The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Australia & The Pacific Islands

WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY – New Zealand to New Ireland or on to Japan via some far flung Pacific Islands

Thursday 13th March – Thursday 27th March 2025

Leaders: Mark Van Beirs and Heritage Expeditions leaders

15 Days Group Size Limit 15
New Ireland to Japan Extension

Thursday 27th March – Sunday 6th April 2025

11 Days Group Size Limit 15

WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY: OVERVIEW

Western Pacific Odyssey birding tours are remarkable ‘positioning cruises’ from New Zealand to Japan that not only offer remarkable pelagic birdwatching in two hemispheres but also plan to visit Norfolk Island, New Caledonia (with its remarkable Kagu, the sole member of its family), Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Bougainville and New Ireland Islands in Papua New Guinea and the Bonin (or Ogasawara) and Tori-shima Islands off Japan. This is most definitely a birding tour with a difference!

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 a birding 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, encountering seabirds that few have had the opportunity to see.

The Western Pacific Odyssey birding tour 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, Western Pacific Odyssey does give some opportunities to get a taste of the landbirds of the region. During the Western Pacific Odyssey 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 a number of islands, 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.

This adventurous Western Pacific Odyssey birding tour begins at Auckland, situated on New Zealand’s North Island, and we will spend our first full 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 relatively 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.

Our first landing will be on Norfolk Island, where we hope to find the endemic Norfolk (Island) Parakeet, Norfolk (Island) Gerygone, Norfolk (Island) Robin and Slender-billed White-eye.

Western Pacific Odyssey continues north to New Caledonia, and we can keep a lookout 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 (and at Mount Koghi) 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 will visit famous Guadalcanal Island where we may encounter Ultramarine Kingfisher, Solomons Cockatoo, Guadalcanal Crow, the huge Sanford’s (or Solomons) Sea Eagle, Pied Goshawk, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Cardinal and Yellow-bibbed Lorys, Buff-headed Coucal, the spectacular Blyth’s Hornbill, the attractive Solomons Cuckooshrike, Black-headed Myzomela, Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher, Brown-winged Starling, Long-tailed Myna and Midget Flowerpecker.

From the Solomons, Western Pacific Odyssey heads for Bougainville and New Ireland in Papua New Guinea where we will be hoping for two rare and very poorly known seabirds, Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater.

A landing on Bougainville could turn up Sanford’s (or Solomons) Sea Eagle, Solomons Cockatoo, Ultramarine Kingfisher and the endemic Bougainville Crow, Bougainville Monarch, Bougainville White-eye, and perhaps the secretive Bougainville Bush Warbler. Other new birds to look for include Yellow-throated White-eye, Solomons Monarch, Red-capped Myzomela, Pale Mountain Pigeon, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove and Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon.

At Kavieng in New Ireland, where the main part of the cruise ends, we will try to find the endemic Mottled Mannikin. Other possibilities here include Variable Goshawk, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon and Bismarck Crow.

The optional extension to Western Pacific Odyssey is then a long, and for periods quiet, passage to the Bonin Islands, situated far to the south of Japan. We should, however, pick up our first Bannerman’s Shearwaters, Bonin Petrels and Matsudaira’s StormPetrels on this leg.

Eventually, we will arrive in the Bonin Islands, where we will visit Chichi-jima in search of the rare Bryan’s Shearwater and Haha-jima in search of the endemic Bonin White-eye and Bonin Greenfinch.

As we head for the Japanese mainland we will stop not far from Torishima Island, home of the much-wanted Short-tailed Albatross, surely one of the greatest prizes of this epic voyage. As we continue our journey we can also expect Streaked Shearwaters and Tristram’s StormPetrels.

Western Pacific Odyssey will come to an end with our arrival at the port of Osaka.

We shall be sailing on the Heritage Adventurer (capacity: 140 passengers), a ship operated by Heritage Expeditions. She was constructed in Finland’s Rauma Shipyard, was launched in 1991 and was formerly known as the Hanseatic. Heritage Adventurer is 8378 tons and is 124 metres (407ft) long and has the highest passenger ship ice-class rating (1A Super) and has an impressive history of Polar exploration. She has held records for the most northerly and most southerly Arctic and Antarctic navigations, and for traversing both the Northwest and Northeast Passages. It is important to understand that expedition-style passenger ships are, of course, not cruise ships in the traditional manner and will appeal most to those who wish to explore wild places and enjoy wild nature, rather than enjoy huge and luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers.

