Chatham Islands – The Heart of New Zealand’s Easternmost Islands

Chatham Islands – The Heart of New Zealand’s Easternmost Islands

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Discover amazing endemic wildlife, meet the locals and experience conservation in action on an unforgettable journey through New Zealand’s Chatham Islands.

Their first inhabitants, the Moriori, called them ‘Rekhou’ (misty skies), the Europeans who rediscovered them in 1791 named them the Chatham Islands after their ship, while Maori, who didn’t settle the islands until 1835, called them ‘Wharekauri’. Today, we know them as the home of the endangered Black Robin.

The Chatham archipelago (made up of at least 12 islands, plus numerous islets) lies 870 kilometres east of New Zealand and runs 45 minutes ahead of the rest of the country. The first part of New Zealand and the first inhabited landmass around the globe to be greeted by the morning sun, the history of these islands and their rich natural history is unique.

It is only by visiting and experiencing these remarkable islands that one can truly appreciate what they have to offer. During explorations around the archipelago we will hear remarkable stories of rediscovery and population recovery with the Black Robin and its rescue from the brink of extinction and the once thought to be extinct Chatham Island Taiko (Magenta Petrel). The ongoing careful management of these critically endangered species serve as beacons of hope and inspiration for conservationists everywhere.

Visiting the Chatham Islands is not difficult – there are regular flights to and from New Zealand and several travel companies offer guided tours – but this expedition is unique and rare, as it includes the seldom visited (and almost impossible to get to) outlying islands where much of the story of the Chatham Islands can be seen and experienced.

Our journey is also guided by a team of Chatham Islands’ experts whose knowledge will add another dimension to your experience.

While no landings are possible at some of these remote outcrops, islets and stacks, we plan to Zodiac cruise their shorelines. The daily itinerary will be determined by weather and sea conditions.

Trip Name
Chatham Islands - The Heart of New Zealand's Easternmost Islands
Vessel Type: Expedition Length: 72 metres Passenger Capacity: 50 Built / refurbished: 1984 / 2018 The Spirit of Enderby is a 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 November 2004 to provide comfortable accommodation in twin share cabins approximately half of which have private facilities. All cabins have outside windows or portholes and ample storage space. On board there is a combined bar/library lounge area and a dedicated lecture room. The cuisine is excellent and is prepared by top NZ and Australian chefs. The real focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit. The ship is crewed by a very enthusiastic and most experienced Russian Captain and crew. The name Spirit of Enderby honours the work and the vision of the Enderby Brothers of London. The Enderby Captains were at the forefront of Antarctic exploration for almost 40 years in the early 1800’s. It also celebrates Enderby Island, arguably the greatest Subantarctic Island in the world. a) our fleet of RIB’s, (rigid inflatable boats) sometimes referred to as zodiacs. These extremely safe and stable craft will land you at some of the most amazing places.


