Western Pacific Odyssey

  1. 2019
    Friday, April 19, 2019 to Sunday, May 5, 2019
    Tour Duration: 
    31 days
    Tour Price:
     $7,900 USD
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    Tauranga, New Zealand / Yokohama, Japan
    Guide: 
Highlights

• Opportunities to see some of the rarest pelagic seabirds in the world and a host of island endemics

• Outstanding list of cetaceans

• Exciting days in the Solomon Islands, birding on Rennell, Makira, Guadalcanal (Mt Austin) and Kolombangara

• The amazing Kagu and other endemics in the Rivière Bleue National Park on New Caledonia.

• The rich waters of the Hauraki Gulf for numerous endemic species, including the recently discovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel

• Bougainville and New Ireland for the poorly-known Heinroth's Shearwater and the recently rediscovered Beck's Petrel

 

Overview

The Complete WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY - Returns including Bonin Islands!!

Known in birding circles, simply as the ‘WPO', this expedition incorporates many of the key birding areas in the South West Pacific. First offered in 2007, it is now considered one of the ‘must do' expeditions for any birder because of opportunities to see some of the rarest pelagic seabirds in the world plus many island endemics. But it is not only for ‘birders'. The cetacean list can only be described as outstanding and if you ever tire of birding or cetacean watching then there are numerous snorkelling/swimming/relaxing opportunities.

After departing the Port of Tauranga, in New Zealand we sail for the rich waters of the Hauraki Gulf where there are numerous endemic species, including the recently discovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel. From there it's northward to Norfolk Island for a day. Next stop is New Caledonia where we search for the amazing Kagu and other endemics in the Rivière Bleue National Park.

We then spend five exciting days in the Solomon Islands birding on Rennell, Makira, Guadalcanal (Mt Austin), Santa Isabel and Kolombangara, before cruising across the New Britain Trench, an area known to be extremely rich in cetaceans. As we sail along the coasts of Bougainville and New Ireland, we will look for two extremely poorly known seabirds, Heinroth's Shearwater and the recently rediscovered Beck's Petrel, both of which we have seen on almost all our previous expeditions in this region.

Next stop is Truk Island (Federated States of Micronesia) for some more intensive birding before we set a course for the Bonin Islands south of Japan. Our route will take us to Chichi-jima, Haha-jima and Torishima Islands (and hopefully the Short-tailed Albatross) before we visit Miyake-jima, where we will look for the last specialities of the expedition. Our voyage will then conclude at the Port of Yokohama in Japan.

This expedition is accompanied by some of the best pelagic birding guides in the world who have extensive experience of the seabirds of the West Pacific and have visited the islands we will be landing on multiple times before. Birding starts at dawn and finishes at sundown. Our guides are there throughout the day to assist you and the ‘reading of the bird list' each evening is legendary for its detail and discussion. This is one expedition you can't afford to miss.

Itinerary Hide Full Itinerary
Day 1: Tauranga, New Zealand

The township of Tauranga is situated on the east coast of the North Island in the Bay of Plenty.  The bay was given its name by Captain James Cook while circumnavigating New Zealand in 1769, when he was impressed by the region’s welcoming people and abundant resources.  Nothing has changed.

The captain and expedition team will be waiting for your arrival at the ship to greet you and  how you to your cabin. You will have the opportunity to unpack before exploring the ship and meeting other expeditioners. After formal introductions to the team followed by safety briefings we plan to sail in the late afternoon.

Day 2: Hauraki Gulf

We arrive early morning in the Hauraki Gulf and plan to start the day near the Mokohinau Islands looking for Grey Ternlets which are regularly present here. Other birds that we might encounter include Buller’s Shearwaters, Australian Gannets, and possibly Little Blue Penguins. Later in morning we will go to an area where previously we have had considerable success with finding the critically endangered New Zealand Storm-Petrel and we will possibly chum or use fish oil to attract these birds. Other birds that we might see in the vicinity include White-faced Storm-Petrel, Grey-faced Petrel, Little Shearwater and Black Petrel. This evening as we cruise up the east coast of the North Island, we will undoubtedly be accompanied by some Albatrosses with the possibilities including Campbell, Shy, Buller’s and Wandering.

Days 3 to 4: At Sea

We are at sea heading north to Norfolk Island. We will take the opportunity to offer some lectures or presentations on seabird identification as well as briefings on what we can reasonably expect to see once ashore on Norfolk Island. Species that have been encountered on this leg previously include Grey-faced, Black-winged, Kermadec and White-necked Petrels. Both Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters have also been recorded as have Whitebellied and White-faced Storm-Petrels. Other species that have been recorded include White Terns and Red-tailed Tropicbirds.