Cabins are furnished with one to three beds (depending on category) and have private bathrooms, some storage space and an outside view. Public facilities include a restaurant, a lounge/bar, lecture facilities and a library. Food is plentiful, of good quality, mostly waiter-served and prepared by experienced chefs. The ship carries a complement of expedition staff, including one or more naturalists, who guide shore excursions (and point out seabirds and cetaceans at sea in the case of the birders/naturalists among them) and give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the region. Landings in places without suitable piers are carried out by using zodiacs.

Further information about the ship, including photographs and details of the ship layout, including cabin layouts, are available on the Heritage Expeditions website at this address: https://www.heritage-expeditions.com/about/ships/heritage-adventurer/

Heritage Expeditions, who operate this cruise, always have two or more experienced birders/ornithologists amongst their expedition leaders.

A Birdquest guide will also accompany the cruise provided numbers permit.

Birdquest has operated Western Pacific Odyssey birding tours since 2011.

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 during the Western Pacific Odyssey birding tour is easy almost throughout, but there is the possibility of an optional strenuous uphill hike on Tol South if time and weather allow (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 during the Western Pacific Odyssey birding tour are quite good.

Important: It should be noted that the ship Heritage Expeditions nowadays uses for this cruise is much larger than the 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby/Professor Khromov that was used up to 2019 and there will be a large number of non-birders on board. Birding excursions may be open to all passengers, making for large overall numbers and larger sub-groups visiting the sites on land.

Important: Please bear in mind that circumstances may be encountered during the voyage which will make it necessary to deviate from the planned itinerary. These circumstances include poor weather conditions and the decisions of local authorities. The ship’s expedition leader will keep you fully informed throughout.

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 at least a day early and spend at least one 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 early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Experiencing the most amazing variety of tubenoses available on any single voyage, from the albatrosses of New Zealand to the Bonin Petrels of Japan
  • Finding an excellent array of cetaceans as we move through the Pacific from south to north
  • Great chances for poorly-known southwest Pacific seabirds including Beck’s Petrel, Heinroth’s Shearwater and New Zealand and 'New Caledonia' Storm Petrels
  • Visiting remote Norfolk Island for its endemic Norfolk Parakeet, Norfolk Gerygone, Norfolk Robin and Slender-billed White-eye
  • Sailing towards New Caledonia, watching Kermadec, Gould's, Collared and Black-winged Petrels and a plethora of other seabirds
  • Visiting New Caledonia for amazing views of the unique Kagu, sole member of its family, and a majority of the other endemics
  • Enjoying day trips on Gaudalcanal and Bougainville for an array of Solomon endemics, including the huge Solomons Sea Eagle, the rare Solomons Cockatoo and the excellent Ultramarine Kingfisher
  • Pausing at the equator for an optional swim!
  • Visiting the remote Bonin (or Ogasawara) Islands for Bonin White-eye, Bonin Greenfinch and hopefully the seldom-seen Bryan's Shearwater and Bonin Honeyeater
  • Birding the rich seas south of Japan with Bonin Petrel, Bannerman’s Shearwater and Tristram’s and Matsudaiara’s Storm Petrels
  • Lying off Tori-shima Island, last stronghold of the Short-tailed Albatross
  • Completing such an amazing journey, from New Zealand to Japan!

