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WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY

New Zealand to Japan

Birdquest's Western Pacific Odyssey birding tour is a remarkable 'positioning cruise' from New Zealand to Japan that not only offers fantastic seabirding in two hemispheres but also visits Norfolk Island, New Caledonia (with its remarkable Kagu, the sole member of its family), the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Truk (or Chuuk) in Micronesia. Now available in two separate parts, South West Pacific Odyssey from New Zealand to Papua New Guinea and Pacific Pelagic Odyssey from Papua New Guinea to Japan.

Sunday 17th March — Tuesday 16th April 2019
(31 days)


Leaders: Chris Collins and and other Heritage Expeditions leaders

Group Size Limit: ship capacity

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

Close encounters with the magnificent Short-tailed Albatrosses of Torishima will hopefully be the climax of our amazing voyage (image courtesy of Heritage expeditions)

Close encounters with the magnificent Short-tailed Albatrosses of Torishima will hopefully be the climax of our amazing voyage (image courtesy of Heritage expeditions)

When one thinks of the remote places on our planet, one often thinks of the far flung polar regions or the difficult to reach high mountain ranges such as the Andes or the Himalayas. With four fifths of the globe covered in water, some of the most difficult areas to reach and explore are the great oceans and in particular the vast Pacific Ocean, where a number of endemic seabirds and landbirds are quite literally way off the beaten track. Anyone who has been on an expedition at sea will know just how exciting it is, and what a privilege it can be to be cast into the middle of the most difficult habitat to access, surrounded by seabirds that few have had the opportunity to see.

This particular voyage has been designed by birders for birders, taking advantage of the fact that the ship has to move from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, passing through many little known and seldom explored areas. Whilst it could never be a comprehensive birding trip to the areas it visits, it does give some great opportunities to get a taste of the birds of the region. During the voyage, we will cover over 5,000 nautical miles, taking us right across the Western Pacific from New Zealand to Japan. En route, we will visit several remote islands and atolls, themselves home to some exciting endemic birds, and we should also encounter some rarely seen cetaceans. It is a unique opportunity for those who love the thrill of a cruise in the Pacific, and in particular, for the seabird enthusiast, gives one a fantastic opportunity to see a great cross-section of the seabirds inhabiting the western parts of this vast ocean.

Our adventure will begin at Tauranga, situated in the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s North Island, and we will spend our first day at sea looking for seabirds as we pass the outer reaches of the productive Hauraki Gulf. Here we hope to find such interesting species as Grey-faced and Black Petrels, Little Shearwater, Grey Noddy and the recently rediscovered New Zealand Storm Petrel.

We will then make our way towards Norfolk Island. As well as several species of albatross more associated with colder water, we will also be on the lookout for a number of interesting petrels, such as Black-winged, White-necked, Tahiti and Kermadec Petrels. Weather permitting, our first landing will be on Norfolk Island, where we hope to find the endemic Norfolk Island Parakeet, Norfolk Island Gerygone and Slender-billed White-eye, as well as the more widespread Pacific Robin.

We will continue on our way north to New Caledonia, looking out for new seabirds, such as Collared and Gould’s Petrels, as we go. On New Caledonia, a visit to the Rivière Bleue National Park will be the highlight, for here we can find most of the New Caledonian endemics including the curious and unique Kagu. Other endemics may include New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon, Horned Parakeet, Southern Shrikebill, Yellow-bellied Robin, Streaked Fantail and Red-faced Parrotfinch and, with luck, Crow Honeyeater and Cloven-feathered Dove.

During our passage to the Solomon Islands we will again keep our eyes on the sea and should find more interesting species such as Providence Petrel and Polynesian Storm-Petrel. In the Solomon Islands we aim to visit four islands: Rennell, Makira, Gaudalcanal and Kolombangara, and although the montane endemics which require time and effort will be out of the question, we hope to see a good number (around a third) of the Solomon endemics, with highlights likely to include Rennell Shrikebill, Rennell Fantail, Rennell Starling, Rennell White-eye and Bare-eyed White-eye on Rennell; Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, White-headed Fruit Dove, Ochre-headed Flycatcher, San Cristobal Starling, San Cristobal Melidectes, Sooty Myzomela and Mottled Flowerpecker on Makira; Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Ducorps’s Cockatoo, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Buff-headed Coucal, the striking Ultramarine Kingfisher, Brown-winged Starling, Black-faced Myzomela and Midget Flowerpecker on Guadalcanal and Yellow-vented Myzomela, White-capped Monarch, Solomon Islands White-eye and, with luck, Roviana Rail on Kolombangara. We will also find some of the more widespread endemics such as the impressive Solomon Sea-Eagle and a number of splendid pigeons and parrots.

After our action packed four days in the Solomons, we will head for Bougainville and New Ireland where, although we will not be landing, we will be hoping for two rare and very poorly known seabirds, Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater.

Part 1 of the voyage starts in New Zealand and ends at the port of Kokopo in New Britain, while Part 2 starts at Kokop and ends in Yokohama, the port of Tokyo, in Japan.

