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PITCAIRN, HENDERSON & THE TUAMOTUS

Pitcairn Birding Tours: our Pitcairn, Henderson and Tuamotus, French Polynesia bird watching holiday is one of those epic birding tours to the back of beyond where we always wonder whether the next trip will be the last, simply because finding a boat available to do this remote islands cruise is far from certain. This remarkable journey takes in islands that really are tropical paradises, with extraordinary seabirds (so tame you can almost touch them), trusting little Tuamotu Sandpipers and many other wonderful endemics of this largely uninhabited and very special ‘Edge of the World’ place.

Tuesday 3rd October — Tuesday 17th October 2017
(15 days)


Leader: Pete Morris

Group Size Limit: 12

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and fairly comfortable accommodations

The Tuamotu Sandpiper is one of those birds you see in books but never believe you have a chance of seeing! Join us on this fantastic voyage and your dream will come true! (Pete Morris)

The Tuamotu Sandpiper is one of those birds you see in books but never believe you have a chance of seeing! Join us on this fantastic voyage and your dream will come true! (Pete Morris)

How many chances does one have to visit a scattering of largely uninhabited tropical islands where deserted white sand beaches are fringed with luxuriant vegetation, haunted by rarely seen endemics, and the seas are enlivened by a host of little-known seabirds? Not many, but here is one fantastic opportunity! Add into the mix the romance and violence of the Mutiny on the Bounty story, the classic, real-life tale of putting love before duty and its tragic consequences, and you have something extraordinarily alluring.

The Polynesian triangle between Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island stretches about 8000 kilometres across the central Pacific Ocean. This vast area is dotted with numerous tropical islands, many of them of volcanic origin and never connected to the continents. Amongst this scattering of tiny isolated dots on the map of the world, there are two broad island types: the first being the high volcanic islands where erosion has produced gentle windward slopes that often contrast with the steep and rugged leeward cliffs, frequently encircled by fringing reefs. The second consists of the low-lying islands, mostly coral atolls or raised former atolls. Both island types have evolved endemic birds, reptiles, plants and insects, the existence of many of which is under threat from introduced rats and human activity, and during our travels we shall explore fascinating examples of each.

This exciting journey focuses on some of the rarest and most exciting island birds in the entire Pacific region. French Polynesia covers a vast expanse of the South Pacific, equivalent to a region stretching from Finland to Spain! Its farthest flung outposts are the remote Gambier Islands at the eastern end of the Tuamotu Archipelago, and still more remote, far beyond the Gambiers, are Pitcairn and Henderson islands.

We will be cruising amongst the islands on MV Braveheart, a very well equipped and comfortable supply vessel, 39 metres (128 feet) in length, with capacity for 12 passengers plus expedition staff and crew. Braveheart has been converted for expedition-style cruising and other purposes and is based in New Zealand. The vessel has air-conditioned twin-berth cabins and there are several toilets and two showers. She has modern safety equipment and two naiads (inflatables with rigid hulls) for making landings in remote areas. There is a spacious dining area and a smaller lounge/library area with DVD player, power points for computers etc. A large, shaded area on the deck is excellent for seawatching. She offers much more space and comfort than a yacht and is the perfect kind of vessel for an expedition-style cruise of this nature.

On the way to join this expedition you will travel via Tahiti, the largest and highest of the Society Islands. Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, is a cosmopolitan city with over 100,000 people and will provide a great contrast with sparsely inhabited or uninhabited islands you are soon to visit. Here, on this beautiful island, many of the Bounty’s crew fell for the local ladies, and from here they eventually set sail to seek refuge from the King’s justice on remote Pitcairn Island.

From Papeete you will travel far to the southeast, to Mangaréva in the remote Gambier Islands. Here we will board our vessel and set sail for the end of the world, or so it will seem to us.

First we will explore famous Pitcairn Island, last refuge of the Bounty mutineers, their Tahitian ladies and some male relatives (the ancestral mix of today’s Pitcairn islanders), where Pitcairn Reed Warbler will be the main target.

Moving on to uninhabited Henderson Island, we will be looking for the fearless Henderson Island Crake, Henderson Island Fruit Dove, the stunning Stephen’s Lorikeet and Henderson Reed Warbler, while on Oeno we will see an extraordinary seabird colony at eyeball to eyeball distance.

In the Actaeon Group in the easternmost Tuamotus we will visit Tenararo, home to that Holy Grail of Pacific birding, the extraordinary little Tuamotu Sandpiper (surely one of the most endearing birds of the trip). Considered one of the rarest shorebirds in the world, this unusual endemic species is most definitely a long-dreamed-of bird for many people. Tenararo is also the haunt of Atoll Fruit Dove, the delightful Polynesian Ground-Dove and the endangered Bristle-thighed Curlew (another of the world’s rarest shorebirds, the majority of which winter in the Tuamotus).

