for New Zealand fur seals and New Zealand sea lions.
Auckland Islands (Motu Maha)
Lying 360 kilometres south of Stewart Island, the Auckland Islands is a group of around eight rugged islands, positioned close to each other and separated by narrow sea channels. Dominated by the remains of two 12-million-year old volcanoes, the islands are known for their steep cliffs and towering mountains.
Making our way here means crossing an often-tempestuous sea, but when we reach the Auckland Islands, we can drop anchor in the lee of the islands. The weather here is usually damp and overcast, without being very cold. Evidence exists of Polynesian voyagers having settled here as early as the 13th century. During the sealing era, many ships were wrecked in this region and relics of this period remain, including the ruins of huts and gravestones.
These islands are beautiful and striking, with cliffs rising from the sea and slopes blooming with southern rata and mega herbs. These unusual forests are home to many unique birds and shelter fascinating stories of shipwrecked seamen and wartime Coastwatchers.
Here, we will go ashore at Enderby Island – to spend time birdwatching – you will spot many of the unique birds that nest here, including the Southern Royal Albatross, northern giant petrel, Auckland Island Shag, Red-crowned parakeet, and yellow-eyed penguin. At Sandy Bay, you may also spot the Hooker’s sea lion.
On Auckland Island, we explore the remains of Hardwicke Settlement at Port Ross which was abandoned after 3 years in the early 1800s. If weather permits, there may be an opportunity to climb the slopes to observe the shy albatross colony nesting in the tussock grass. Later, we may cruise by zodiac or Xplorer through the sheltered inlets of Carnley Harbour, climbing through rata forest to take in the views from a vantage point, or visiting a historic site on the islands.
Campbell Island (Motu Ihupuku)
600 km south of Stewart Island, windswept Campbell Island is one of the main islands within the Subantarctic Islands World Heritage Site, and New Zealand’s most southern island. Over many years it was the location for sealing, whaling, and farming endeavours, but was declared a nature reserve in 1954. Since that time, introduced animals have been eradicated, including cattle, sheep, cats and rats. This has allowed the native wildlife, birdlife, and vegetation to recover and be reintroduced.
The rugged island is mostly surrounded by cliffs, which rise to 300 metres on the south and west sides. Three distinct harbours are carved into the eastern side of the island, and at the end of the long Perseverance Harbour is the location for a meteorological station, now automated. The island is in the weather path and plays a key role in measurements and monitoring.
The steep hills and slopes of Campbell Island are covered with mega herbs – characterised by their huge leaves and colourful flowers. These unusual plants include the Campbell Island Daisy, the Silver Leaf Daisy and the Campbell Island Carrot. These plants create a colourful display in summer, leading English botanist Joseph Hooker to describe it as a ‘flora display second to none outside the tropics’.
Sharing the space with these remarkable plants are the equally remarkable albatrosses. Six types of albatross breed on the island, including the enormous Southern Royal Albatross. It is also possible to spot many other species include petrels, shearwaters, terns, and shags. The rare yellow-eyed and eastern rockhopper penguins are also found on the island.
Here, we will anchor in Perseverance Harbour and go ashore at Beeman Base, where a hike along a marked trail enables us to get a close view of the flora and fauna of the island. You may have the opportunity to visit the ‘world’s loneliest tree’, a Sitka Spruce over 100 years old, which is over 200 km from the next closest tree on Auckland Island. We may also cruise the harbours by tender to view the basalt columns, kelp forests fur seals, and sea lions.
Antipodes Islands (Moutere Mahue)
The Antipodes Island group, volcanic and uninhabited, are part of the New Zealand Subantarctic World Heritage site. The steep and rocky islands, referenced by the Maori name as ‘forgotten’, are now protected but were once the location of violent fur-sealing operations until the early 1800s. Now, the island is recognised as an Important Bird Area, with several species of seabird breeding here. These include the southern rockhopper and erect-crested penguins, albatrosses, petrels, and the Antipodes snipe, pipit and parakeet. In 2018, all mice and rats were eradicated from the island.
