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New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands

The spectacular, isolated and seldom visited Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia are recognised as some of the world’s great “biodiversity hotspots” and enlisted as a World Heritage Sites. Home to almost half of the world’s albatross and penguin species these islands are true oases for anyone interested in wildlife and pristine nature. Join the expedition ship Spirit of Enderby on a remarkable cruise to four of the Subantarctic Islands - The Snares, Auckland, Macquarie and Campbell. The adventure also includes two nights on Stewart Island – Home of the Kiwi.

  • UNESCO heritage sites
  • Endemic penguin and albatross species
  • 5-star nature experiences
  • Mega fauna and fairytale-like surroundings
  • Stewart Island – Home of the Kiwi
  • 50 passengers only
  • Climate compenated trip
Accommodation: Cabin on board Spirit of Enderby. Transport: Expedition ship, Zodiacs, bus and ferry. Ship: Spirit of Enderby. Passengers: 50 (PolarQuest will be a group of 8-10). Languages: English. Length: 16 days, 11 nights on ship. Price: From USD 10 290. Departure: 1 December 2019


To the south of New Zealand and Australia we find several groups of islands, remote from each other, wild and very seldom visited. These are the Subantarctic Islands. The islands all lie in the cool temperate zone with a unique climate and are home to a vast array of wildlife including albatross, penguins, petrels, prions, shearwaters and marine mammals like sea lions, fur seals and elephant seals. The flora is equally fascinating; the majority of it being like the birds and endemic to these islands. Long recognised for their rich biodiversity, the Subantarctic Islands lying to the south of New Zealand are UNESCO World Heritage sites. This places them in a selected group of only 180 natural sites that have been designated as ‘the most important and significant natural habitats' on the planet. They are also afforded the highest conservation status and protection by the Australian and New Zealand governments and access to these islands is by permit only. On this expedition we offer you the unique chance to explore, understand and photograph these wonderful places in the company of some of the most knowledgeable and passionate guides. Welcome on board!

Day 1: Dunedin, New Zealand

We arrive to the charming city of Dunedin and check in at a centrally located hotel. In the evening we meet our fellow expeditions members and expedition staff for an informal get-together over dinner.

Day 2: The expedition cruise starts

We transfer to the expedition ship Spirit of Enderby in the Port of Otago. After we have settled into our cabins, we set sail towards the Snares Islands – the expedition has started!

Day 3: Snares Islands – North East Island

North East Island is the largest of the Snares and staggeringly, this one island is claimed by some to be home to more nesting seabirds than all of the British Isles together. We arrive in the early morning and board the Zodiacs for a stunning cruise close to shore. From the Zodiacs we have a great view of the wildlife and excellent photographic opportunities. Cruising the rugged coastline, we learn how the islands got their name and keep a lookout for Snares crested penguins, cape petrel and Buller’s albatross on the imposing cliffs. We are also likely to encounter Antarctic terns, white-fronted terns, red-billed gulls, tomtits and fernbirds. After our first taste of the magnificent New Zealand Sub-Antarctic we continue south towards the Auckland Islands.

Day 4: Auckland Islands: Enderby Island

The Auckland Islands group was formed by two volcanoes which erupted some 10-25 million years ago. Enderby Island is one of the most beautiful islands in this group and an outstanding wildlife and birding location. Our plan is to land at Sandy Bay, one of three breeding areas in the Auckland Islands for the Hooker’s or New Zealand sea lion, a rare member of the seal family. During our day ashore there will be several options, some longer walks, some shorter walks and time to spend just sitting and enjoying the wildlife. Birds that we are likely to encounter include the following species: Southern royal albatross, Northern giant petrel, Auckland island shag, Auckland island tomtit, red-crowned Parakeet, yellow-eyed penguin and light-mantled sooty albatross. There is also a good chance of seeing the Subantarctic Snipe.

Day 5: Auckland Islands: Carnley Harbour

In the south of the archipelago there is a very large sheltered harbour, rich in human history including shipwrecks, treasure hunters and coast watchers. Our activities here today are totally weather dependent. Weather permitting, there might be an opportunity for the more energetic expeditioners to climb to the South West Cape and visit the Shy Mollymawk colony. From here we can enjoy magnificent views in all directions and with some luck we get to see Gibson’s wandering albatross breeding. For those not able to make the climb we hope to be able to offer a Zodiac cruise along the coast of Adams Island and Western Harbour. In the afternoon, we depart for Macquarie Island.

Day 6: At sea

As we make our way through an area known as the Furious Fifties in the tumultuous Southern Ocean, we will learn more about the flora and fauna as we prepare for our arrival at Macquarie Island. En route there are great birding opportunities which may include the wandering albatross, royal albatross, black-browed albatross, light-mantled sooty albatross, Salvin’s albatross, grey-headed albatross, Northern and Southern giant petrel, sooty shearwater and little shearwater. We will endeavour to spot the several species if prions and storm-petrels – never an easy task – but we should get some great views.

PolarQuest Tour Leader – Adam Rheborg

We are pleased to announce that our experienced guide Adam Rheborg will be the tour leader on this trip. Adam has more than 20 years of experience in guiding on Svalbard, in Antarctica, on Galapagos and in New Zealand. Over the years, Adam has earned great knowledge and is looking forward to sharing it with you.

Day 7 - 8: Macquarie Island

Described by one Australian explorer as “One of the wonder spots of the world” this is the only place in the world where the beautiful royal penguin breeds. Three other species of penguins, the king, gentoo and rockhopper also breed here. You will never forget your first experience of a noisy ‘penguin city’, where the dapper inhabitants show no fear of their strange visitors and where you will be immersed in a tumult of chattering, feeding chicks; territorial disputes; petty pilfering and courtship displays. This all happens amongst the hundreds of Southern elephant seals lolling on the beaches and dunes. We plan a landing at the Australian Antarctic Research Base at Buckles Bay to meet with scientists and base staff. The original base was established in 1947 and the island has been ‘manned’ since then. We depart for Campbell Island on the afternoon of second day.

