Southern Pacific Odyssey

Many people have had a taste of the South Pacific and Melanesia on a cruise or conventional tour, but there are numerous islands off the popular routes which due to their relative isolation offer an enticing array of experiences. Previously only the lucky few have sailed these blue waters on private yachts, dropping anchor in secluded bays, going ashore to explore virtually untouched rainforests and making contact with locals who rarely receive visitors. This world is now accessible to you and ought to make for one of the most amazing birding tours ever, because of the handful of virtually unknown scarce bird species that can be seen.

This expedition includes New Zealand’s rarely visited Kermadec Islands, Tonga (including the remote northern island of ‘Tin Can’ or Nuiafo’ou), the outer islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomons. The seas surrounding these islands are some of the richest in the world in terms of marine diversity. Birders will relish the chance to look for two of the world’s rarest seabirds – Fiji Petrel and Vanuatu Petrel, as well as the Magnificent Petrel, a bird only described in 2011. In the Kermadec group we will seek out the endemic Red-crowned Parakeet and in Tonga we will search for the Tongan Whistler and the very rare Megapode. We will visit the Lau Archipelago in Fiji to look for the Ogea Monarch and the Shepherd Islands in Vanuatu in search of the Royal Parrotfinch.

Aboard the expedition boat for this significant journey from New Zealand to the Solomon Islands will be a team of Pacific historians and naturalists who will interpret our encounters, giving further insights into this seldom visited realm. One of the major objectives of our expeditions is to extend knowledge, and as with all expedition travel, there is a degree of flexibility in the itinerary. At each of the stops there is an opportunity to join organised excursions which focus on birding, cultural history or snorkelling and diving. Renowned for its friendly people, this part of the world also has beautiful beaches with clear warm waters making travel through the region a pleasure in itself.

This cruise is modular, and although it can be enjoyed as a full 31-day cruise titled the Southern Pacific Odyssey, it can also be taken as one of two shorter, more manageable components. The first, sailing from New Zealand to Fiji, via Tonga and the Kermadecs, is called the Island Odyssey and lasts 14 days. The second 17-day component is titled Birding the Pacific, and it goes from Fiji (visiting some remote islands) to Vanuatu and on to the Solomon Islands. See the dates and prices section for more information regarding the breakdown of pricing or ask our office.

Day 1: Tauranga
Welcome aboard. From the deck there is a good chance you will see Grey-faced, Cook’s and Black Petrel, Buller’s Shearwater, a few albatross and even Pycroft’s Petrel.

Day 2: At Sea
Today we will be passing through prime Pterodroma petrel country. We are likely to encounter Black-winged, White-necked, Kermadec and Cook’s and may also see the mighty Sperm Whale and the elusive Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.

A tropicbird glides along the shoreline
A tropicbird glides along the shoreline (Heritage Expeditions)

Day 3: L’Esperance Rock and Curtis/Cheeseman Islands – Kermadec Islands
On these havens for breeding seabirds we will be on the lookout for White-bellied Storm-Petrel and the Kermadec White-faced Storm-Petrel. Encounters likely are the Masked Booby, Red-tailed Tropicbird and Black Noddy. We plan to Zodiac cruise the coastline and possibly dive or snorkel.

Days 4 to 5: Raoul Island
The weather and sea conditions will dictate our two days on Raoul Island but we will maximise our time ashore or in the water snorkelling or diving. We hope to encounter Galapagos Sharks and the massive and very inquisitive Spotted Black Grouper here. On shore the most interesting birds are the Kermadec Red-crowned Parakeet and the elusive Spotless Crake. Close encounters with Black Noddy, Grey Ternlet, White Tern and the beautiful Red-tailed Tropicbird are also likely.

Days 6 to 7: At Sea
We hope to see Tahiti and Collared Petrels in these ornithologically virtually unknown waters.

c-a-russ-7979 (Heritage Expeditions)

Day 8: Nuku’alofa – Tonga
Optional birding, natural history, cultural or swimming and snorkelling tours are available today.

Day 9: Vava’u – Tonga
The Vava’u Island group is a spectacular tropical island paradise suitable for swimming and snorkelling. Birders will be keen to search for the endemic Tongan Whistler and the near-endemic Blue-crowned Lorikeet.

