Wildlife lovers, rejoice. The Sub-Antarctic Islands in New Zealand are overflowing with exotic birds and rare flora and fauna, seldom seen by the average tourist. Zegrahm's 2017 departure visits Campbell, Auckland, and The Snares — as well as Australia’s Macquarie Island. This is not an easy-to-reach destination. In fact, Zegrahm is one of just a few tour operators that have permits to operate tours in this region.
In addition to the islands, the 18-day trip also includes some experiences in New Zealand North and South islands as well. Visitors go to Queenstown, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Stewart Island and Dunedin as well as the remote Sub-Antarctic islands. Along the way there are visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, secluded harbors and more. Daily excursions are up to guests and there are often a couple different options.
Onboard the ship, naturalists are on hand to talk about the area’s unique natural features and wildlife.
Ornithologist and New Zealand native, Brent Stephenson, who will be joining the expedition, recently shared his thoughts on some of the species guests will see on the itinerary:
Regarding the albatross, he said: “You’re going to see several really iconic species quite up close—southern royal, northern royal, snowy, Antipodean, black-browed, Campbell, grey-headed, light-mantled sooty, white-capped, Salvin’s, and Buller’s. That’s eleven albatross species, or half of the world’s 22 species in one trip!”
About the penguins, Stephenson said: “Similarly, you’ll observe seven, perhaps eight, penguin species—yellow-eyed, little, Snare’s crested, king, gentoo, royal, eastern rockhopper, and maybe even Fiordland. This trip is truly a penguin lover’s dream!”
In regards to the wilderness, he said: “We’ll be visiting islands out in the Southern Ocean, places rarely visited by people where the wildlife is almost completely naïve to humans. In fact, fewer people visit this area than the actual Antarctic!”
The wildlife is clearly abundant and visitors should get ready to see new and interesting plant and wildlife varieties that are especially rare in the Northern Hemisphere.
On Campbell Island, there are Hooker’s sea lions as well as endemic Campbell teal and Campbell snipe – which are both species that were previously thought to be extinct.
On Marcquarie Island, there are gentoo and king penguins as well as elephant and fur seals, an albatross breeding ground and tussock-covered headlands.
The Auckland Islands are home to yellow-eyed penguins – the rarest in the world and on The Snares, visitors cruise around on Zodiacs to see Buller’s albatross, fairy prions and Snares crested penguins.
There is more time for Fiordland National Park in on the way back to Queenstown. Visitors explore Dusky and Doubtful sounds by Zodiac and visit Astronomer’s Point, established during Captain Cook’s 1773 voyage.
The Caledonian Sky is a 100-guest expedition vessel and was recently refurbished in 2012. Onboard, there is a dining room, a large lounge with a piano, a bar, a viewing deck, a sun deck, a library and a small gym. All staterooms are suites and each has an ocean view, a sitting room, en suite bathroom, a flat-screen television, wardrobes and a dressing table.
The ship has a fleet of zodiacs onboard and snorkeling equipment as well as an expedition crew that includes an ornithologist, a biologist, a naturalist, a geologist, a social anthropologist, a cruise director and an expedition leader. This trip will be led by co-founder of Zegrahm Expeditions, Mike Messick.