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • MAIN CRUISE (NEW ZEALAND TO NEW IRELAND)
  • Day 1: Embark at Auckland, New Zealand this afternoon. Set sail this evening.
  • Day 2: Hauraki Gulf and beyond.
  • Day 3: Heading for Norfolk Island.
  • Day 4: Norfolk Island.
  • Day 5: Heading for New Caledonia.
  • Days 7- 7: Rivière Bleue and the Kagu.
  • Days 8-10: Heading for the Solomon Islands.
  • Day 11: Honiara on Guadalcanal Island.
  • Day 12: Heading for Bougainville.
  • Day 13: Bougainville Island.
  • Day 14: Heading for New Ireland.
  • Day 15: Disembark at Kavieng, New Ireland Island.
  • NEW IRELAND TO JAPAN EXTENSION
  • Day 15: Shore excursion at Kavieng, New Ireland Island.
  • Days 16-20: Heading for the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands south of Japan.
  • Days 21-22: Chichi-jima and Haha-jima in the Bonin Islands.
  • Day 23: Tori-shima island.
  • Day 24: Heading for Osaka.
  • Day 25: Arrive at Osaka. Disembark this morning.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals, landing fees and entrance fees.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew 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 between USD$300-450 at the end of the main cruise or between $500-750 at the end of the full cruise. What you elect to give is entirely up to you.

Deposit: 25% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

Kindly note that the balance due will be invoiced around 5 months before departure for payment within 14 days.

Cancellation Charges: For cancellations made 180 days or more before the tour start, the cancellation charge is 50% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 91-179 days before the tour start, the cancellation charge is 100% of the deposit paid. For cancellations made 1-90 days before the tour start, or afterwards, the cancellation charge is 100% of the total tour price.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

Unusually Heritage Expeditions set prices in four currencies. The prices given below are exactly the same as charged by Heritage for direct bookings. You pay nothing extra for booking through Birdquest.

You can opt to pay in Pounds or in your home currency provided you live in the United States, the Euro zone or Australia. However, you will likely achieve a significant cost reduction by paying in Pounds rather than US Dollars or Euros.

 

2025

Confirmed prices

For Auckland/Kavieng (New Ireland) arrangements (WPO without the extension to Japan):

£7695, $9995, €9595, AUD14435 in a Main Deck Triple Cabin: two single beds and one fold-down bed with a private bathroom

£8550, $11150, €10675, AUD15995 in a Main Deck Superior Triple Cabin: two single beds and one fold-down bed with a private bathroom

£9125, $11885, €11350, AUD16995 in a Deck 4 Superior Cabin: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

£9850, $12795, €12275, AUD18395 in a Deck 5 Superior Cabin: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

£14145, $18350, €17625, AUD26450 in a Deck 6 Worsley Suite: one king bed or two single beds with private bathroom

£20000, $26000, €25000, AUD37000 in a Deck 6 Heritage Suite: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

Single Cabins

£11135, $14495, €13885, AUD20795 in a Main Deck Single Cabin: one king bed with a private bathroom

£11095, $15695, €14995, AUD22500 in a Deck 5 Superior Single Cabin: one king bed with a private bathroom

 

For Auckland/Osaka arrangements (the full WPO with extension to Japan):

£8995, $11695, €11195, AUD16835 in a Main Deck Triple Cabin: two single beds and one fold-down bed with a private bathroom

£10100, $13150, €12575, AUD18895 in a Main Deck Superior Triple Cabin: two single beds and one fold-down bed with a private bathroom

£10,675, $13885, €13250, AUD19895 in a Deck 4 Superior Cabin: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

£11,550, $14995, €14375, AUD21595 in a Deck 5 Superior Cabin: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

£16595, $21550, €20635, AUD31050 in a Deck 6 Worsley Suite: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

£23,100, $30000, €28800, AUD42800 in a Deck 6 Heritage Suite: one king bed or two single beds with a private bathroom

Single Cabins

£12,895, $16895, €16185, AUD24295 in a Main Deck Single Cabin: one king bed with a private bathroom

£13,095, $18295, €17495, AUD26300 in a Deck 5 Superior Single Cabin: one king bed with a private bathroom

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.

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.

WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 1  This afternoon we will embark on the Heritage Adventurer at Auckland Harbour in the heart of New Zealand’s commercial capital, ready for our voyage of discovery.

The Expedition Team will be waiting to greet you on arrival and show you to your cabin. You will have time to settle in and familiarise yourself with the ship. We will also take the opportunity to introduce you to your Expedition Team and Guides and our voyage plans. You are invited to join your Expedition Team and Guides in the Observation Lounge and up on the Observation Deck as we set sail for the Hauraki Gulf.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 2  Daybreak will find us in the Mokohinau Islands (known locally as the Mokes), a group of small islands in the Hauraki Gulf. These predator-free islands are a haven for breeding seabirds and we should start the voyage with a wonderful selection of seabirds around the ship. Grey Noddies are usually to be found perching on some of the rocks and there is an Australasian Gannet colony here as well.

