You won’t find them mentioned in a travel brochure on your high street; you won’t find them in most guidebooks, you probably don’t know anyone that has ever been there and they don’t even appear on some maps of the South Pacific – these are the ‘forgotten islands’. Despite their low profile, they are among the most remarkable wildlife reserves in the Southern Ocean, designated UNESCO World Heritage sites and afforded the highest protection of any nature reserves in New Zealand. Remote, uninhabited and on no regular shipping route, access is further restricted by a strict Management Plan which limits the number of people allowed ashore each year.
Departing the Port of Bluff (Invercargill) the first of these islands we visit are The Snares. No landings are permitted because the islands are honey-combed with seabird burrows. Of particular interest are the Snares Crested Penguin, a Fernbird and Tomtit all of which are endemic. We should see them all as we enjoy the dramatic coastline and tree daisy forest from our Zodiac cruise.
In the Auckland Islands, the largest of the island groups, we will have the chance to spend the day ashore on Enderby Island, arguably the most amazing Subantarctic Island. Here you can hike through the windswept Rata forests, and along the exposed coastal cliffs. The wildlife is never far away and its lack of fear means close encounters, great for photography and observations. In Carnley Harbour in the south of the Auckland Islands there are a number of fascinating sites, including a Shy Albatross colony, abandoned Coastwatcher’s huts, a shipwreck and castaway depots that we can visit. The weather will dictate what we do.
Campbell Island, the southernmost island of this expedition, is an example of what can be achieved in restoring islands. In recent years sheep, cattle, cats and rats have all been eliminated and the island is rapidly recovering. The great English botanist Sir Joseph Hooker, a friend of Charles Darwin, visited Campbell Island in the 1840s and described the flowering fields of ‘megaherbs’ to be “second to none outside of the tropics”. We can say the same now, because of the removal of these introduced animals. This island is also the home of the majestic Southern Royal Albatross, the endemic Campbell Island Flightless Teal and Snipe.
These islands represent a priceless ecosystem. Joining this expedition redefines natural history travel and will leave you wishing you could have spent more time there.