Tauranga, AustraliaWelcome aboard. This afternoon if you are on deck there is a good chance you will see numerous species of seabirds, including Grey-faced, Cook’s and Black Petrel, Buller’s Shearwater and even a few albatross. There is a reasonable chance of seeing Pycroft’s Petrel, although a very good look would be needed to identify this species!
At SeaToday be passing through deep waters in prime Pterodroma petrel country and you are likely to see an impressive variety of these graceful birds. You are likely to encounter Black-winged, White-necked, Kermadec and Cook’s and there is always the chance of something really rare. If viewing conditions are good stand a reasonable chance of seeing the mighty Sperm Whale and the elusive Cuvier’s Beaked Whale.
L'Esperance Rock and Curtis/Cheeseman IslandsThese islands are havens for breeding seabirds and you are likely to encounter impressive numbers as you sail offshore. In addition to the more common species, be on the lookout for White-bellied Storm-Petrel and the Kermadec White-faced Storm-Petrel. You are also likely to encounter some tropical seabirds that occur nowhere else in New Zealand, such as Masked Booby, Red-tailed Tropicbird, and Black Noddy. The distinct local race of Bottlenose Dolphin often comes out to bow ride the ship as we approach these islands. If the weather and sea conditions are suitable Zodiac cruise (no landings are permitted) and possibly offer an opportunity to dive or snorkel at the later islands.
You will have two days scheduled for activities including diving, snorkeling and hikes ashore at Raoul Island. The weather and sea conditions will dictate your activities but you can be assured of a getting maximum time ashore or in the water snorkeling or diving. Galapagos Sharks are a feature of nearly every dive here and divers often have very close encounters with the massive and very inquisitive Spotted Black Grouper which has been fished out of most of its other haunts.
On shore the most interesting bird is the Kermadec Red-crowned Parakeet, often considered to be a distinct species endemic to these islands. Since the removal of rats, Spotless Crakes have increased greatly and it is probably the easiest place in the world to observe this very widespread but normally elusive species. Of course most of the birds on Raoul are seabirds and wyou are likely to have close encounters with Black Noddy, Grey Ternlet, White Tern and the beautiful Red-tailed Tropicbird.
At SeaThere is time to spend a few lazy hours at sea as you cruise north towards Tonga. These waters are rarely visited and virtually unknown ornithologically and you will be recording seabird and cetacean sightings with great interest. Some species you can hope to see out here include Tahiti and Collared Petrels.
Nuku'alofa - TongaAfter breakfast there will be an opportunity to go ashore and explore. There will be an optional a) birding/natural history tour, b) a cultural tour or c) a swimming/snorkeling tour or alternatively free time to simply explore the town.
Vava'u - TongaThe Vava’u Island group is a spectacular tropical island paradise. Some of the islands are ringed by white sand beaches while others have tropical forests, sea-level caves and dramatic limestone cliffs with breathtaking vistas. The climate is nearly always suitable for swimming and snorkeling, with crystal clear waters providing exceptional visibility. You will have the opportunity to enjoy the islands or swim and snorkel. Those in search of the endemic Tongan Whistler will have an opportunity to search an area of remnant forest on the main island. You could also encounter the near-endemic Blue-crowned Lorikeet today.
Nalafo'ou Island - TongaThis remote island is the northern most of the Tongan group of islands. It is the ultimate destination for birders and natural history enthusiasts in Tonga. Nuiafo’ou is home to the critically endangered endemic Tongan Megapode. Spend the day ashore enjoying the hospitality of the local people.
Vava'u - TongaReturn briefly to the island of Vavau to clear Tongan customs. Once this formality is complete begin your journey to Fiji.
At SeaA chance to relax and reflect on everything you have seen and done on this ‘Island Odyssey’. This day at sea again traveling through virtually unknown seabird waters and will keep a keen lookout. In particular, keep a sharp eye out for the critically endangered Fiji Petrel. Other species you may encounter include Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby and White-tailed Tropicbird.
Levuka - FijiHave a final round of lectures and presentations as well as recaps and briefings prior to your arrival in Fiji. Arrive at the Fijian island of Ovalau in the historic Port of Levuka formerly Fiji’s first capital, to experience Levuka is a step back into Fiji’s past and history. Complete customs formalities and explore the island; the remnant forests in the hills above Levuka offer an excellent introduction to the abundant and colorful birdlife of Fiji.
Suva - FijiArrive in Suva, the capital of Fiji, where you will say your farewells. There will be a complimentary transfer to a local Suva hotel and/or to the airport.