Day 10: Nuiafo’ou Island – Tonga
Northern most of all the Tongan islands. Nuiafo’ou is home to the critically endangered endemic Tongan Megapode.

Day 11: Vava’u – Tonga
We return briefly to the island of Vava’u to clear Tongan customs then begin our journey to Fiji.

Day 12: At Sea
Today we keep a sharp eye out for the critically endangered Fiji Petrel, the Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby and White-tailed Tropicbird.

c-n-russ-slide38 (Heritage Expeditions)

Day 13: Levuka – Fiji
We arrive in the historic Port of Levuka, on the island of Ovalau. In the hills above Levuka we could encounter Masked Shining Parrot, Barking Pigeon, Giant Forest Honeyeater, Golden Dove and Red-headed Parrotfinch.

Day 14: Suva – Fiji
We arrive in Suva, the capital of Fiji where your time is free until midday tomorrow. Apart from lunch today (not included in the voyage price), meals and accommodation will be available on board.

Day 15: Suva and At Sea
This afternoon we will sail for the waters off Gau in search of the critically endangered Fiji Petrel. Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Greater and Lesser Frigatebirds, Sooty and White Terns and Black and Brown Noddies are all likely to be seen today.

c-a-russ-5438 (Heritage Expeditions)

Day 16: Ogea Levu – Fiji
This morning we will continue searching for Fiji Petrels and this afternoon will depart for Ogea Levu.

Day 17: Ogea Levu – Fiji
Our main target this morning is the Ogea Monarch which we should have a good chance of locating here. We also hope to see the near endemic Blue-crowned Lorikeet.

Day 18: Kadavu Island – Fiji
Kadavu has four endemics: Crimson Shining Parrot, Kadavu Honeyeater, Kadavu Fantail and Whistling Dove and we hope to encounter all of these.

c-a-russ-7683 (Heritage Expeditions)

Days 19 to 20: At Sea
Several species of petrel and other tropical seabirds are likely to feed in these waters and it could be good for cetaceans.

Day 21: Efate Island – Vanuatu
We will explore some of Vanuatu’s many islands which are surrounded by colourful coral reefs. Here we will lookout for the endemic Yellow-fronted White-eye. Other species we may be able to find are Dark-brown Honeyeater and the elusive Blue-faced Parrotfinch.

Day 22: Tongoa – Shepherd Islands – Vanuatu
A rare chance to visit the Shepherd Islands where we will land on Tongoa – also known as Kuwae. This morning we will be looking for the elusive and striking Royal Parrotfinch rarely seen outside the Shepherd Islands.

Day 23: At Sea
A great opportunity to look out for seabirds such as the Vanuatu Petrel, as well as cetaceans.

Day 24: Espiritu Santo – Vanuatu
We should see a good selection of Vanuatu’s endemic birds on the island of Espiritu Santo including the Santo Mountain Starling, Tanna Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Buff-bellied Monarch and hopefully the mound-building Vanuatu Megapode.

Day 25: Banks Islands – Vanuatu
The Vanuatu Petrel and a distinctly dark subspecies of Collared Petrel, dubbed the Magnificent Petrel, have been found on these islands.

Day 26: Banks Islands and Sola – Vanuatu
We may make an exploratory landing on Banks Islands this morning and will call briefly at Sola in Port Patterson, the capital of the Torba Province.

Day 27: Santa Cruz Islands – Solomon Islands
This morning we steam north towards the Santa Cruz Islands. Once formalities are completed time permitting there will be an opportunity to land this evening.

Day 28: Nendö Island – Solomon Islands
We stand a good chance of seeing the endemic Santa Cruz White-eye and the bizarre looking Sanford’s White-eye, but the endemic Santa Cruz Shrikebill is rare. The Rusty-winged Starling can also be observed here.

Day 29: Vanikoro Island – Solomon Islands
Today we search for two endemics, the Vanikoro Monarch and the Vanikoro White-eye.

Day 30: At Sea
A final day at sea to enjoy the tropical seabirds that have been our companions throughout this expedition.

Day 31: Honiara – Solomon Islands
We arrive at Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands. After breakfast you and your luggage will be transferred ashore by Zodiac and a complimentary shuttle will take you to a local hotel or the airport.

During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.