Sub Antarctic Islands Wildlife

Sub Antarctic Island Wildlife Cruise Sub Antarctic Island WildlifeSub Antarctic Island Wildlife

Sub Antarctic Islands Wildlife Package
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  19 Dec 2020 - 04 Jan 2021     16 nights      Dunedin NZ roundtrip


Take a once-in-a-lifetime expedition cruise and discover the primitive beauty of the Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand, one of the least visited regions in the world. 

Set sail on this unique adventure and let yourself be dazzled by an exceptional itinerary, home to bountiful wildlife that is not found elsewhere. Often described as the “Galapagos of the Southern Ocean”, the Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand are among the best preserved environments on the planet. Isolated and wild, they are one of those end-of-world places that have very few visitors and really do provide a total change of scenery. We will sail into spectacular fiords, then head for the seven groups of the Sub Antarctic Islands of New Zealand as well as Australia's Macquarie Island. Home to fauna of an incredible diversity, including some endemic species, the islands are collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. View the full itinerary.

Package includes:
 Return economy airfare from any Australian airport to Dunedin NZ, including taxes
 Private transfer from Dunedin airport to hotel
 2 nights accommodation at Distinction Hotel in Dunedin, including breakfast
 14 night cruise in an outside cabin on the Silver Explorer expedition ship
 Guided Zodiac, land and sea tours, shoreside activities led by the Expeditions Team
 Enrichment lectures by a highly qualified Expeditions Team
 All meals onboard with an open bar (except premium brands)
 Unlimited Wi-Fi, parka and gum boots, onboard tips, port charges
 24-hour room service and suite serviced twice a day

Be one of the privileged few to say that they have travelled to this spectacular region.

The Highlights

World-Renowned Wildlife

Wildlife reigns supreme here, much to the delight of photographers and nature lovers. World renowned for their bird colonies, these islands are a birdwatcher's paradise. Expect to see a very wide variety of birds, including Gibson’s albatross, giant petrels, Auckland shags, rorquals, and king and yellow-eyed penguins. You can also expect to see colonies of fur seals and elephant seals, Minke whales, sei whales, orcas, and more.

Unique Landscapes

Experience the dazzling landscapes of black-sand beaches, steep cliffs, lush green prairies, snow-capped mountain ranges and glacial valleys. The scenic cruising through Milford Sound and Dusky Sound is just the beginning! There'll be plenty of opportunities to explore the beautiful surrounds on your own two feet with guided walks on the Auckland Islands, Campbell Island and Macquarie Island, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Photo by Roderick Eime on

Zodiac Cruising

The Silver Explorer's fleet of 12 Zodiac boats allows you to visit even the most off-the-beaten-path locations. Hop onto these boats to explore the wild and isolated environments of The Snares and Enderby Island. An expert Expedition Team will provide insight into each adventure ashore. 


The Ship

The Silver Explorer is expedition cruising at its very best. The purpose-built limited-capacity luxury ship has been designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of earth’s polar regions. A strengthened hull enables the Silver Explorer Expedition Cruise Ship to safely push through ice floes with ease. 

Inside the ship, elegantly designed cabins, spacious suites all outside with windows and private facilities in each cabin, and lounge areas that open onto the outside, provide a truly unique cruising experience and a perfect combination of adventure and comfort.

The Silver Explorer


The Itinerary

Day 1-3 - Dunedin
19-21 December 2020
With so much to explore and so much to adore, Dunedin is discovery galore! As New Zealand’s South Island’s second biggest city, Dunedin is both manageable on foot and crammed full of sights. This is a city that thrives on the best of all worlds: well preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecture, grandiose, Lord of the Rings landscape from sea to sky and a youthful demographic that makes the city a creative hub. Set on the rugged east coast of the South Island, the first thing you notice about Dunedin is how breathtakingly beautiful it is. This naturally comes with plentiful wildlife, with penguins, kiwis and fur seals calling the areas surrounding the city their home. The beaches are long and generous, and offer almost every outdoor activity under the sun. Closer inland, and much of the city’s quirkiness can be found on the amazing Street Art Trail, where local artists show off their talents. For those who really feel brave, a walk up Baldwin Street, the world's steepest residential street, will reward you with fantastic views of the city and beyond. However, perhaps the quirkiest thing about Dunedin is its innate love of all things Scottish. The city was founded in 1848 by the Free Church of Scotland, a splinter group of the Scottish Presbyterian Church (Dunedin is the Gaelic name for Edinburgh). A statue of Robert Burns stands in the town centre, haggis is often offered as a local delicacy and there is nowhere better in the southern hemisphere to buy a kilt, sporran or bottle of whiskey! 

Please note: Transfer from the hotel to the port to join your ship on the 21st will be your own arrangements. The front desk can book a taxi for you at the time convenient to you.