To cap it all, as we sail between these tiny specks in the vastness of the Pacific, we are going to see the most glorious collection of tropical and subtropical seabirds possible, including Tahiti, Phoenix, Murphy’s, Kermadec, Herald and Henderson Petrels, Christmas and Tropical Shearwaters, Polynesian Storm Petrel, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Spectacled (or Grey-backed), Sooty and Common White Terns, and Black, Brown, Grey and perhaps Blue Noddies, plus a selection of visitors to the area such as Juan Fernandez, Collared and Cape Petrels, and perhaps White-bellied Storm Petrel.

All in all, this is a remarkable opportunity to explore one of the most remote and least touched places on planet Earth today, and see some of our world’s most seldom-seen birds! Put simply, this wonderful voyage is sheer magic!

Birdquest has operated tours to Pitcairn, Henderson and the eastern Tuamotus since 2008.

Accommodation: For details of Braveheart, please see the tour introduction. Kindly note that, as there are so few cabins, it may be necessary to have male/female sharing in one cabin if the boat is full. Bookings are only accepted on the basis that you will consent if this is necessary.

Walking: The walking effort is easy to moderate.

Climate: Warm or hot and humid. Occasional rain is likely. At sea it can feel noticeably cooler, especially early and late in the day.

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

Tour Price: £8580, €10300, $11640 Mangareva/Mangareva.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants ashore, leader services.

Single Room Supplement: Single occupancy of twin-berth cabins can be obtained in return for a 100% supplement on top of the tour price. Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement.

Deposit: 25% of the tour price (including any single supplement).

Kindly note that the balance due will be invoiced around 5 months before departure for payment not later than 120 days before departure.

Base prices for this tour are in New Zealand Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = NZD 1.890, €1 = NZD 1.575 and $1 = NZD 1.390.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The critically endangered Polynesian Ground-Dove, like so many species in the region, has been pushed to the brink of extinction by introduced rats (Pete Morris)

The critically endangered Polynesian Ground-Dove, like so many species in the region, has been pushed to the brink of extinction by introduced rats (Pete Morris)

Bristle-thighed Curlews are relatively common winter visitors to these shores (Pete Morris)

Bristle-thighed Curlews are relatively common winter visitors to these shores (Pete Morris)

Rarely seen seabirds include the smart Murphy's Petrel (Rainer Ertel)

Rarely seen seabirds include the smart Murphy's Petrel (Rainer Ertel)

Our vessel for the voyage - the MV Braveheart (Derek Scott)

Our vessel for the voyage - the MV Braveheart (Derek Scott)

It will be hard to get too much of the splendid Tuamotu Sandpipers, even seeing them perching in trees!! (Pete Morris)

It will be hard to get too much of the splendid Tuamotu Sandpipers, even seeing them perching in trees!! (Pete Morris)

Bristle-thighed Curlews should give us plenty of great views (Pete Morris)

Bristle-thighed Curlews should give us plenty of great views (Pete Morris)

Endemic landbirds include the stunning Henderson Fruit Dove (Phil Tizzard)

Endemic landbirds include the stunning Henderson Fruit Dove (Phil Tizzard)

... the smart Stephen's Lorikeet (Phil Tizzard)

... the smart Stephen's Lorikeet (Phil Tizzard)

... the secretive Henderson Crake (Rainer Ertel)

... the secretive Henderson Crake (Rainer Ertel)

... and the less impressive Pitcairn Reed Warbler (Phil Tizzard)

... and the less impressive Pitcairn Reed Warbler (Phil Tizzard)

... and Henderson Reed Warbler (Derek Scott)

... and Henderson Reed Warbler (Derek Scott)

It's a brilliant trip for little-known and seldom seen seabirds such as Phoenix Petrel (Rainer Ertel)

It's a brilliant trip for little-known and seldom seen seabirds such as Phoenix Petrel (Rainer Ertel)

... Tahiti Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Tahiti Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Henderson Petrel (Rainer Ertel)

... Henderson Petrel (Rainer Ertel)

... Herald Petrel (Phil Tizzard)

... Herald Petrel (Phil Tizzard)

... Murphy's Petrel (Derek Scott)

... Murphy's Petrel (Derek Scott)

... and the seldom-seen Christmas Shearwater (Phil Tizzard)

... and the seldom-seen Christmas Shearwater (Phil Tizzard)

There are plenty of more common and widespread seabirds such as Brown Booby too! (Pete Morris)

There are plenty of more common and widespread seabirds such as Brown Booby too! (Pete Morris)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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