Day 5: Norfolk Island

Before or as we land here we will have to clear Australian Customs. (Please check whether you require an Australian visa as otherwise you might have to spend the day aboard.) Norfolk Island was a former Penal Colony and the island has been significantly modified, however, there are still some areas of forest and that is where we will spend the best part of the day. The four species we are keen to locate are the endemic Norfolk Island Parakeet, Slender-billed White-eye, Norfolk Robin and Norfolk Gerygone. Sadly, the Whitebellied White-eye appears to have followed several other endemics and is now considered to be extinct. Other birds recorded here include the Pacific Emerald Dove and Grey Fantail.

By mid-afternoon, we will say farewell to Norfolk and begin cruising north. The birding will continue from the ship and we will be on the look out for the Whitebellied Storm-Petrel, Providence Petrel and Little Shearwater – all species we have seen previously in these waters.

Day 6: At Sea

It should be good ‘birding’ today especially for the Pterodroma Petrels which could include  Tahiti, Collared, White-necked, Providence and Kermadec Petrels. If conditions are suitable a fish oil slick could bring in other species, especially the storm-petrels.

Day 7: New Caledonia

This small and tropical island has been described as a taste of France in the Pacific, and Melanesian traditions blend with French sophistication. New Caledonia is a fragment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, and it is believed that New Caledonia became detached and became an island tens of millions of years ago. It is this isolation which explains both the extent of biodiversity and the incredible levels of endemism on this delightful tropical island.

Today we journey to the Parc de la Rivière Bleue National Park which is located some 60km from Noumea. We plan a day here with local rangers searching for the endemics including the incomparable Kagu and highly range-restricted Crow Honeyeater. Other birds could include Horned and New Caledonian Parakeets, Yellowbellied Robin, New Caledonian (Goliath) Imperial Pigeon, Southern Melanesian and New Caledonian Cuckoo-shrikes, New Caledonian Goshawk, and Red-throated Parrotfinch.

We set sail in the late afternoon to be back out at sea ready for the next morning birding.

Day 8: New Caledonia

We will turn to the south a small amount before trying to locate or see what is being referred to as the ‘New Caledonian Storm-Petrel’. This bird was first sighted and photographed on the WPO expedition in 2008 and has been seen a number of times since then. Although it is undoubtedly closely related to New Zealand Storm-Petrel, there are a number of subtle, but important, differences and it is now generally considered that this is a long lost storm-petrel which was collected in Samoa almost 200 years ago and has not been seen since!!!

We will lay fish oil slicks in an attempt to attract this interesting bird and these chumming sessions will undoubtedly attract other species which could possibly include Short-tailed and Wedgetailed Shearwaters, as well as Tahiti, Providence, Gould’s and Collared Petrels.

The afternoon is spent heading north along the coast of New Caledonia towards the Solomon Islands.

Days 9 to 10: At Sea

The sea birding is generally not as intense as further south but is still equally enjoyable and rewarding. The one bird we really want to find is the Polynesian Storm-Petrel and in previous years we have had good success with this species off the New Caledonian coastline. In recent years, we have also seen and photographed Band-rumped Storm- Petrel on this leg, a species which was previously not considered to be present in the South West Pacific!

Other possibilities including both Kermadec, Herald, Collared and Tahiti Petrels as well as Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Red-footed Boobies, White-tailed Tropicbirds and both Great and Lesser Frigatebirds.

This is also time to catch up with diaries, checklists and downloading of photos.

Day 11: Rennell Island

A lone ‘Polynesian Outlier’ within the Solomon Island group (which are all Melanesian), this is a raised coral atoll, 86km long and 15km wide. Rennell is the largest example of this in the world. Originally Rennell was mostly covered in dense forest, but sadly the natives have been encouraged to sell logging rights to foreign companies and large tracts have been milled. Fortunately, the area where we bird has so far escaped logging.

We land in the morning and spend the best part of the day here. 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 Pacific Imperial Pigeon, Silver-capped Fruit-Dove, Singing Parrot, Melanesian Flycatcher, Cardinal Myzomela, Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot and Island Thrush. There will also be the chance to experience the culture and interact with the locals and possibly enjoy a snorkel.

Day 12: Anuta Island in the Makira Group

Makira Island is located in the eastern Solomons. It is the most easterly of the main islands in the archipelago. Anuta is a small inshore island on the western side. We anchor close to Anuta and local guides escort us along a disused forestry road that winds up and inland where there is still some decent forest. Here we can expect to see an exciting range of new species including many which are either endemic to Makira or otherwise only occur on a few other islands. These could include Sooty Myzomela, San Cristobal Melidectes, San Cristobal Starling, Makira Flycatcher, Makira Cicadabird, White-Collared Monarch, Mottled Flowerpecker, White-headed Fruit-Dove and Chestnut-bellied Imperial-Pigeon. Other species could include Red-knobbed and Island Imperial-Pigeons, Brahminy Kite, Pied Goshawk, Pacific Baza and Solomon Islands Sea Eagle.

