This absorbing cruise starts in Tauranga, in northern New Zealand, and works its way north to New Guinea, stopping en route at many islands, including New Caledonia the Solomons. Expect to see both a slew of seabirds on the oceanic crossings and many endemic landbirds confined to these remote islands. The cruise will be on board Heritage Expedition’s extremely comfortable Spirit of Enderby, a recently renovated, ice-strengthened vessel.
Great seabirds come quickly on this cruise, with early possibilities of the spectacular New Zealand Storm-Petrel and Gray Noddy, as we search the seabird-rich Hauraki Gulf off of New Zealand. Chumming sessions should increase our chances for many more tubenose species. The trip to Norfolk Island might produce some quality pelagic species, such as Black-winged and Cook’s Petrels, while on the island itself we’ll target Norfolk Island Gerygone, Norfolk Island Parakeet, and Slender-billed White-eye. This tour is especially good for gadfly petrels, and as we continue north to New Caledonia, we may see multiple species like Tahiti, Providence, Kermadec, and Gray-faced Petrels. On New Caledonia, a cast of more than twenty endemic landbirds is headlined by Kagu, the only member of its family. Other targets include Southern Shrikebill, Red-throated Parrotfinch, and the odd, tool-using, New Caledonian Crow. The Solomon Islands will beckon us northward, and Rennell Island will be visible for much of the journey, during which we should see more seabirds, like Collared Petrel and Lesser Frigatebird. The latter will herald our arrival in the tropics. In the Solomons we will visit the islands of Rennell, Makira, Guadalcanal, and Kolombangara, targeting the archipelago’s many endemics (over 70 are found here), such as Rennell Shrikebill, Silver-capped and Claret-breasted Fruit-doves, Finch’s Pygmy-Parrot, Cardinal Myzomela, San Cristóbal Melidectes, Makira Flycatcher, Solomon Cockatoo, and Ultramarine Kingfisher.
Moving north into Papua New Guinean waters, off the Bismarck Archipelago, we will switch our attentions again to seabirds. The rare and local Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater are major targets around the island of New Ireland. We are likely also to run into cetaceans as we journey northwards, with Spinner Dolphins and Melon-headed, Dwarf Sperm, and Sperm Whales all found in these waters.
Day 1: Tauranga, New Zealand. Arrive in Tauranga and transfer to the ship. Settle into your cabin and join your expedition team and captain for a welcome on board.
Day 2: Hauraki Gulf. In the outer Hauraki Gulf, we should obtain some good sightings of the Grey Ternlet. Other birds could include the Little Blue Penguin, Buller’s Shearwaters, Grey-faced Petrel, Little Shearwater and Black Petrel, Fluttering Shearwaters and hopefully the New Zealand Storm-Petrels.
Days 3 to 4: At Sea. En route to Norfolk Island, we have a good chance of spotting Gould’s Petrel, Black-winged Petrel, Kermadec Petrel, White-naped Petrel, Grey-faced Petrel, Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters and Black Petrels.
Day 5: Norfolk Island. After clearing Australian Customs, we spend most of the day at Norfolk Island’s remnant forest, home to the four endemics – the Norfolk Island Parakeet, Norfolk Gerygone, Norfolk Robin and the Slender-billed White-eye.
Day 6: At Sea. At sea on a northward course, we cross a large underwater seamount, a productive area for seabirds including Tahiti, Collared, White-necked, Providence and Kermadec Petrels.
Day 7: New Caledonia. We visit the Parc de la Rivière Bleue National Park where local rangers will assist us to search for the endemics including the incomparable Kagu and highly range-restricted Crow Honeyeater. Other birds could include Horned and New Caledonian Parakeets, Yellow-bellied Robin, New Caledonian (Goliath) Imperial Pigeon, Southern Melanesian and New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrikes, New Caledonian Goshawk, and Red-throated Parrotfinch.
Day 8: New Caledonia. We will be trying to locate or see what is being referred to as the ‘New Caledonian Storm-Petrel’ today. Other species which may be seen include Short-tailed and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, as well as Tahiti, Providence, Gould’s and Collared Petrels.
Days 9 to 10: At Sea. Enjoy leisurely days at sea and a chance to relax, catch up on notes, reading and sleep. Birding can also be good including Polynesian Storm-Petrel.
Day 11: Rennell Island. This morning we will go ashore at Rennell Island where we hope to see the Rennell Starling, Rennell Shrikebill, Bare-eyed White-eye, Rennell Fantail and Rennell White-eye. Other species we may come across include the Imperial Pigeon, Silver-capped Fruit Dove, Singing Parrot, Melanesian Flycatcher, Cardinal Myzomela, Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot and Island Thrush.
Day 12: Anuta Island in the Makira Group. Makira Island holds its own treasures, including the endemic Sooty Myzomela, San Cristobal Melidectes, White-collared Monarch, Mottled Flowerpeckers, White-headed Fruit Dove and Rufous Fantail. Other species could include Rainbow Lorikeets, Red-knobbed and Imperial Pigeon, San Cristobal Singing and Metallic Starling, Pied Goshawk, Pacific Baza, and Cardinal Myzomela. We will also enjoy the hospitality of the people in nearby Anuta Village.