The islands are surrounded by basalt cliffs emerging from the sea, hollowed by sea caves, and blanketed by mist. This gives it a mysterious presence as it emerges from the wild sea. Landings are not permitted on these isolated islands, so if weather conditions permit, we will cruise the coastline to spot birds and admire the landscape of tussock grass, shield fern and mega herbs.
This tiny group of 13 uninhabited granite islets were discovered by Captain Bligh aboard the HMS Bounty in 1788. These bleak islands are sounded by the Moutere Hauriri Marine Reserve, which translates to ‘angry wind’. And while the islands are remarkably remote and inhospitable to human settlement, they provide a refuge for over 20,000 New Zealand fur seals, and 30,000 pairs of Salvin’s mollymawks, erect-crested penguins, as well as the fulmar prion and Bounty Island Shag.
We are unable to go ashore here, as the islands are highly protected, but if weather permits, we will cruise the shorelines to spot birds and other wildlife.
The Chatham Islands, a territory of New Zealand, is made up of 10 islands over a 40-kilometre radius. Located on the Chatham Rise, an undersea formation of the sunken Zealandia continent, the islands have sustained human settlement for almost 1000 years. The Moriori set off from what is believed to be New Zealand’s South Island around 1400 AD and arrived on the islands, which they named Rekohu (misty skies), to establish a settlement. For over 400 years, they were isolated from the outside world and developed a unique and distinct culture of hunter-gathering, living from what the island provided, with strong religious beliefs and a ban on war and bloodshed. The islands were discovered when an English ship, Chatham, was blown off course in 1790, and in 1835 Maori from the mainland arrived and killed and enslaved the Moriori.
Today, two of the islands are inhabited. Waitangi is the main town on the islands and farming and fishing are the major economic activities. The main island features an enormous lagoon, separated from the ocean by sand dunes. The island has striking geographical contrasts, from towering cliffs to lagoons and peat bogs, wide beaches to dense forest.
This morning, we will go ashore at the main island and settlement of Waitangi. This village will be our base for a busy day of discovering this unique island and provides an opportunity to meet the people who call it home. We may visit a reserve to spot endemic Chatham Island pigeons, Chatham Island warbler and tui.
With 2 days at the Chatham Islands, we will have time to observe the many unique plants, including the Chatham Island forget-me-not. We will also spot the island’s endemic birds, including the Chatham Island shag, and the black robin. Look for the rare Forbe’s Parakeet at Mangere Island, and take zodiac cruises to spot the Chatham Island Albatross, the New Zealand shore plover, and the Pitt Island Shag. Tender cruises around Pyramid Rock and South East Island will reveal an abundance of species. If we are lucky, we may spot the critically endangered Taiko petrel.
Day 15 Arrive Wellington
This morning, we arrive at Wellington to disembark at 8:00 am. Complimentary post-cruise transfers to Wellington CBD hotels or airport included.
*Conditions apply. Subject to availability and change without notice. Prices listed are in Australian Dollars, based on twin occupancy/travel, unless otherwise stated. Prices/Offers are correct at the time of distribution. Full travel supplier booking conditions apply.
Prices listed are per person in Australian Dollars, based on twin occupancy, including all discounts unless otherwise stated. The offer is subject to availability at time of booking and shown on the lowest category available at the time. Fares are capacity controlled and are subject to change at any time without notice. Prices and routing is a guide only and may change. Prices/Offers are correct as at 06 August 2021 and can be withdrawn without notice. Cruise deposit, amendment and cancellation conditions apply. Cabin categories include prepaid government fees and port taxes unless otherwise stated. Hotels may charge resort fees not included in this package, payable direct upon check in. All passports, vaccinations and visas are the responsibility of the travelling guest to secure prior to departure. Flights are not included. Payments made by credit card will incur a surcharge.
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