OVERNIGHT: 2 nights at Distinction Hotel in Dunedin, 1 night aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 4 - Stewart Island
 22 December 2020
Within touching distance of the South Island's southern tip, the majority of New Zealand's third-largest island is handed over to a beautiful sprawl of National Park. Taking its name from the Māori word 'Rakiura' which means ‘land of the glowing skies’ this is an island sanctuary of radiant beauty. Sunsets and sunrise are magical, but it’s the swirling patterns of lights that dance across the heavens above that enchant above all else - as the southern hemisphere’s version of the northern lights dazzles overhead. Slow the pace, on this island of leisurely fishing villages and swirling Maori legend. The majority of Stewart Island has been claimed by dense forests, which conceal wonderful wildlife watching opportunities, and reveal isolated coves and dramatic cliffs. Bring your hiking boots, as with only 15 miles of road, the best way to see the rugged beauty is by crunching along seaside trails. Coastal hikes along sweeping bays lead to viewpoints like Ackers Point, or you can take to the sea's waves to undulate gently offshore, admiring the island’s coastline from the turquoise waters. Pleasure cruises along the scenic Paterson Inlet will take you out to islands teeming with life and animal activity. Stewart Island, and its scattered skerries, provide the perfect sanctuary for crowds of brilliant birdlife. Encounter everything from blue penguins to albatross and New Zealand's national icon - wild kiwis.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 5 - Cruising Milford Sound
 23 December 2020
Named after Milford Haven in Wales, Milford Sound is not a sound but a fjord, yet the name has stuck. In 1998 the Maori name Piopiotahi has been added and officially it should be written as Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. The local name refers to the extinct New Zealand Thrush (the piopio). Milford Sound sits within South Island’s Fiordland National Park, one of the four national parks forming the UNESCO World Heritage site “Te Wahipounamu” –pounamu being the local greenstone highly estimated for carvings by the Maori. The fjord has a length of approximately 16 kilometers and a depth of more than 290 meters. Steep cliffs, several impressive waterfalls and dense rainforest characterize the fjord. Halfway down the fjord is Stirling Falls, the second tallest. Near the end of the sound the U-shaped Sinbad Gully and the famous Mitre Peak which rises to a height of 1,692 meters can be seen, while on the eastern side is Lady Bowen Falls, at 162 meters the tallest of the falls. The Piopiotahi Marine Reserve protects the flora and fauna in the water. Apart from bottlenose dolphins in the fjord, New Zealand fur seals can be seen resting on Seal Rock on the northern shore, while on the opposite side is a Fiordland Crested Penguin site.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 6 - Cruising Dusky Sound
 24 December 2020
Despite being discovered by Cook more than 240 years ago, Dusky Sound is one of the few truly untouched destinations left on earth. Found on the southwest corner of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, Dusky Sound has the auspicious title of “titanic mason” given to it by the Maoris, as no other explanation seems to fit; it is almost impossible to comprehend the sheer breadth of geological events that created this seemingly perfect sculpture, as the sheer cliffs that rise vertically upward from the ocean dwarf the ship. This incredibly beautiful fiord offers many magical wildernesses and stunning scenery that bathe in “Lord of the Rings” grandeur. A breeding site for Fiordland Penguins, Dusky Sound is an important ornithological area too, with a wealth of birdlife to be found here. This remote, untouched region is also home to a wide range of sea life, as the fresh and salt water combine to create an extraordinary aquatic environment. An unforgettable journey for both the experienced and the uninitiated, anyone looking to visit a place unmarked by the passage of time will be spoilt its breathtaking beauty.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 7-8 - Days at Sea
 25-26 December 2020
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 9-10 - Macquarie Island
 27-28 December 2020
Almost 1,500 km southeast of Tasmania and within the ‘Furious Fifties’, Macquarie Island was officially discovered in 1810 and named after the then Governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. The amount of fur seals seen at that time led to extensive sealing in the early 19th century. When the Russian southern polar expedition under Bellingshausen went ashore in November 1820, the sealers had already depleted the fur seal colonies and started turning their attention to elephant seals. Eventually even penguins were hunted for oil. As the island is about half-way between Tasmania and Australia, several expeditions to Antarctica have stopped there and either set up bases or collected specimens. Douglas Mawson had a wireless station set up acting as relay at what today is known as Wireless Hill. After Macquarie changed from NSW to Tasmanian jurisdiction, it was made a wildlife sanctuary (1933), a conservation area (1971), a state reserve (1972) and finally in 1978 became the Macquarie Island Nature Reserve. Since 1947 a continuously operating research station (Macca Station) exists in Buckles Bay. Although Macquarie is home to up to 100,000 seals and close to 4 million seabirds, including Rockhopper, Gentoo, King and Royal Penguins, as well as Wandering, Grey-headed, Black-browed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross breeding there, the island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 for its geological importance as it is an uplifted portion of seabed at the edge of two tectonic plates.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 11 - Day at Sea
 29 December 2020
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 12 - Campbell Island
 30 December 2020