As we head further out to sea we will focus on looking for the New Zealand Storm Petrel. The species’ comparatively recent and astonishing discovery after it had ‘gone missing’ for over a century is now well known, along with the fact that it is breeding at Little Barrier Island. We hope to attract this species to a slick where we may see them side-by-side with Wilson’s Storm Petrels, a species that we should see frequently during the cruise. We have never missed this special bird and usually find several.

Indeed this whole area offers fantastic seabirding and some of the other species we can hope to see are Little (or Blue) Penguin, Black, Grey-faced and Cook’s Petrels, Buller’s, Flesh-footed, Sooty, Fluttering and Little Shearwaters, Fairy Prion, White-faced Storm Petrel and Common Diving Petrel. Pomarine Jaeger is also possible and if we are really lucky we will find the rare Pycroft’s Petrel.

In addition, this area is a good feeding ground for albatrosses and we are likely to see several species including White-capped, Campbell, Buller’s and Antipodean Albatrosses.

The waters of the Hauraki Gulf usually have a few cetaceans around including Short-beaked Common Dolphin, Long-finned Pilot Whale and occasionally Bryde’s Whale.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 3  Today will be spent sailing north towards remote Norfolk Island and passing through rich waters for seabirds. These deep, far offshore waters are excellent for an impressive mix of Pterodroma (gadfly) petrels and we hope to see Grey-faced, Kermadec, White-necked, Black-winged, Cook’s, Gould’s and Tahiti Petrels.

There should again be good numbers of albatross around and they will be some of the last we see until we enter the realm of their Northern Hemisphere cousins much later in the journey.

We sometimes see beaked whales in these deep waters and several species of these enigmatic cetaceans occur here. We stand a good chance of seeing Sperm Whales as well.

As we get towards the island we should begin to see a few more species with a more northerly distribution such as Providence Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Masked Booby (the dark-eyed form here is sometimes split-off as Tasman Booby) and Common White Tern.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 4  Far-flung Norfolk Island, named by Captain James Cook, has a rich history. Initially inhabited by Polynesians, it later served as a penal colony and was then colonised by the descendants of The Bounty mutineers from Pitcairn Island.

The famous and picturesque Norfolk Island Pine dominates the landscape over much of the island, along with palms and the world’s tallest treeferns. Sadly much of the incredible array of endemic wildlife that this island once held is extinct following the arrival of humans and their commensals, but the remaining forests are magnificent and still support a selection of endemic birds: Norfolk (Island) Parakeet, Slender-billed White-eye, Norfolk (Island) Robin and Norfolk (Island) Gerygone.

Also found here are Pacific Emerald Dove, Australian Golden Whistler (the endemic xanthoprocta may represent a distinct species) and Grey Fantail. During our time ashore there may also be an opportunity to see some nesting seabirds including Black Noddy, the lovely White Tern and the spectacular Red-tailed Tropicbird.

We are also likely to find some migrant Pacific Golden Plovers and Wandering Tattlers and other more widespread species we may find here include Nankeen Kestrel, Sacred Kingfisher and Silver-eye, as well as a series of introduced species which include California Quail, Red Junglefowl, Greylag Goose, Crimson Rosella and Song Thrush.

As we depart the island in the latter part of the afternoon there will be some excellent opportunities for more seabirding. The island’s breeding seabird population was decimated but is making a steady recovery as a result of predator control. We will be on the lookout here for ‘Tasman’ Masked Booby (a dark-eyed form), White-bellied and White-faced Storm Petrels, Little Shearwater and, in some years, Providence Petrel.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 5  As we sail north through the Coral Sea we can expect yet another excellent day of seabirding from the decks. Once again it will be those amazing Pterodroma petrels that should provide much of the entertainment and today we will be looking for more Kermadec, White-necked, Black-winged, Gould’s and Tahiti Petrels. If we are lucky there may be a few Providence Petrels or even Herald Petrels around and we should encounter our first Collared Petrels of the voyage. Both the light and dark morph of this species should be encountered, the dark morph often being referred to as ‘Magnificent’ Petrel.

