A pristine subtropical archipelago surrounded by one of New Zealand’s largest marine reserves, the remote Kermadec Islands/ Rangitāhua are of such international conservation significance they require a special permit to visit.
Lying 1,000-kilometres north-east of New Zealand, about half way to Tonga and well off the main shipping routes, few people know, or have even heard of, this 2,500-kilometre long island chain of around 80 undersea volcanoes rising some 8,000-metres from the Kermadec Ridge, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
There are four main islands within the Kermadec Group where a unique assemblage of subtropical and temperate plant, bird and marine species flourish uninterrupted, testimony to the process of evolution arising from climate and isolation.
Polynesians were the first to settle these islands, possibly as early as the 10th Century, but certainly by the 14th Century as well as using them as staging posts for voyages to New Zealand. However, when Europeans discovered them in 1788, they were uninhabited.
Raoul Island, the largest in the group, was settled by the Bell family in 1878 who would live there until 1914. While other settlers would come and go, permanent settlement was discouraged after 1939, the New Zealand Government has maintained a weather station on the island since 1938.
Introduced plants and animals left behind by the settlers have had a significant impact on the island’s ecosystem, but now an ambitious conservation program is attempting to restore Raoul Island to its original splendor. The goats, cats and rats have been removed and many introduced plants had been controlled by Raoul Island Rangers who spent 12 months on the island. Bird numbers and diversity are increasing and endemic plants are recovering, testimony to what can be achieved with vision and hard work.
An extensive 745,000-hectare Marine Reserve protects the unique marine ecosystem that surrounds these islands. With virtually no disturbance (certainly no fishing and only a handful of divers each year) the diving and snorkelling can only be described as amazing and unique. As with the terrestrial species there is both subtropical and temperate
species to be encountered.
This is not an annual expedition. It is off the beaten track, even for us, but it is so rare to have the opportunity to explore such unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems that we are constantly drawn back. We hope you will join us on one of our rare expeditions to the remote Kermadec Islands.