Steep and rugged Campbell Island has had a varied history. It has been used for sealing, whaling, and farming, for wartime defense and as a meteorological station. 700 km south of South Island, the Campbell Island group is New Zealand’s southernmost sovereign territory. With its 11,300 hectares of land, Campbell Island has been a nature reserve since 1954 and is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands” created in 1998. Although farming introduced new plants, Campbell still has close to 130 native vascular plants and is famous for its perennial wildflowers which adapted to the harsh climatic conditions becoming megaherbs. After eradication programs freed Campbell of sheep and rats, plant and birdlife has recovered and today the island is home to six species of albatross, including the Southern Royal Albatross, which in New Zealand is considered the largest albatross, as well as Black-browed, Grey-headed, and Light-mantled (Sooty) Albatross. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded, including a number of endemics.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 13-14 - Enderby & Auckland Islands
 31 December 2020-01 January 2021
465 kilometers south of Bluff, the Auckland Islands are the remains of two volcanoes. The group has a total of 56,816 ha. With a length of 40 km and 12 km at its widest, Auckland Island is the largest with 45,889 ha, while Enderby Island, the northernmost and one of the three pest-free islands, is the third largest with 695 ha. Archaeological evidence shows that Maori did visit in the thirteenth century and the Ngai Tahu claim customary rights based on their oral tradition of expeditions to the islands and surrounding waters. In 1840, three scientific expeditions to Antarctica visited Auckland Island: the American Ringgold, the French Dumont d’Urville and the British James Clark Ross. All of them visited what today is Port Ross, the northeasternmost bay. So did a German scientific expedition to observe the transit of Venus in 1874. Sheltered areas on the northern and eastern side of Auckland show rata forests and even though cattle, sheep, pigs and goats had been introduced in the nineteenth century playing havoc with the islands’ ecology, the group still has 196 native species of plants. Since Enderby Island and Auckland Island have a an abundance of albatross and petrels, and Sandy Bay on Enderby being one of the primary breeding grounds for New Zealand fur seals, the group was declared Auckland Islands Marine Sanctuary in 1993, UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, and Auckland Island – Motu Maha Marine Reserve in 2003 (stretching 12 nautical miles around the group, totaling 484,000 ha), protecting Southern right whale breeding grounds as well. 12 of the 44 bird species breeding on the islands are natives.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 15 - The Snares
 02 January 2021
Although the Maori already knew of islands south of Stewart Island, the island group received its name “The Snares” in 1791 by Captain George Vancouver who surprisingly discovered the islands the same day another British ship under Lieutenant Broughton sighted them -islets have been named after both navigators. A nature reserve since 1977, it is one of the five island groups in New Zealand’s youngest UNESCO World Heritage site “New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands” since 1998. The Snares are split into two: the Western Chain with five elongated islands named 1-5 in Maori and then the much larger North East Island and its surrounding rocks and islets, including the second largest island named after Broughton. The total land area is of 340 hectares. Because of its remoteness, The Snares have never been exploited and are considered to be among the few places on earth to have essentially unmodified vegetation. Mostly steep cliffs lead to forested areas consisting of large tree daisies. With no introduced terrestrial mammals, birds can thrive on the islands and islets, and seabirds are present in the millions. Three land bird species are endemic: the Snares Island Fernbird, the Snares Island Tomtit and the Snares Island Snipe. Several million Sooty Shearwaters breed on The Snares, but it is probably the Snares Crested Penguin with some 60,000 individuals spread out in about 100 colonies which most visitors want to see during a Zodiac cruise –landings are not permitted.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 16 - Ulva Island​​​​​​​
 03 January 2021
South of New Zealand’s South Island and part of Rakiura, New Zealand’s southernmost national park, Ulva Island has a special place in New Zealand’s effort to protect local wildlife. Already in 1899 Ulva Island was chosen as one of the earliest reserves to protect New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Since no logging has been done on this, the largest of several islands in Stewart Island’s Patterson Inlet, it is considered that on Ulva one can see what New Zealand must have looked like before humans settled. A small portion of Ulva’s 269 hectares is privately owned, but the island is uninhabited except for the native fauna. The only “hotels” on the island were set up in 2017 to permit an increase in the Weta population –Weta are cricket-like insects endemic to New Zealand- and to observe them. A program to eradicate rats has led Ulva to be one of New Zealand’s few predator-free islands and has given the endangered South Island Saddleback, Stewart Island Robin, and Stewart Island Kiwi as well as other birds an environment in which they can thrive. Research is being conducted on the island and birds have been released. Both the Department of Conservation and Ulva Island Charitable Trust are looking after this forested open island sanctuary and 4.5 kilometres of well-maintained tracks lead through the forest and along beaches, permitting to enjoy the local flora and fauna.

OVERNIGHT: Aboard the Silver Explorer.

Day 17 - Dunedin
 04 January 2021

Arrive back in to Dunedin and take your return flight home.

Payment Information

Deposit of $5000 per person twin share due 7 days after confirmation. Final payment will be due on or before Monday 17th August 2020. All payments once made are non-refundable - comprehensive Travel Insurance must be taken out prior to paying your deposit.

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