We will pay particular attention to storm petrels on this leg of the journey. In addition to Wilson’s and White-faced Storm Petrels, we hope to see White-bellied Storm Petrel and, with luck, even Polynesian Storm Petrel. It is on this transit that we began seeing a mysterious Storm Petrel in the early days of the WPO. The bird is now recognised as being the rediscovery of the long-lost Fregetta lineata and is known as the New Caledonian Storm Petrel. The species appears to be quite rare and hard to see here but we have managed to observe it on several occasions to the south of its presumed breeding grounds somewhere around New Caledonia.

Brown Booby and White-tailed Tropicbird are also possible today.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 6  New Caledonia has been described as a taste of France in the Pacific and is one of the most fascinating islands in the world. First inhabited by Lapita peoples, it was named by Captain James Cook who felt it reminded him of Scotland.

New Caledonia is a fragment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, and it is believed that it detached and became an island tens of millions of years ago. Isolation over such a long period of time on a relatively large tropical island explains both the extent of biodiversity and the incredible levels of endemism on this delightful tropical island. Its botany is characterised by an extraordinary diversity of gymnosperms particularly the spectacular Araucaria Trees, along with some of the largest tree ferns on Earth. It also holds the most ancient lineage of flowering plants and the largest gecko in the world.

In common with so many Pacific Islands, there was a tragic extinction of many amazing birds upon the arrival of humans, yet the island still plays host to an extraordinary number of endemic species. Indeed the New Caledonia group has at least 22 endemic bird species, of which two are feared extinct, but even on this short visit we have a very good chance of seeing many of them

Foremost of these is, of course, the Kagu. Travelling by road from the capital, Noumea, we will be visiting this special reserve today to seek out the Kagu, where it can readily be seen thanks to a massive conservation effort. Everyone has seen the pictures but to experience this unique creature in the feathers is a lifetime birding highlight. The Kagu truly is an extraordinary bird: like much of the flora and fauna of New Caledonia, it seems to belong to another age, having evolved in isolation during the millions of years since the island broke away from Gondwanaland and drifted eastward into the Pacific Ocean. The Kagu is a little larger than a domestic chicken. It is flightless, the only member of the family Rhynochetidae, and is thought to be most closely related to the rails and cranes, although it superficially resembles a pale night heron. The Kagu is endemic to New Caledonia and is the island’s national bird, but due to deforestation and predation by dogs, the species is now in serious danger of extinction: estimates put the remaining population at 500 to 1000 individuals. A puppy-like yelping echoes through the forest as the Kagu gives its far-carrying call. We should all be able to observe this intriguing and unusual bird, and with luck, we will even witness the bird’s spectacular display, in which the wings are spread wide and moved in a fanning motion.

Also here are almost all of the island’s other endemic birds headlined the beautiful Horned Parakeet (with its wispy crest). The long list of other endemics include Goliath (or New Caledonian) Imperial Pigeon (the world’s largest arboreal pigeon), White-bellied (or New Caledonian) Goshawk, New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Myzomela, New Caledonian Whistler, the uncommon, tool-using New Caledonian Crow, South Melanesian Cuckooshrike, Striated Starling, New Caledonian Friarbird, Barred Honeyeater, Yellow-bellied Flyrobin, Green-backed White-eye and the superb Red-throated Parrotfinch.

If we are lucky we will encounter the crow-sized Crow Honeyeater, whose rather dull name belies the beauty of both its melodious song and its striking appearance, complete with large red facial wattles, or the beautiful Cloven-feathered Dove.

Our time at Rivière Bleue is a chance to immerse ourselves into one of the most spectacular and well-protected forests on the island and experience not only the birdlife but some of the extraordinary botany as well.