The passage north through equatorial waters is likely to see a lull in bird activity before we arrive in Micronesia. On Truk (or Chuuk), we will seek a series of endemics which include the delightful Caroline Islands Ground Dove, Caroline Islands Swiftlet, Caroline Islands Reed Warbler, Oceanic Flycatcher, Micronesian Myzomela, Caroline Islands White-eye and Micronesian Starling and, if weather permits, we will visit Tol South to look for Truk Monarch and, for those who can climb into the island’s interior, Truk (or Faichuuk) White-eye.

It is then a long, and for periods quiet, passage to the Bonin Islands, though we should pick up our first Bannerman’s Shearwaters, Bonin Petrels and Matsudaira’s Storm-Petrels on this leg. Eventually we will arrive in the vicinity of Torishima Island, home of the much-wanted Short-tailed Albatross, surely one of the greatest prizes of this epic voyage.

Having hopefully feasted our eyes on this rare bird (we are not able to go closer than 12 nautical miles to the island and are unlikely to see more than small numbers) we will head for the mainland of Japan, looking out for Streaked Shearwaters, Tristram’s Storm-Petrels and Japanese Murrelets en route. Our adventure will come to an end with our arrival at the port of Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

We shall be sailing on the Professor Khromov (capacity 48 passengers), a ship operated by Heritage Expeditions (who call her Spirit of Enderby). Ships of this class are Finnish-built vessels under Russian registry that were built in the 1980s and early 1990s under commission from the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. They were originally intended for oceanographic research, but were subsequently adapted for expedition-style cruising following the financial cutbacks that later affected all formerly Soviet research programmes. These ships are, of course, not ‘cruise ships’ in the traditional manner and will appeal most to those for whom exploring wild places and enjoying wild nature, rather than enjoying luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers, are the prime attractions.

Cabins are furnished with two berths and have some storage space and an outside view (many having en-suite bathroom facilities). Public facilities include restaurant, lounge/bar, lecture facilities and library. Food is plentiful, of good quality, waiter-served and prepared by European, New Zealand or Australian chefs. The ship carries a small complement of guest lecturers, including a naturalist, who give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the region and also guide shore excursions.

As much of the sailing as possible is done at night, thus maximizing opportunities for going ashore and enjoying the beautiful islands and landscapes to the full, though clearly with so much ground to cover, several full days will be spent at sea too. Landings are carried out by means of a fleet of zodiacs, the rugged, fast-moving inflatables developed by Jacques Cousteau for expedition work which allow safe landings on remote coastlines in all types of conditions. The sheer speed and efficiency with which the crew carry out these landings, coupled with the small complement of passengers, allows everyone plenty of time ashore. Further information about the cruise, including photographs and details of the ship layout, including cabin layouts, are available on the Heritage Expeditions website (www.heritage-expeditions.com). The great advantage of taking this particular cruise, if you are especially interested in seeing the fantastic wildlife of the remote Western Pacific, is that the itinerary and day to day schedule are strongly wildlife-orientated, and the group will greatly benefit by having our experienced ornithologist guide.

Birdquest has operated Western Pacific Odyssey tours since 2011.

(Note: The above is a summary of the tour. For more information please download the detailed, day-by-day itinerary. The button is at the top right of the page.)

Accommodation & Road Transport: For details of the ship, see the introductory section. During the cruise, any transport on land is usually by coach.

Walking: The walking effort is easy almost throughout, but there is the possibility of an optional strenuous uphill hike on Tol South, if time and weather allows (an easy alternative birding option will also be offered).

Climate: During this epic voyage we will experience a wide variety of climates! In New Zealand at the beginning of the trip, conditions at this time of year are typically cool, with sunny periods and showers. As we head north the climate will gradually become warmer and by the time we reach New Caledonia it will be very warm and fairly humid. Further north, from the Solomons until the Bonin Islands, it will generally be hot and humid, with a mixture of dry and sunny weather and overcast, rainy periods. Further north in Japan, conditions are likely to be cooler and less humid, with the possibility of rain. There is the possibility of some windy weather at sea, and during these periods, it can feel distinctly cooler.

Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities are quite good.

Important: Please bear in mind that circumstances may be encountered during the voyage which will make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the planned itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather conditions and unexpected opportunities for making additional zodiac excursions. The ship’s expedition leader will keep us fully informed throughout.

Prices and dates are provisional

Tour Price: For Tauranga/Yokohama cruise-only arrangements:

£5448 or $7900 (€7117) in a Main Deck cabin with shared bathroom facilities

£6000 or $8700 (€7838) in a Superior cabin with a private bathroom.

£6345 or $9200 (€8288) in a Superior Plus cabin with a private bathroom.

£7586 or $11000 (€9910) in a Mini Suite cabin with a private bathroom.

In addition, there will be a charge to cover landing fees levied by the local government and a contribution to the Discovery Fund (which goes mainly to local causes in the areas the ship visits) of US$600 per person, payable in cash on board.