Day 9: At Sea

We are now north bound and hopefully running with the prevailing weather which should make it a bit more comfortable. During the day we listen to interesting briefings and lectures on Campbell Island.

Day 10 - 11: Campbell Island: Perseverance Harbour

We spend two days exploring the island by foot taking in the panorama of rocky islets and sea stacks; once the lonely preserve of settlers and seal hunters and now returned to nature. Enjoy an easy walk to the nesting site of the Southern royal albatross at Col Lyall or walk across the hills to Northwest Bay and see the strange and beautiful megaherbs growing on the hills. These huge pink and yellow wild flowers have adapted well to the harsh conditions. We also seek out other wildlife such as Campbell Island shags, light-mantled sooty albatross and, on the beaches beyond, young male sea lions testing their strength.

Day 12: At Sea

At sea en route to the Port of Bluff, take the opportunity to relax and reflect on our adventure. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner as we complete the last few miles of our journey.

Day 13: Bluff – Stewart Island, New Zeeland

We arrive at the Port of Bluff early in the morning. After breakfast, we bid farewell to our expedition team, disembark and catch the ferry to Oban on Stewart Island. After an hour we reach New Zealand’s third largest island that to 85 % consists of Rakiura National Park. The island welcomes us with clear waters, lush rainforest, sweeping sands, exciting wildlife and unspoilt nature. Stewart Island is often referred to as “the home of the kiwi”, since this is the best place in New Zealand to observe the kiwi in its natural habitat. Dinner is served at a local restaurant and afterwards, weather permitting, we set out on a kiwi safari and hope to encounter this characteristic, flightless bird. This and the following night will be spent at the charming Stewart Island Lodge, nestled in native bush on a sunny hillside.

Day 14: Stewart Island

Today we head out on foot on a guided tour to explore Ulva Island, a pristine forested island located in Paterson Inlet. Our local, knowledgeable guide will take us through this green world and teach us more about its unique flora and fauna. On the hike we will have a chance to see endemic and endangered birds, study rare plants and just enjoy being out in the wilderness of New Zealand. Later we head out on a cruise to study pelagic birds and enjoy a dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 15: Stewart Island – Invercargill

At noon we catch the ferry back to Bluff, where we have lunch at the excellent Oyster Cove, offering a unique setting with a spectacular 180 degree views of Ruapuki, Dog Island and Stewart island. In the afternoon we get a guided natural history excursion by coach from Oban to Invercargill. The stops along the way includes the dramatic Catlins Coast and Nugget Point - one of the most iconic landforms on the Otago coast. Enjoy dramatic coastal views from the Tokata Lighthouse and keep a lookout for penguins, seals and seabirds! In the evening we gather for a last tasty dinner.

Day 16: Homewards or on to further adventures

After a hearty breakfast it is time to say goodbye to our new friends, begin our journey home or continue on to further adventures.

Please note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed. Landings at the Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand are by permit only as administered by the Government of New Zealand. No landings are permitted at The Snares.

The ship Spirit of Enderby

  • Spirit of Enderby
    N. Russ
  • Heritage Expeditions
  • Main Deck Cabin
    N. Russ
  • Main Deck Triple Cabin
    N. Russ
  • Superior Plus Cabin
    N. Russ
  • Mini Suite
    N. Russ

The Spirit of Enderby is a comfortable fully ice-strengthened expedition vessel, built in 1984 for polar and oceanographic research and is perfect for expedition travel. She carries just 50 passengers and was refurbished in 2013. All 28 cabins have outside windows or portholes, deck and chair and ample storage space. The Main Deck Triple and Main Deck Twin cabins have a wash basin and share nearby bathrooms with the other Main Deck cabins. All other cabins have private bathrooms. The Triple Main Deck cabins have a bunk bed and one lower berth and the Main Deck Twins have two lower berths. The Superior cabins have bunkbeds while the Superior Plus cabins have two lower berths.

 The Main Suites and the Heritage Suit have a separate bedroom with double bed. On board there is a recently updated combined bar/library lounge area and a separate lecture room, where we can listen to the guides’ lectures about the wildlife, nature and history of the Subantarctic Islands. In the dining room we enjoy excellent cuisine, prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs. There is always something to see or search for from the spacious observation decks. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew.

Cabins & prices

Cabin category Price per person
Main Deck Triple Cabin Shared facilities USD 10 290
Main Deck Cabin Shared facilities USD 12 190
Superior Cabin USD 12 790
Superior Plus Cabin USD 13 690
Mini Suite USD 14 290
Heritage Suite USD 15 290

Price includes

  • 11 nights on board Spirit of Enderby
  • 1 hotel night in Dunedin
  • 2 hotel nights on Stewart Island
  • 1 hotel night in Invercargill
  • All meals except day 1 (only dinner included) and day 16 (only breakfast included)
  • An experienced Expedition Leader and knowledgeable guides
  • A Tour Leader from PolarQuest
  • Guiding ashore and talks on board
  • All excursions and activities
  • Comprehensive information material before the expedition
  • An illustrated post expedition log
  • The trip is climate compensated

Not included

  • Flights to Dunedin and from Invercargill
  • Visas
  • Travel and cancellation insurance
  • The customary gratuity to the ship’s crew
  • Personal expenses such as bar, shop and laundry charges

Departures & booking

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or wish to make a reservation.

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Departure Return
1 December 2019 16 December 2019