During our time on New Caledonia, we should also see a variety of the more widely distributed species such as Whistling Kite, Rainbow Lorikeet, Glossy Swiftlet, Dark-brown Honeyeater, Fan-tailed Gerygone, Streaked and Grey Fantails, Southern Shrikebill, Melanesian Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, White-breasted Woodswallow and Long-tailed Triller, as well as the introduced Spotted Dove.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 7  With another morning of birding on this special island, today we visit the slightly higher forest elevations of Mount Koghi. Our time here will be spent looking for any birds we missed yesterday. These forests tend to be better for White-bellied Goshawk, Cloven-feathered Dove, New Caledonian Crow and Striated Starling. Even the poorly known and rarely observed New Caledonian Thicketbird occurs here. Another bird to keep an eye out for is Metallic Pigeon.

Once back on board, we will sail along the world’s longest, continuous barrier reef systems, a very scenic cruise and with some interesting birds including Fairy Tern as well as Silver Gull and Greater Crested Tern.

Once beyond the reef we should see large numbers of Gould’s Petrels and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and we will have another opportunity to seek out the New Caledonian Storm Petrel.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Days 8-10  We now have three sea days as we steam north into tropical waters bound for the far-away Solomon Islands.

While the pelagic birding may slow a bit as we head into warmer waters, it remains excellent. This stretch is our best chance to observe the incredible Polynesian Storm Petrel and we should also see Band-rumped Storm Petrel. The latter species was initially discovered in this area during the WPO and seems likely to represent an unknown breeding population.

We should have more chances to view some of the Pacific’s special Pterodroma species such as Providence, Kermadec, White-necked, Gould’s and Collared Petrels.

We should also encounter Tahiti Petrel, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy. We may watch Masked, Brown and Red-footed Boobies hunt the dazzling array of often spectacularly coloured flying fish that are abundant in these waters and which often fly up in front of the vessel!.

As always, it is worth keeping an eye out for cetaceans including Sperm Whales, various beaked whales and Short-finned Pilot Whales.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 11  After a long sea passage, we will be delighted to be back in sight of land, as this time we arrive at the unique Solomon Islands. Scattered in a loose oval to the east of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands are a quintessential South Pacific idyll, combining a classic landscape and a largely tourist-free, easy-going island life with exotic endemic birds. An archipelago of almost 1,000 lushly forested islands and some of the highest levels of endemism and marine life on Earth define this remarkable, yet rarely-visited nation. Many islands are still largely cloaked in luxuriant rainforest, sweeping down to golden sand beaches and fringing coral reefs. The environment is still remarkably pristine as most Solomon Islanders pursue their traditional life of fishing on the reefs and tending lush gardens hidden in the forest.

We will arrive in the Solomons at the town of Honiara on Guadalcanal Island, the largest island in the group. We should see a few seabirds as we arrive, such as our first Bridled Terns.

The name Guadalcanal is still synonymous with huge air and naval battles and bloody jungle warfare, for some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific between Japanese and Allied forces took place on the island. Relics of that great struggle can be found littered throughout the island and its offshore waters, a stark reminder of darker days, when, for a brief period in history, Guadalcanal was thrust to the forefront of the world’s stage. Now largely ignored and forgotten by the rest of the world, Guadalcanal, like the rest of the Solomons, is a sleepy backwater that receives few visitors from the outside world. Guadalcanal has been inhabited for many thousands of years, yet its rugged and almost totally unexplored interior contrasts sharply with the thriving city of Honiara, the capital, and the well-populated coastal fringe.

An early start will see us landing on this island where we will concentrate our efforts on the endemic-rich Mount Austen. As we walk along an old road down through patchy forest we will find a variety of Solomons endemics or near-endemics, which may include Sanford’s (or Solomons) Sea Eagle, Pied Goshawk, the attractive Ultramarine Kingfisher, the remarkable Buff-headed Coucal, Solomons (or Ducorps’s) Cockatoo, Cardinal and Yellow-bibbed Lories, the rather smart Solomons Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher, Midget Flowerpecker and Brown-winged Starling, Long-tailed Myna. We may also find the uncommon Black-headed Myzomela, which is restricted to Guadalcanal.

In the more open areas, Willie Wagtails, Olive-backed Sunbirds, Singing Starlings and introduced Common Mynas are conspicuous, and other widespread species we may see include the spectacular Blyth’s Hornbill, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, the spectacular Eclectus Parrot, Pacific Swallow, White-bellied Cuckooshrike and Common Cicadabird.

Guadalcanal will certainly be one of the more diverse stops of the voyage.

