West Pacific Odyssey

When one thinks of the remote places on our planet, one often thinks of the far flung polar regions or the difficult to reach high mountain ranges such as the Andes or the Himalayas. With four fifths of the globe covered in water, some of the most difficult areas to reach and explore are the great oceans and in particular the vast Pacific Ocean, where a number of endemic seabirds and landbirds are quite literally way off the beaten track. Anyone who has been on an expedition at sea will know just how exciting it is, and what a privilege it can be to be cast into the middle of the most difficult habitat to access, surrounded by seabirds that few have had the opportunity to see.
Before going on board of the "Spirit of Enderby" I did a 9-day trip on the Northern Island of New Zealand.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a wildlife sanctuary and one of New Zealand's most important and exciting conservation projects. It is located 30km north east of central Auckland and just 4km from the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. A hundred and twenty years of farming had seen this 220-hectare island stripped of 94% of its native bush but between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees. The Island is now 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species preferring open habitat.
In conjunction with this planting programme, all mammalian predators were eradicated and a number of threatened and endangered bird and reptile species have been successfully introduced, including the flightless Takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the Tuatara. There are few places in New Zealand where you can readily see and walk amongst so many rare species.

Cape Kidnappers accommodates over 20.000 birds spread over four main nesting sites. The Gannets are present at the Cape from August to April of each year for the sole purpose of breeding. At the age of around 15-16 weeks, the chicks will take their first ever flight – a solo instinctive migration of around 2,800km to Australian waters.
The mortality rate is high with around 70-80% perishing before they have a chance to return. Those that do survive will return to their birth colony at around 2-3 years old, complete with their beautiful adult colouring.
They will then spend the rest of their lives in this area – on land to breed, and on NZ sea-waters for the winter.

This West Pacific Odyssey has been designed by birders for birders, taking advantage of the fact that the ship has to move from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, passing through many little known and seldom explored areas.
Whilst it could never be a comprehensive birding trip to the areas it visits, it does give some great opportunities to get a taste of the birds of the region. During the voyage, we will cover over 5.000 nautical miles, taking us right across the Western Pacific from New Zealand to Japan.
En route, we will visit several remote islands and atolls, themselves home to some exciting endemic birds, and we should also encounter some rarely seen cetaceans.
It is a unique opportunity for those who love the thrill of a cruise in the Pacific, and in particular, for the seabird enthusiast, gives one a fantastic opportunity to see a great cross-section of the seabirds inhabiting the western parts of this vast ocean.

After departing the Port of Tauranga, in New Zealand we sail for the rich waters of the Hauraki Gulf where there are numerous endemic species, including the recently discovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel.
From there it's northward to Norfolk Island for a day.
Next stop is New Caledonia where we search for the amazing Kagu and other endemics in the Rivière Bleue National Park.


  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • Day 3&4
  • Day 5
  • Day 6&7
  • Day 8
  • Day 9
  • Day 10
  • Day 11
  • Day 12&13
  • Day 14
  • Day 15
  • Day 16&17
  • Day 18 - 20
  • Day 21 - 24
  • Day 25
  • Day 26
  • Day 27
  • Day 28&29
  • Day 30&31
  • Day 32&33
  • Day 34
  • Day 35
  • Day 36&37
  • Day 38
  • Day 39
  • Day 40
  • Day 41
  • Auckland
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island
  • Kirikeri
  • Bethells Beach
  • Taupo
  • Napier - Cape Kidnappers
  • Rotorua
  • Tauranga (boarding 15:00)
  • Hauraki Gulf (New Zealand)
  • At Sea
  • Norfolk Island
  • At Sea
  • New Caledonia
  • At Sea
  • Solomon Islands
  • At Sea
  • New Ireland
  • Papua New Guinea
  • At Sea
  • Chuuk Lagoon
  • At Sea
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • At Sea
  • Bonin islands
  • At Sea
  • Torishima Island
  • Miyakejima Island
  • Yokohama (10:00) - Narita

We then spend four exciting days in the Solomon Islands birding on Rennell, Makira, Guadalcanal
(Mt Austin) and on Kolombangara, before cruising across the Britain Trench, an area known to be extremely rich in cetaceans.
As we sail along the coasts of Bougainville and New Ireland, we will look for two extremely poorly known seabirds, Heinroth's Shearwater and the recently rediscovered Beck's Petrel, both of which we have seen on all previous expeditions in this region.