Before departing we will enjoy the hospitality of the people in nearby Anuta Village, where the people are welcoming, and the children are inquisitive.

Day 13: Honiara

We will anchor off Honiara. It is an early morning departure from the ship to rendezvous with a fleet of 4WD vehicles to take you to nearby Mt Austin. The birding is quite exceptional here (it is a well known ‘birding’ spot) and there is the potential for a good list of endemics and other localized specialties. These could include Ultramarine Kingfisher, Yellow-eyed, Whitebellied and Solomons Cuckooshrikes, Common Cicadabird, Brown-winged and Singing Starling, Yellow-faced Myna, Chestnutbellied and Black and white Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher, Midget Flowerpecker, Olive-backed Sunbird and the Black-faced Myzomela. There should also be numbers of parrots and pigeons including the Cardinal and Yellowbibbed Lory, Singing and Eclectus Parrot, Finsch’s Pygmy Parrot, Ducorps’ Cockatoo, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo Dove, Red-knobbed Imperial-Pigeon and Claretbreasted and Superb Fruit-Doves.

Day 14: Santa Isabel Region, Barora Fa Island, Poru Channel

Today we will enjoy a full day exploring Santa Isabel and its surrounding islands, said to be

some of the most picturesque in the Solomon Islands archipelago. We will be off to an early start in the Zodiacs exploring the inlets and reef systems of the spectacular Poru Channel which winds its way between Barora Fa Island and Ghebira Island. We plan to land on Vakao Island where there will be a chance to stretch our legs as we explore the island’s verdant rainforest looking for birds and other wildlife. The species we hope to find here include the highly localized Yellow-throated White-eye and Red-capped Myzomela as well as Ultramarine Kingfisher and Blyth’s Hornbill.

After lunch, back aboard the ship we will head out again to choose a spot to while away the afternoon. You can go snorkeling and relax on the white sandy beach with a book or join our guides on another trip into the forest where we will look for Melanesian Megapode, Blackand-white Monarch and other specialties. This evening we will depart for Kolombangara.

Day 15: Kolombangara Island

Kolombangara is a dormant or semi-extinct volcano, 1,800m high and last active probably about 10,000 years ago. We plan to land at the settlement of Ringi Cove and gain some altitude as we head up into the hills to the Imbu Rano Conservation Area. This conservation reserve was set aside by the elders of the island who decided that logging of indigenous forests would cease 400m above sea level. Below the 400m mark a sustainable forestry industry of exotic timbers has been established growing mainly teak and eucalyptus. The lodge at the gateway to the reserve provides an uninterrupted view of the enormous forested crater of the Kolombangara volcano. It is there that we will meet local guides to escort us on a walk through the dense forest to view picturesque waterfalls and grottos. Birdlife will be plentiful and we hope to see the spectacular Solomon Islands Sea Eagle, Cardinal, Duchess and Meek’s Lorikeets, Kolombangara and Whitecapped 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.

In the afternoon, there will be time to enjoy a refreshing dip in the sea as we snorkel off the beach before the ship departs. On past voyages, we have encountered cetaceans as we sail these waters over the New Britain Trench so all eyes will be scanning the seas for the tell-tale signs of whale blows and leaping dolphins. Birders will also want to keep a lookout for the Heinroth’s Shearwater which also patrols this area.

We complete customs formalities here prior to departing the Solomon Islands tonight.

Day 16: At Sea

We are at sea today and our target bird is Heinroth’s Shearwater if we haven’t already seen it. Our course takes us up the coast of Bougainville before crossing a deep-water canyon known as the New Britain Trench. This area has proved very productive for cetaceans on previous voyages and the species we have seen include Sperm Whale, False Killer Whale, Fraser’s Dolphin and both Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whales.

Day 17: Off the coast of New Ireland

Our target bird today is the recently rediscovered Beck’s Petrel. We begin chumming at day-break in an area where we have found these birds on previous occasions. This area is also one where we have previously found Heinroth’s Shearwater, so we will also be on the lookout for this poorly known and very localized species. Thisis another area where a number of different species of cetaceans havebeen seen including Melon-headedWhale and Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whales.

Days 18 to 19: At Sea

Lazy and relaxing days at sea, you can bird (under a special shade area on the top deck)  download photos, write logs or notes or simply relax in the bar with a drink or a book. Our team will be maintaining a constant pelagic watch for birds and mammals and you are welcome to join them.

There are a number of species including Bulwer’s Petrels, Wedgetailed Shearwaters, White-tailed Tropicbirds, White and Sooty Terns and both Great and Lesser Frigatebirds that we could see and photograph.