Afterwards, we will set sail towards Bougainville, where rare seabirds await!

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 12  We sail westwards through the Solomon Islands archipelago today. Because of its remarkable oceanic topography, the Solomons can offer some of the best tropical seabird and marine mammal watching anywhere. Some transits can be teeming with life, while others can be quiet. We should experience some feeding frenzies of terns, boobies, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and marauding frigatebirds.

Importantly, we stand a good chance of observing the strange and rare Heinroth’s Shearwater today.

Marine mammal sightings in this area are always hard to predict but we regularly see Kogia species here, including Dwarf Sperm Whale and even the rare Pygmy Sperm Whale. Spinner and Pantropical Spotted Dolphin are the most regularly observed dolphin species and Pygmy Killer Whales seem fairly regular. Blainville’s, Cuvier’s and even Longman’s Beaked Whales have all been seen on previous voyages while flying fish reach some of their highest diversity in this area

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 13  Politically speaking we are entering Papua New Guinea today, but in geographical and biological terms Bougainville is part of the Solomon Islands and is the largest island in the archipelago. With a tumultuous history, it is only fairly recently that Bougainville has reopened to tourism.

Happily, there is a paved road that gives easy access to some mid-elevation forest which, while somewhat degraded, still offers excellent birding. We will have more opportunities to observe Sanford’s Sea Eagle, Solomons Cockatoo and Ultramarine Kingfisher today and we will be looking for Bougainville endemics including Bougainville Crow, Bougainville Monarch, Bougainville White-eye and perhaps the secretive Bougainville Bush Warbler.

Other new birds to look for today include Yellow-throated White-eye, Solomons Monarch, Red-capped Myzomela, Pale Mountain Pigeon, Mackinlay’s Cuckoo-Dove and Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 14  Today we will be sailing between Bougainville and New Ireland. Although we spend many days at sea during the Western Pacific Odyssey, some are more eagerly anticipated than others, and this day falls into that category!

It is in this region that we will be looking for the rare Beck’s Petrel. Some of the first ever at-sea sightings of this very poorly known seabird occurred on the WPO voyage and to this day almost every birder that has observed a Beck’s Petrel has done it while on the Western Pacific Odyssey! So we will be working hard to see this species again today. Heinroth’s Shearwater is another exciting possibility in this area.

Boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds and tropical terns (including with luck the localized Grey-backed or Spectacled Tern) are abundant in this area. We are also likely to come across migrant Parasitic (or Arctic), Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers.

Again, cetaceans are very hard to predict but this area is home to many infrequently seen species. It can be particularly good for Kogia species (the Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whales), along with the so-called ‘blackfish’: False Killer Whale, Pygmy Killer Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whale and Melon-headed Whale. If we are fortunate enough to see the latter species it will most likely be accompanied by the beautiful Fraser’s Dolphin.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 15  The capital of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland and the largest town on the island of the same name, Kavieng is known for its ancient Malagan culture.

Those choosing to disembark today say their farewells after breakfast followed by a transfer to Kavieng Airport.

For those continuing the Western Pacific Odyssey adventure, we plan to explore the best birding opportunities possible within the limited available time. We should be able to locate the endemic Mottled Mannikin around Kavieng, while other possibilities include the Variable Goshawk, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon and Bismarck Crow.

From Kavieng, we set sail for the faraway Japanese islands.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Days 16-20  During these five days Western Pacific Odyssey continues north through equatorial waters en route to Japan. Although our pelagic watches for birds and mammals will continue, this passage through deep, warm tropical waters is often a pretty quiet period and a good time to relax, review photographs, write notes and catch up on other things.

Species we may well see while birding include Bulwer’s Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds and more boobies, tropicbirds and tropical terns such as White Tern and Sooty Tern, and we will keep an eye on the often calm seas for cetaceans.

We can expect a visit from King Neptune as we cross the Equator, and those of us who have never crossed the Equator by ship before will be invited to pay their dues to the king in the customary fashion!

During the last day or two, as we head nearer to Japan, birding sessions should add a few new species such as the striking Bonin Petrel (probably our last Pterodroma of this remarkable voyage), pale-morph Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (are they really the same species as the dark southern birds?!), Matsudaira’s, Leach’s and perhaps Band-rumped Storm Petrels, the rare and localized Bannerman’s Shearwater and, with luck, the migratory South Polar Skua.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 21  After clearing Customs and Immigration into Japan at the largest of the Bonin (or Ogasawara) Islands, Chichi-jima, there may be enough time to explore the settlement and surrounds.

During the afternoon we will look for the critically endangered Bryan’s Shearwater. This mysterious seabird was described based on a bird found in a burrow in Hawaii but is currently believed to breed only in the Bonins (on some small islets off the east coast of Chichi-jima) and in tiny numbers at that. We will be in the vicinity of its only known breeding island and will certainly try our best to see it this afternoon, along with the much more numerous Bannerman’s Shearwater.

The waters here are rich in seabirds and we hope to see our first Black-footed Albatrosses and perhaps even a Laysan Albatross. We may also see Matsudaira’s and Tristram’s Storm Petrels.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 22  Today we will be returning south to visit the most interesting of the Bonin Islands, biologically speaking, Haha-jima.

This hard-to-reach island is the last home of the bizarre Bonin White-eye and we hope to see this strange species while ashore. While its taxonomic affinities have been hotly debated, it is now considered to be a white-eye in its own genera rather than a honeyeater. It can be a bit tricky to find, so we will hope for some luck during our time ashore.

The greenfinch that occurs here was recently recognised to be a distinct species, the Bonin Greenfinch, and while its status on this island is a bit unclear it certainly does occur at least as a visitor.

Other possibilities today include the Japanese Wood Pigeon, Eastern Buzzard, Brown-eared Bulbul, Japanese Bush Warbler, Warbling White-eye, White’s Thrush and Blue Rock Thrush. A variety of shorebirds and passerines could also occur here as transient migrants and there are lots of possibilities. Humpback Whales are also often seen here in the nearshore waters.

Afterwards, we will continue northwards towards famous Tori-shima Island.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 23  Today we will be off Tori-shima, a spectacular-looking island and an active volcano which has not been inhabited since a volcanic eruption 1902. Tori-shima was thought to be the last stronghold of the Short-tailed Albatross which disappeared in the 1940s and was feared to have gone extinct. Miraculously birds began reappearing in 1954 and reformed a breeding colony which has grown to several thousand. Almost the entire world population of Short-tailed Albatrosses breed on the island. By now, they will be getting to the end of their breeding cycle as they take advantage of the rich feeding conditions in the North Pacific in the summer and migrate towards the sub-Arctic.

Obviously, seeing this species will be the prime focus of the day. While landings are not permitted on the island, after communications with the relevant authorities we will approach as close as allowed aboard Heritage Adventurer and should get to see this magnificent bird, hopefully in good numbers. We should get to have good views of this rare and much-wanted giant of the North Pacific

Other species that could be present include Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Streaked Shearwater, and both Tristram’s and Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel.

We also sometimes see cetaceans in this area and sightings on previous voyages have included Risso’s and Pantropical Spotted Dolphins, Melon-headed Whale, Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and even the very rarely seen Ginkgo-toothed Beaked Whale.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 28  Western Pacific Odyssey continues north towards the main island of Honshu in Japan, looking out for new species such as Streaked Shearwater as we go. As we approach the land we will see our first Black-tailed Gulls and by now we will be surrounded by large numbers of Streaked Shearwaters.

All three northern albatross species are possible on this leg, jaegers (skuas) are often present, and new species we could encounter include Red-necked and Red Phalaropes and with luck, Ancient Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet.

Western Pacific Odyssey: Day 29  We will arrive at the port of Osaka at the end of what will have been an epic voyage. It will be sad to say goodbye this morning to the ship and crew that we will have grown attached to during our epic Western Pacific Odyssey adventure, but perhaps quite nice to re-acquaint ourselves with life on dry land!

After breakfast and arrival formalities have been completed for Japan, you will disembark from Heritage Adventurer. A transfer to the Osaka Air Terminal will be provided.

WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY TOUR REPORT 2023

by Fraser Gurney

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WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY TOUR REPORT 2012

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WESTERN PACIFIC ODYSSEY TOUR REPORT 2011

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