Few people would know where these subtropical islands are. That is one of their many attractions, visitors are rare. They lie 1000km north-east of New Zealand about half way to Tonga and well off the main shipping routes.
Possibly as early as the 10th century, but certainly by the 14th century, Polynesians knew about these islands and had settled them, as well as using them as a staging post for voyages to New Zealand. However when Europeans discovered them in 1788 they had been abandoned and were uninhabited.
There are four islands within the Kermadec group and all are the summits of huge undersea volcanoes situated along the western edge of the Kermadec Trench, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. They have a unique assemblage of subtropical and temperate plant, bird and marine species, testimony to the process of evolution arising from climate and isolation.
Raoul Island was settled by the Bell family in 1878 and they finally left in 1914. Other settlers came and went, but permanent settlement was discouraged after 1939. The New Zealand government has maintained a weather station on the island since 1938. The 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 controlled. Bird numbers and diversity are increasing and endemic plants are recovering, a testimony to what can be achieved with a vision and hard work.
An extensive 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 what will be our 6th Kermadec Island expedition.