Day 1 - Day 1: Christchurch
Make your way to yourovernight accommodation inChristchurch where you will spendthe first night with your fellowexpeditioners. (Reporting timesand accommodation details willbe confirmed with your voyagedocuments).
Day 2 - Day 2: Waitangi
Enjoy breakfast at the hotelbefore being transferred toChristchurch Airport for your flightto Chatham Island where youradventure begins.Chatham Island’s charming andfriendly hub, Waitangi featuresthe island’s main wharf and isnormally bustling with activity.Near our landing in Waitangithere is a good chance ofobserving the endemic ChathamIsland Shag. With a newgeneration of Chatham Islandpeople there has come a newawareness and a willingness to bepart of a concerted conservationeffort. A number of privatereserves have been established,extensive replanting has takenplace and predator controlinitiatives have been instigatedon the island.In the afternoon you will betransferred to the ship where thecaptain and expedition teamwill be waiting to greet you andshow you to your cabin. You willhave the opportunity to familiariseyourself on board and there willbe formal introductions to theteam followed by safety briefings.
Day 3 - Day 3: Kaingaroa
This remote fishing village has apicturesque harbour historicallyused by early sealers, whalersand trading ships. Points ofinterest here include the J.M.Barker (Hapupu) National HistoricReserve, one of only two NationalHistoric Reserves in New Zealand,where a short walk takes us toview ancient dendroglyphs (treecarvings), which date back to theChatham Island’s earliest settlers –the Moriori.Also nearby is the Te Whakarugraveyard which is consideredone of New Zealand’s oldestEuropean cemeteries and theremains of the first Germanmissionary settlement built in 1843.At Point Munning a large NewZealand Fur Seal colony can beobserved and, during the summermonths, migrant Turnstones andBanded Dotterels have also beenspotted here. We will also be onthe lookout for endemic plantsincluding the famed ChathamIsland Forget-me-not.
Day 4 - Day 4: South Coast
We plan to visit the AwatotaraValley, one of the original privatereserves established by a localfamily on the south coast ofthe main island, where thereis a very good chance to seethe endemic Chatham IslandPigeon, Chatham Island Warblerand Tui. The pigeon was close toextinction, though now supportsa healthy population. Travellingby local bus, the road takes usthrough developed farmlandwhere we will undoubtedly seenumerous introduced speciesincluding the Weka. Continuingfurther south to the Tuku River andTaiko Town where you will be ableto learn about the discovery andconservation work done on theChatham Island Taiko, one of theworld’s most endangered seabirds.
Day 5 - Day 5: Pitt Island
At Pitt Island, spectacular scenerywaits on this jewel in the ChathamIslands’ crown. The easternmostinhabited island in New Zealand,it is situated approximately 22kilometres south-east of themain Chatham Island. Named‘Rangihaute’ by the Moriori, it isseparated from the main islandby Pitt Strait and is officially the firstinhabited place on Earth to begreeted by the sun each day.The island’s rugged coastline andbush-clad valleys are home toa variety of birdlife including Tui,Tomtit, Red-crowned Parakeets,Warblers, Fantails and other rareand endemic birds. Listen to stories of life on the island and its richhistory as we explore this naturalwonderland.
Day 6 - Day 6: Outlying Islands
Today we have a day of smallisland and rocky outcropexploration planned including aZodiac cruise of South East Island,arguably one of the world’sgreatest nature reserves. Whilelandings are not permitted, wecan expect good views of theworld’s rarest wader the endemicNew Zealand Shore Plover, andChatham Island Oystercatcher.We should also see the Pitt IslandShag which nests on the island.Situated to the west of Pitt Island,Mangere Island is one of only twosites in the world where the BlackRobin (once the world’s rarestbird) are found. We will hear thestory of how this endemic specieswas rescued from the brink ofextinction in the 1970s when thetotal population consisted ofjust six birds. The recovery of thislittle bird is a remarkable tale ofpersistence, passion, courageand a little luck.We should also find the Forbes’Parakeet (aka the ChathamParakeet) on Mangere andLittle Mangere Islands. This rareparakeet is endemic to theChatham Islands, where it isconfined to these tiny islands.There are excellent opportunitiesfor pelagic birding as weapproach Pyramid Rock. Inparticular, we will look out for theChatham Island Petrel, and inthe past we have observed thevery rare Chatham Island Taikoin this area too. Endemic to theChatham Islands, the ChathamIsland Taiko – also known as theMagenta Petrel – is among NewZealand’s most endangeredspecies. It is one of the world’srarest seabirds with a populationestimated at less than 150.This afternoon we plan to cruisearound the spectacular basaltoutcrop of Pyramid Rock, southof Pitt Island – the only breedingplace of the Chatham IslandAlbatross. Landings are notpossible (nor practical – a factyou will appreciate when you seeit) but great views of birds canbe had from the ship and therewill also be hundreds of birdsfollowing behind.
Day 7 - Day 7: Owenga
History and nature combine atOwenga Village, a small portsettlement and fishing villageon the northeastern side of themain island. Owenga’s ruggedcoastline is a popular diving andfishing spot and offers excellentopportunities to observe seabirds.Owenga is also the locationof New Zealand’s only Moriorimarae, Kōpinga which is locatedon nearby hilltop Te Awatea.Today we also plan to Zodiaccruise several of the outlyingislands including The Sisters. Thisclutch of three islands are thenorthernmost in the ChathamArchipelago, have the secondlargest breeding colony ofNorthern Royal Albatross andan endemic species of stagbeetle. Laying claim to beingthe easternmost point of NewZealand, the Forty-Fours islandsare important breeding sites forthe Chatham Fulmar Prion, Buller’sand Northern Royal Albatross,while the Star Key’s five rockyislets is another stronghold for thecritically endangered ChathamIsland Shag.
Day 8 - Days 8 to 9: At Sea
En route to Christchurch wewill cross the Chatham Rise, anelongated underwater extensionof the New Zealand subcontinent.Large and relatively shallowlysubmerged, it stretches east fromthe South Island of New Zealandand is where the cold Antarcticcurrents meet warm tropicalstreams. The resulting upwellingproduces an abundance of food,with nutrient-rich waters there isan overlap between northernpelagic species and birds fromsouthern latitudes, so we canexpect some great pelagicsightings.Species we expect to encounterinclude Wandering Albatross,Royal Albatross, Black-browedAlbatross, White-cappedAlbatross and Salvin’s Albatross.Petrel species we should be ableto identify are the Northern GiantPetrel, Cape Petrel, WestlandBlack Petrel, White-chinnedPetrel, Great-winged Petrel,Grey-backed Storm-petrel, Whitefaced Storm-petrel, the DivingPetrel and Cook’s Petrel.Additionally we will likelyencounter species of shearwaterseabirds. These tubenose birdsfly with stiff wings and use a‘shearing’ flight technique tomove across wave fronts withthe minimum of active flight.Photographic opportunities caninclude Flesh-footed Shearwater,Buller’s Shearwater, SootyShearwater, Little Shearwater andFairy Prion and Broad-billed Prion.There could well be other speciesso this a good time to be out ondeck.It’s also a good time to take theopportunity to relax and reflecton the expedition, and downloadand edit any remaining photoswhile they are fresh in your mindand you have the experience ofour expedition team on boardfor questions. We will recap thehighlights of our expedition andenjoy a farewell dinner tonight aswe sail to our final port.
Day 9 - Day 10: Christchurch
After a final breakfast we willprepare for our midday arrivalin the Port of Lyttelton. Ondisembarkation you will board ourcomplimentary transfer to eithera central city drop off point orChristchurch airport.In case of unexpected delaysdue to weather and/or portoperations we ask you not to bookany onward travel until after midafternoon today.
Day 10 - Please Note:
During our voyage, circumstancesmay make it necessary ordesirable to deviate fromthe proposed itinerary. Thiscan include poor weatherand opportunities for makingunplanned excursions. YourExpedition Leader will keep youfully informed.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type


    • Kaingaroa
    • Pitt Island
    • Outlying Islands
    • Owenga