You won’t find them mentioned in a travel brochure on your high street; you won’t find them in most guidebooks, you probably don’t know anyone that has ever been there and they don’t even appear on some maps of New Zealand’s South Pacific – these are the ‘forgotten islands’. Despite their low profile, they are among the most remarkable wildlife reserves in the Southern Ocean, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and afforded the highest protection of any nature reserves in New Zealand. Remote, uninhabited and on no regular shipping route, access is further restricted by a strict Management Plan which limits the number of people allowed ashore each year.
Meet at an Invercargill central city hotel and be transferred to the Port of Bluff for embarkation. The captain and expedition team will be waiting for your arrival on the Spirit of Enderby. Familiarise yourself on board and then join the captain on the bridge or fellow travellers on deck as you set sail and the adventure begins.
The largest of this group of islands is North East Island, a nature reserve of international importance and home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles put together. A group of islands that have had no introduced mammals, they are a pristine haven for wildlife. Snagged with hidden reefs, learn how the islands got their name. Cruise the jagged coastline by Zodiac allowing you to see some of the features of the island. From the water you can view the unique large tree daisies Olearia lyallii and Brachyglottis stewartiae which dominate much of the island, creating a forest canopy and draping the hills. The cruise should also allow you to encounter some of the birdlife that inhabits these islands, including the endemic Snares Crested Penguin. You may also catch glimpses of the Snares Island Tomtit and Fernbird which are unique to these islands. On the cliffs you will likely see Buller’s Albatross whose Maori name translates as ‘flying wind’ which could be an apt description of The Snares. This species only nests here and at the Solander Islands.
Image Courtesy of Heritage Expeditions taken by A Fergus.
Enderby Island is a great place to view birds and wildlife. Visit Sandy Bay, the main breeding ground for the rare New Zealand (Hooker’s) Sea Lion and just one of three breeding grounds on the Auckland Islands. There are chances to observe the Southern Royal Albatross, Northern Giant Petrel, Auckland Island Shag, Auckland Island Flightless Teal, Auckland Island Banded Dotterel, Auckland Island Tomtit, Bellbird, Pipit, Red-crowned Parakeet, Yellow-eyed Penguin and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Keep a lookout for the rare Subantarctic Snipe. On Derry Castle Reef there is a good chance of seeing the Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and perhaps other migratory waders.
Image Courtesy of Heritage Expeditions.
These islands have witnessed many a shipwreck in days gone by and harbour tales of castaways and coast watchers. If weather and sea conditions are suitable energetic expeditioners are able to climb to the South West Cape Shy Albatross colony where Gibson’s Wandering Albatross nest among the tussocks above the colony.
Image Courtesy of Heritage Expeditions taken by T Bickford.
Spend two days exploring the island by foot taking in the panorama of rocky islets and sea stacks; once the lonely preserve of settlers and seal hunters and now returned to nature. Enjoy an easy walk to the nesting site of the Southern Royal Albatross at Col Lyall or walk across the hills to Northwest Bay and see the strange and beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. These huge pink and yellow wild flowers have adapted well to the harsh conditions. Also seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and, on the beaches beyond, young male sea lions testing their strength.
Image Courtesy of Heritage Expeditions taken by T Russ.
Described by one Australian explorer as “One of the wonder spots of the world” this is the only place in the world where the beautiful Royal Penguin breeds. Three other species of penguins, the King, Gentoo and Rockhopper also breed here. You will never forget your first experience of a noisy ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors and where you will be immersed in a tumult of chattering, feeding chicks; territorial disputes; petty pilfering and courtship displays. This all happens amongst the hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals lolling on the beaches and dunes. On arrival meet with scientists and Park Rangers based here who will accompany you on all your landings.
Head north from Macquarie Island through waters rich in seabirds towards Campbell Island. You are invited to join the captain on the bridge, to keep a keen lookout for birds and for whales. Today there will also be briefings and lectures on Campbell Island in preparation for our visit there.