Ngaire Lawson is a frequent traveller with Heritage Expeditions - below she provides her feedback on her latest voyage - New Zealand's Remote Islands.
This was my third incredible Heritage Expeditions voyage aboard the Spirit of Enderby, two of them completed in Jan-Feb 2014 (In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton) and March 2014 (New Zealand's Remote Islands) and my earlier Russia Far East Voyage Across The Top of World in August 2012.
I was very excited to read about the forthcoming special sailing to the Antipodes, the Bounties and the Chatham Islands Archipelago which included the remote and difficult to get to islands of Forty Fours. I booked that same day!
The New Zealand's Remote Islands voyage was lead by the tireless, the entirely enthusiastic and most professional Rodney Russ. As I have experienced previously, Rodney's supporting team rose admirably to the tasks of keeping the expeditioners well informed, well fed, and very, very happy with superb zodiac exploration of the up-close fauna and geology and thousands of photographic opportunities. Several clients were world class wild life photographers. Other clients had travelled great distances from other parts of the globe for the exceedingly rare opportunities to sight some of the world's rarest and endangered bird species. One of these species is the endemic Bounty Island Shag, another the Shore Plover which breed only on Rangatira Island. At the Antipodes, a lone King Penguin was observed enduring the catastrophic moult, along with thousands of Erect Crested Penguins, also in the process of the annual moult. Hundreds of New Zealand Fur seals co-habited with the penguins. There were also good sightings of the endemic Antipode parakeets and the Antipodes subspecies of Pipit. Several immature bachelor elephant seals slumbered in intimate heaps on the wave polished volcanic boulders of the tidal zone.
While The Bounty Islands lack soil and flora (nil on both accounts) the granite rocks support many thousands of birds and New Zealand Fur Seals. Sea conditions for deploying the zodiacs were marginal to say the least, due to 2-3 meter swells and tidal currents. However, with the help of expert sailing by the diligent Russian crew and the equally adept handling of the zodiacs, Rodney and his staff managed to get 14 of us safely into three zodiacs and we spent a magical hour exploring the tidal edges of the kelp encrusted granite rock, observing fur seal adults and creches of very young pups, erect crested penguins either side of the catastrophic moult, marched the penguin highways of eons, returning or fro fishing expeditions, haughty Salvin's albatross chicks sat upon their ancestral pedestalled nests, rafts of Bounty Island shags swam close to the almost stationary zodiacs while rafts of Erect Crested penguins dived or porpoised away from us.
The Heritage staff onboard included the athletic Rowley Taylor who first visited the Sub Antarctic Islands as a 22 year year old and would be celebrating the 60th anniversary of that first life changing trip. His enthusiasm for the outstanding beauty, ruggedness, remoteness and the huge array of species has not diminished in the least over the decades.
Rhys Richards has an on-going love affair of many decades with the Chatham Islands and imparted his vast historical knowledge and the understanding of current ongoing changes which the Islands and Islanders are experiencing.
Mike Bell, Secretary of the Taiko Trust and a very much a hand's-on, in-the-field conservationist humbly shared his passion for his work and the intimate knowledge of the wildlife of the Chathams and their outer islands.
Overall, it is a very rare opportunity to visit some of the least visited, the remotest and least known islands in the world, and to witness the huge array of pelagic species which inhabit these seemingly hostile, stunningly beautiful habitats and natural environments.
And who cannot be moved by the ever changing light, the multitudes of blue hues of the ocean's restless textures, the dances of the petrels on the wave crests and the simply breathtaking witnessing of the beauty and ease of many of the world's species of albatross skimming these latitudes for decades.
The visions remain long after the journey.