Days 20 to 21: Caroline Islands

We will enter the protected (and historic) waters of the Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon late this afternoon. Once we are clear of Customs and if there is time after clearance has been given you are welcome to go ashore and enjoy an evenings birding or a quiet stroll through town.

We will (weather permitting) offer a couple of options for birding. On Weno Island where the ship will be berthed, you can walk around and there is a good chance we can see species such as Caroline Islands White-eye, Micronesian Myzomela, Micronesian Starling, Oceanic Flycatcher, Caroline Reed Warbler, Caroline Islands Swiftlet and the Purple-capped Fruit-Dove.

The other option will be to take a long Zodiac ride to Tol South Island where after a rather demanding climb (especially in the heat and humidity of these islands) there is a reasonable chance of seeing the endemic Faichuuk (or Great Truk) White-eye and the Chuuk Monarch.

If birding is not for you today then we can arrange a dive or snorkel in this historic harbour where there are countless Japanese ships and aircraft. These were sunk by the Americans in a surprise attack on February 17th 1944. We continue north this afternoon.

Days 22 to 25: At Sea

More lazy relaxing days at sea. Just remember ‘God does not deduct from ones allotted life span time spent sailing’ so just relax and enjoy. The birding is quiet in these latitudes but if you put in the time there are some good sightings to be had. Birds that we may see include 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 the newly described Bryan’s Shearwater. This area is also good for cetaceans especially Humpback Whales which are known to occur here in reasonable numbers.

Day 26: Chichi-jima

We clear Customs and Immigration into Japan at the largest of the Bonin Islands, Chichi-jima before taking some time to walk a little and explore the settlement and the surrounds area. Birds that we might be able to see are Blue Rock Thrush, Japanese White-eye, Brown-eared Bulbul and Japanese Bush Warbler.

Day 27: Haha-jima and Higashi Shima

We plan to land early in the morning on the rarely visited island of Hahajima which is the only place in the world where the stunning Bonin Honeyeater can be found. After spending the morning ashore, we will return to the ship for lunch and then head north to spend the late afternoon and evening off the east coast of Chichi-jima looking for the recently described and very rare Bryan’s Shearwaters. 

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 as close to shore as the Captain will permit in the hope of seeing the Short-tailed or Steller’s Albatross. Chumming will begin early morning and will continue for as long as it takes to bring the birds around. Other species that could be attracted by the chumming include both Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Streaked Shearwater, and both 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 through 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 hope to find Japanese Wood Pigeon and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. We will end our birding on the expedition by sailing close to some islets where it is possible to see Japanese Murrelet.

Day 31: Yokohama, Japan

After breakfast and arrival formalities have been completed in to Yokohama, we will disembark the vessel. There will be a complimentary transfer from the ship to Yokohama railway station.

We ask you not to book any onward flights (Domestic or International) until mid-afternoon to account for any delays and the time it takes to travel to the airports.

Note: 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.


Map
Featured Wildlife
Vessel
Ship Info

The Spirit of Enderby

The Spirit of Enderby is a fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for Expedition Travel.

She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in November 2009 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space.

On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs.

The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.

The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800’s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world.

Technical description:

Classification: Russian register KM ice class
Year built: 1984
Accommodation: 50 berths expedition
Shipyard: Finland
Main engines: power 2x1560 bhp (2x 1147 Kw)
Register: Russia
Maximum speed: 12 knots (2 engines),
Cruising speed: 10 knots(one engine)
Bunker capacity: 320 tons

 

Deck Plan

Spirit of Enderby deckplan

Cabin details:

Heritage Suite: Has a large lounge area, a separate bedroom with double bed, a single bed in the lounge, writing desk, wardrobe, drawers. There is a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. There are large forward and side facing windows to allow great views.

Mini Suites: Have a separate bedroom with a double bed and a single bed or a sofa in the lounge, wardrobe, drawers, a desk and a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. The Mini Suites have windows.

Superior Plus cabins: Have two lower berths, wardrobe, drawers, desk, a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.

Superior cabins: Have bunks (an upper and lower berth), wardrobe, drawers, a desk, a private bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin. These cabins have windows.

Main deck cabins: Have two lower berths, wardrobe, drawers, a desk, washbasin and porthole. The nearby showers and toilets are shared with other Main deck cabins.

Main deck triple: Has one bunk (one upper and one lower) and one lower berth, wardrobe, drawers, a desk and wash basin. The nearby showers and toilets are shared with other Main deck cabins.

 

Pricing

Main deck: $7,900 USD per person

Superior: $8,700 USD per person

Superior Plus: $9,200 USD per person

Mini Suite: $11,000 USD per person

Additional Charges: Discovery Fund (Payable on board): $600 USD per person

Prices include: Pre-cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions, transfer from ship to Yokohama railway station

Prices exclude: All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance.