A rare chance to see the MEGAHERBS as well as unique penguins, seals and albatrosses!

  • Cost: NZ $9,450 (New Zealand dollars) per person = approx US $6,200, GB £4,750 or EUR 5,550.
  • Start Point: Bluff, New Zealand.
  • End Point: Bluff, New Zealand.
  • Dates: Monday, November 23rd, 2020 to Saturday December 5th, 2020 (13 days / 12 nights). For more info email us.
  • Group Size: 6-10.
  • Bespoke Tour: If you do not wish to join a group tour, we can customise a private trip to fit your dates and interests. Please email us for details and a quote.

 

Unique Polar Wildlife

New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands are home to a completely unique range of sub-polar animals and plants.

In addition to unique species of albatross, penguin and seal found only in New Zealand’s sector of the Antarctic, these islands are home to the MEGAHERBS!

No other group of sub-polar islands (neither in the Arctic or Antarctic) have anything comparable to the megaherbs. In stark contrast to the diminutive plant life across the rest of the Sub-Antarctic (e.g. South Georgia’s tussock grass or Svalbard’s tunda), New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands have giant, colourful flowers (with scapes up to 1.5 m long!) that bloom together and en-masse!

Join this expedition to see New Zealand’s unique albatrosses, penguins, seals timed at the peak flowering period of the megaherbs!

 

Very few visitors get to explore New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands each year.

The Redfern Team has planned and prepared this expedition for four years. We have chartered a specialist expedition yacht which a highly experienced skipper and crew and secured an expert guide to make this voyage possible. As with other polar expeditions which we organise, our use of a small expedition ship will allow an up close and personal experience exploring these incredible places. The charter yacht we have secured for this voyage is a “working vessel” usually used for research expeditions. While perfectly comfortable and

specifically designed for polar research voyages, she is not as luxurious as large cruise ships, but the ideal ship for this trip. By using her, we can go where the big cruise ships cannot visit, we will have flexibility in our itinerary to adapt our plan depending upon weather conditions, group interests and wildlife movements! Please email the Redfern Team for a detailed overview.

 

Mass Flowering!

The megaherbs evolved in response to the unique climate, soil and the lack of herbivores on New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic islands. These plants are an example of island gigantism, similar to the Galapagos tortoises that evolved under similar isolated conditions and due to the absence of carnivores.

After visiting these islands, the great botanist Joseph Hooker (Charles Darwin’s close friend) described the mass flowering of the megaherbs as “a floral display second to none outside the tropics”.

We will visit at exactly the peak time of the megaherbs’ mass flowering. Many of the megaherbs have huge leaves that function like greenhouses to trap warmth from sunlight. Key species include:

Bulbinella rossii (Ross Lily): this clump-forming plant has strap-like and succulent leaves, growing to 60 cm with bright yellow flowering spikes are carried on stems up to 90 cm high.

Anisotome latifolia (Campbell Island Carrot): bears pink flowers in huge clusters which can reach 75 cm across, on stems up to 1.5 m.

Pleurophyllum speciosum (Campbell Island Daisy): forms an enormous rosette, up to 1.2 m across, of huge, broad pleated leaves. It bears pinkish-purple to pale lilac flowers with maroon centres, held on flower stems up to 60 cm tall.

Pleurophyllum hookeri and Pleurophyllum criniferum (two giant button daisies): these plants reach 90 cm in height and with broad leaves. The flowers of P. hookeri are crimson whilst those of P. criniferum are black.

Damnamenia vernicosa (Black-eyed Daisy): bears white flowers that are 5 cm tall.

Stilbocarpa polaris (Island Cabbage): grows in clumps to 90 cm tall with fluted, rhubarb-like leaves and lime green flower clusters up to 60 cm wide.

 

Sea Birds and Marine Mammals!

This voyage to New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands is as much about animals as it is plants. We will see a wide range of sea birds and marine mammals, many of which occur nowhere else on Earth.

Among the many highlights are New Zealand fur seals, New Zealand sea lions and Southern elephant seals. At least ten species of whales and dolphins are also known from the waters of these islands, including a population of over 2,000 southern right whales.

New Zealand’s Sub-Antarctic Islands are home to rookeries of yellow-eyed penguins, southern rockhopper penguins and the erect-crested penguin, as well as the wandering albatross, the light-mantled sooty albatross, the Antipodean albatross, the southern royal albatross, the light-mantled albatross and the white-capped albatross, as well as the black-browed mollymawk, the grey-headed mollymawk, the brown skua and the northern giant petrel.

Across the Auckland Islands we are likely to see many of the one million pairs of sooty shearwaters that live there, as well as the red-fronted and yellow-crowned parakeet, the New Zealand falcon, bellbirds, pipits and an endemic subspecies of tomtit. Other endemic birds include the Auckland shag, the Auckland teal, the Auckland rail and the Auckland snipe.

On Campbell Island, we may encounter the endemic Campbell teal, the Campbell snipe, the sooty shearwater, the grey petrel, the white-chinned petrel, the endemic Campbell Island shag, the grey duck, the southern skua, the southern black-backed gull, the red-billed gull, the Antarctic tern, the song thrush, the common blackbird, the Dunnock (hedge sparrow), the New Zealand pipit, the white-eye, the lesser redpoll, the chaffinch, and the starling.

 

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Adventure Itinerary

It is impossible to prepare a daily itinerary for polar expeditions due to the fluid nature of charter trips. The expedition will have a clear set of defined objectives and target locations to visit for each location, which will be accomplished as efficiently as possible depending upon weather contrainsts and wildlife movements. As a group, we will continually discuss the itinerary throughout the trip, and adjust the plan to fit our collective interests, priorities and what we succeed on observing (or wish to focus on further). Our extremely experienced crew and guide will be always at our disposal to offer advice. That said, we will work with the following plan with the primary goals of (a) experiencing the megaherb 2020 en-masse flowering event and (b) the key sea bird and marine mammal sites.

November 23rd and November 24th: we depart Bluff and sail towards the Auckland Islands (approx 1.5 days of sailiing).

November 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th: we explore the Auckland Islands to see megaherbs, seals, penguins, albatross colonies and whales. We spend a full day on Enderby Island and explore Port Ross and the old settlement. We journey down the east coast of the Islands, visiting a spectacular cave, a lake, several waterfall inlets, and the spectacular Carnley Harbour. We explore key albatross colonies and penguin sites (especially the yellow-eyed penuin).

November 29th: We sail from the Auckland Islands to Campbell Island.

November 30th to December 3rd: we explore Perseverance Harbour, explore fjords, have the option of many walks and hikes of varying length, can explore the old whaling station and cauldrons, lots of key wildlife sites, and the stunning landscapes of the Northwest Bay.

December 4th and 5th: we sail back to Bluff on New Zealand, aiming to arrive mid-afternoon on the 5th.

 

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Getting there

Our start point / end point is the settlement of Bluff in the south of New Zealand’s South Island. Bluff is located near Invercargill and Dunedin (which can be easily reached by flights from Auckland).

Adventure Rating: Moderate

Some strenuous trekking over long distances is required during this adventure. Treks are integral to the itinerary and are required to experience the key highlights of this adventure.

Participants must be capable of walking or clambering on often steep or rocky terrain, carrying a day pack with water, camera, weather protection and some food. River crossings may be required. Local porterage can sometimes be arranged at cost.

Possible extensions


This trip offers the perfect opportunity to explore New Zealand's South Island independently before our after our adventure to the NZ Sub-Antarctic Islands.

Simplified Map of the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands Adventure itinerary

What's Included

All transport during the itinerary
Professional guide
Accommodation (on a twin/double basis)
All main meals during the itinerary

What's Not

International flights
Souvenirs
Alcohol