Kindly note that this tour is priced in Pounds and US Dollars. Please note that prices in Pounds are fixed and will not vary if the exchange rate between the Pound and the US Dollar changes.

Prices in Euros are only indicative and based on the exchange rate prevailing at the time of calculation: €1 = US$ 1.11. If you are paying in Euros your deposit and final balance payment due will be calculated according to the exchange rate prevailing at the time.

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

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew, and the airport transfers to and from the ship, are not included in the tour price. Gratuities are entirely at your discretion. The staff work very long hours to make such cruises a success, including a great deal of night sailing, and we have been told that most passengers give gratuities of around USD$310-465 for such a 31 days cruise.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants not already in New Zealand travel out a day early and spend a night in Auckland. The same applies to departure from Kokopo. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving a day early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request.

Single Room/Cabin Supplement: Single occupancy of most twin-berth cabins can be obtained in return for an 80% supplement on top of the Tauranga/Yokohama cruise-only price (but suites require a 100% supplement). 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).

If you are paying the deposit in Pounds Sterling or Euros rather than in US Dollars, please contact us before sending payment so that we can provide you with the appropriate figure based on the current exchange rate.

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

Cancellation Charges: For cancellations made 180 days or more before departure, the cancellation charge is US$850 per person or equivalent. For cancellations made 91-179 days before departure, the cancellation charge is 100% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 1-90 days before departure, or on the day of departure or later, the cancellation charge is 100% of the tour price.

Important: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants not taking our shore-based programme, or otherwise already in New Zealand, travel out a day early and spend a night in Auckland. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor ourselves can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving a day early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request if you do not wish to take our standard shore-based arrangements.

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.

Our visit to the wonderful island of New Caledonia will revolve around seeing the fantastic Kagu, a bird in its own unique family (János Oláh)

Our visit to the wonderful island of New Caledonia will revolve around seeing the fantastic Kagu, a bird in its own unique family (János Oláh)

The wonderful Rennell Shrikebill is one of the more charismatic Solomon endemics that we hope to find (Brian Field)

The wonderful Rennell Shrikebill is one of the more charismatic Solomon endemics that we hope to find (Brian Field)

By the end of the voyage we will have accumulated a fantastic set of seabirds including gems such as the dainty White-faced Storm-Petrel (Pete Morris)

By the end of the voyage we will have accumulated a fantastic set of seabirds including gems such as the dainty White-faced Storm-Petrel (Pete Morris)

New Zealand waters are rich in seabirds and we shall begin our voyage with plenty to look at, with such goodies as Cook's Petrel (Pete Morris)

New Zealand waters are rich in seabirds and we shall begin our voyage with plenty to look at, with such goodies as Cook's Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Buller's Shearwater (Pete Morris)

... Buller's Shearwater (Pete Morris)

... Black Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Black Petrel (Pete Morris)

... and Australian Gannet (Pete Morris)

... and Australian Gannet (Pete Morris)

We're also likely to encounter a few albatrosses such as Campbell Island Albatross (Pete Morris)

We're also likely to encounter a few albatrosses such as Campbell Island Albatross (Pete Morris)

Heading on to New Caledonia, we will be searching dor a number of endemics, including the spectacular Kagu (Richard Thomas)

Heading on to New Caledonia, we will be searching dor a number of endemics, including the spectacular Kagu (Richard Thomas)

At sea, as we head for the Solomon Islands, we will be keeping a careful eye out for goodies such as the rare Heinroth's Shearwater (Brian Field)

At sea, as we head for the Solomon Islands, we will be keeping a careful eye out for goodies such as the rare Heinroth's Shearwater (Brian Field)

In the Solomons, we will look for a number of special endemics such as the superb Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove (Brian Field)

In the Solomons, we will look for a number of special endemics such as the superb Claret-breasted Fruit-Dove (Brian Field)

... the rather dowdy Rennell Fantail (Brian Field)

... the rather dowdy Rennell Fantail (Brian Field)

... the impressive Solomon Islands Sea-Eagle (Brian Field)

... the impressive Solomon Islands Sea-Eagle (Brian Field)

... and the lovely Ultramarine Kingfisher (Brian Field)

... and the lovely Ultramarine Kingfisher (Brian Field)

As we head north of the equator, we'll pass through Micronesia and then enter waters where we'll find a new set of seabirds including Bonin Petrel (Pete Morris)

As we head north of the equator, we'll pass through Micronesia and then enter waters where we'll find a new set of seabirds including Bonin Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Bulwer's Petrel (Pete Morris)

... Bulwer's Petrel (Pete Morris)

... and as we approach Japan, Streaked Shearwater, which will become abundant  (Pete Morris)

... and as we approach Japan, Streaked Shearwater, which will become abundant (Pete Morris)

And with a little luck, we'll find the rare Japanese Murrelet (Pete Morris)

And with a little luck, we'll find the rare Japanese Murrelet (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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