Day 13: Honiara. We will anchor off Honiara and depart in the early morning for nearby Mt Austin. The birding here is quite exceptional and there is the potential for a good list of endemics and localised specialities including Yellow-eyed, White-bellied and Solomon’s Cuckoo-shrikes, Cicadabird, Brown-winged and Singing Starlings, Yellow-faced Myna, Chestnut-bellied and Black-and-white Monarchs and also the Steely Blue Fly-catcher.
Day 14: Santa Isabel Region, Barora Fa Island, Poru Channel. Enjoy a full day exploring Santa Isabel and its surrounding islands; we will explore the inlets and reef systems by Zodiac of the spectacular Poru Channel. We plan to land on Vakao Island and visit its verdant rainforest; species we hope to find include the highly localised Yellow-throated White-eye, Red-capped Myzomela, Ultramarine Kingfisher and Blyth’s Hornbill. After lunch snorkel and relax on the white sandy beach or return to the forest to look for Melanesian Megapode and Black-and-white Monarch.
Day 15: Kolombangara Island. We plan to land at the settlement of Ringi Cove and head up into the hills to the Imbu Rano Conservation Area. During our walk through the dense forest birdlife will be plentiful; we hope to see the spectacular Solomon Islands Sea Eagle, Cardinal, Duchess and Meek’s Lorikeets, Kolombangara and White-capped Monarchs, Crimson-rumped Myzomela, Ducorps’ Cockatoo, and Metallic and Singing Starling. We may also have an opportunity to look for the elusive Roviana Rail as we leave the reserve. When we depart we will sail over the New Britain Trench and scan the seas for tell-tale signs of whale blows and leaping dolphins, this is a popular area for cetaceans. Birders will also want to keep a lookout for the Heinroth’s Shearwater which also patrols this area.
Day 16: At Sea. Today we are at sea near the Bougainville and the New Britain Trench, experience tells us that it is a very productive area and we hope to see Heinroth’s Shearwater, it is also great for cetaceans including Sperm Whale, False Killer Whale and Fraser’s Dolphin.
Day 17: Off the coast of New Ireland. Today we cruise along the coast of New Ireland, where our target of the day is the recently rediscovered Beck’s Petrel. Also there is another chance for Heinroth’s Shearwater. This is another area where a number of different species of cetaceans have been seen including Melon-headed Whale, and Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whales.
Days 18 to 19: At Sea. During these days at sea we cross the equator – a cause for celebration! There are a number of species that we should be on the lookout for, including Bulwer’s Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicbird, White and Sooty Terns and the Frigate Bird.
Days 20 to 21: Caroline Islands. On Weno Island where we will be berthed we hope to see species such as Myzomelas, Reed Warbler, Swiftlet and the Ground Dove. We should be able to see Caroline Islands White-eye, Swiftlet and Reed Warbler, the Micronesian Myzomela and Starling as well as Oceanic Flycatcher. On Tol South it is possible that we may see the endemic Great Truk White-eye and the Chuuk Monarch.
Days 22 to 25: At Sea. It’s a long-haul to the Bonin Islands and the birding can be quiet, but there are potentially some good sightings including Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels, Bonin and Bulwer’s Petrels, Wedge-tailed and Bannerman’s Shearwaters. As we approach the Bonin chain of islands we will keep a particular look out for cetaceans, especially Humpback Whales which are known to occur here in reasonable numbers.
Day 26: Chichi-jima. After clearing Customs and Immigration into Japan at the largest of the Bonin Islands, Chichi-jima we will take some time to explore the settlement and surrounds. Blue Rock Thrush, Japanese White-eye, Brown-eared Bulbul and Japanese Bush Warbler may be seen.
Day 27: Haha-jima and Higashi Shima. Haha-jima is the only place in the world where the stunning Bonin Honeyeater can be found, we plan to spend the morning ashore. In the late afternoon we should be able to look for the recently described and very rare Bryan’s Shearwaters off the east cost of Chichi-jima.
Day 28: At Sea. Relax at sea as we sail north from the Bonin Islands. We will be on the lookout for seabirds with the possibilities including Tristram’s Storm-Petrel, Bonin Petrel and Bannerman’s Shearwater.
Day 29: Torishima Island. Landings are not permitted at Torishima Island, but we cruise close by where we hope to spot the Short-tailed or Steller’s Albatross. Other species in the vicinity include the Black-footed and Laysan Albatross, Streaked Shearwater, Tristam’s and Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels.
Day 30: Miyake-jima Island. We land this morning on the island of Miyake-Jima and visit the Tsubota Nature Centre where walks thought the forest around the Caldera provide an opportunity to see species including the endemic Izu Thrush, Ijima’s Leaf-warbler and Owston’s Tit. We also plan to cruise offshore of the island where there is known to be Japanese Murrelet breeding. We continue our journey to Yokohama, there is generally some good birding on this last leg of the cruise. We enjoy a farewell dinner tonight.
Day 31: Yokohama, Japan. After breakfast and completing Japanese arrival formalities you disembark the ship. We bid farewell to our fellow voyagers and board a complimentary transfer from the ship to Yokohama railway station.