Arrive in Dunedin make your own way to the hotel. This evening we will take the opportunity to meet fellow passengers at an informal dinnertime get-together.
WE will transfer you from the hotel to Otago Harbour where we will board the Spirit of Enderby. Settle into your cabin and then join expedition staff and the Captain for orientation and a welcome on board.
North East Island is the largest of the Snares, the first group of Sub-Antarctic Islands that we visit. This one island is home to more nesting seabirds than in all of the British Isles. We arrive early in the morning, and as landings are not permitted we will cruise along the sheltered eastern side by Zodiac. Snares Crested Penguins are plentiful around the coast, as are the Cape Petrel and Buller's Albatross that nest here later in the season. Cruising in the sheltered bays, we should see the endemic Tomtit and Fernbird. And since an estimated 60 million Antarctic Terns, White-fronted Terns and Red-billed Gulls nest among the Snares, we are quite likely to spot a few. Mottled Petrel, Diving Petrel and Broad-billed Prion are all also in the vicinity.
The Auckland Islands, one of the largest of the Subantarctic groups of islands, have a most colourful history of discovery and attempted settlement. During our stay we will visit Carnley Harbour and spend a day ashore on Enderby Island. Forested by gnarled and windswept Rata, Enderby is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Sub-Antarctic islands. It has a low plateau of scrubland and cushion bog. We will enjoy the extensive Bulbinella rossii fields, the regenerating patches of Anisotome latifolia and the red and white gentians. The island enjoys a much milder climate than most Sub-Antarctic Islands because of its location. It is also home to the rare Hooker's Sea Lion, which breed each year on the beach at Sandy Bay. In the forest behind the beach we find Bellbirds, Red-crowned Parakeets and the friendly Tomtits. Yellow-eyed Penguins also nest in the forest and under the tangled divaricated shrub Myrsine divaricata. You can see them as they travel backwards and forwards across the beach to their nests, especially in the evenings. On the more open country beyond the Rata forest we find nesting Royal Albatross and the endemic Auckland Island Dotterel. There is also a good chance of seeing the endemic flightless Teal at Derrycastle Reef as we explore this island. In Carnley Harbour, energetic adventurers can climb up to the Southwest Cape Shy Mollymawk or Albatross Colony. It is a reasonably difficult scramble, but worth the effort. The views are spectacular and the colony provides great photo opportunities, as do the Wandering Albatross sometimes seen nesting in the tussock beyond the Mollymawk colony. For those who don't make the climb, there will be a Zodiac excursion to explore parts of this magnificent harbour. We depart the Auckland Islands mid-afternoon and head southwest towards Macquarie Island.
At sea we will have a series of lectures supported by videos of the biology and history of the Sub-Antarctic Islands and the Southern Ocean. The Sub-Antarctic Convergence zone is very close to the area we will sail through, so we expect the bird life to reflect this as we approach Macquarie Island. Birds we may spot include the Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Black-browed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Salvin's Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, and Little Shearwater. We will endeavour to spot the Fairy Prion, Fulmar Prion and Antarctic Prion never an easy task but we should get some great views. There are also many species of Petrel to be on the look-out for including the Soft-plumaged Petrel, Mottled Petrel, White-headed Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Black-bellied Storm Petrel and Common Diving Petrel.
Macquarie Island, Australia's prized Subantarctic possession, is a small but impressive sliver of land supporting one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the Southern Hemisphere. Millions of penguins of four different species - King, Rockhopper, Gentoo and the endemic Royal breed here. We plan to spend two days observing the best wildlife areas on the Island and visiting the Australian scientific base where Tasmanian Park Rangers will take us on a tour of the station and nearby areas. The King Penguin rookery at Lusitania Bay is spectacular. A welcoming committee will likely porpoise around our Zodiacs as a quarter of a million King Penguins stand at attention on shore. In the centre of the rookery, rusting condensers are grim reminders of a time when scores of penguins were slaughtered for their oil. Now their offspring have reclaimed this territory. At Sandy Bay, a Royal Penguin rookery teems with feisty little birds trotting back and forth, golden head plumes bobbing as they march to and from the shore. All 3 million of the world's Royal Penguins breed on Macquarie Island. Large groups of Elephant Seals slumber on the sandy beaches and in the tussock grass further inland. These giant, blubbery creatures barely acknowledge our presence, lying in groups of intertwined bodies, undergoing their annual moult. Younger bulls spar in the shallow water, preparing for their mature years when they will look after their own harems. Other wildlife includes Fur Seals, four species of nesting Albatross Wandering, Black-browed, Greyheaded and Light-mantled Sooty as well as many other species of bird. Macquarie Island is the single richest concentration of wildlife on our voyage, so we will aim to fit in as much as possible.
We head north from Macquarie Island through waters rich in seabirds towards Campbell Island. We invite you 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.
Campbell Island is a place of rugged scenery and abundant wildlife. On this stunning island we will also see mega herbs which have been regenerated since the removal of sheep in the 70's, and witness other wildlife such as Campbell Island Shags, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross and Sea Lions.
At sea en route to the Port of Bluff, take the opportunity to relax and reflect on an amazing experience. We will recap the highlights of our expedition and enjoy a farewell dinner tonight as we complete the last few miles of our journey.
We arrive into port early in the morning. After breakfast and customs formalities, we will disembark in Invercargill. We will go our separate ways enriched by this life changing trip.