Our final port on the first part of this voyage is the township of Kokopo in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea.

Continuing on from the first leg of this epic voyage from New Zealand to Papua New Guinea, this second part takes us north to Japan and crosses deep into the equatorial ocean desert.
Departing from Kokopo, Papua New Guinea we cross the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. It is a region that will enhance your Pacific Ocean experience.

There are opportunities to see rare pelagic seabirds plus many island endemic species.
Our seafaring days are spent on deck observing the diversity of birds dipping, swirling, gliding, diving and bobbing around you.
But this journey is not only for ‘birders', the potential cetacean list is exciting, Killer, Sperm, Melon-headed, Minke and Baird's Beaked Whales have been seen in the past, we will discover what is over the oceans horizon, distinctive flukes, impressive dives and playful rolls could all add to the excitement of this pelagic voyage. Flying fish and squid have been spotted breaking the water's surface on this passage north.

We will stop at Truk Island (Federated States of Micronesia) for some intensive birding before setting a course for Japan.
Our route will take us close to Torishima Island (and hopefully the Short-tailed Albatross) before we pass Miyakejima Island, where we will look for the last speciality of the expedition, the Japanese Murrelet.
Our voyage will then conclude at the Port of Yokohama in Japan.

This expedition is accompanied by some of the best pelagic birding guides in the world who have extensive experience of the seabirds of the West Pacific and have visited the islands we will be landing on multiple times before.
Birding starts at dawn and finishes at sundown. Our guides are there throughout the day to assist you and the ‘reading of the bird list' each evening is legendary for its detail and discussion.
This is one expedition you can't afford to miss.

Trip Report

I did make this trip in march/april/may 2015 and it proved to be one of the greater journeys I have made. Though it was a hard days work trying to picture the wildlife; I did succeed in getting pictures of the most of the endemic birds. In total I have seen 502 different species
From Auckland it's about an hour by boat to reach the Tiritiri Matangi Island. In the Inner Hauraki Gul we met hudge flocks of the Fluttering Shearwaters along with some Buller's Shearwater, Arctic Skua and White-fronted Tern. The island has been replanted with endemic tree-ferns, palms and trees, which (after about 25 years) makes it feel like an original forest. The first encounter on the island was with 2 Little Blue Penguin's, who used the nesting boxes to stay safe while moulting. Furtermore I saw Hihi, Stitchbird, North Island Kokako and Saddleback, New Zealand Bellbird and Tui. On the grassy fields where about 15 Takahe's walking around. The South Island Takahe was considered to be extinct until famously rediscovered in the Murchison Mountains in 1948. Conservation work by the Department Of Conservation and community groups aims to prevent extinction and restore Takahe to sites throughout their original range. At the beginning of 2013 there were 263 Takahe accounted for (of wich are 15 on Tiritiri), showing slow but steady growth over the previous few years.
The main pupose for the visit to Kirikeri was the North Island Brown Kiwi. In my opinion a "must-to-do-thing" when visiting New Zealand, so I hade arranged an appointment with the people of Birders Rest. And I did succeed, seeing 4 birds and making one reasonable picture.
Though it was a little bit late (best time to visit is december - februari) it still was a great sight to look at the Gannet-kolonie at Cape Kidnappers. In the surrounding area I found New Zealand Pipit and Brown Teal (species I had missed until then)
In Tauranga it was time to board the "Spirit of Enderby" and after some saftey-drills we sailed into the Bay of Plenty, where the first Procellariidae where seen (Black Petrel, Flesh-footed Shearwater)
A chumming-session in the Hauraki Gulf gives me the opportunity for picturing the New Zealand Storm-Petrel, Cook's Petrel, Little Shearwater and Common Diving Petrel. During the rest of the day there where Gibson's Albatross, White-capped Albatross and Fairy Prion. At the evening the first cetacean (Common Dolphin) was spotted, but it was far .. far.. away. Something that happened regularly this trip.
The next morning, after releasing a Black-winged Petrel, who had spent the night on deck, we did another chumming-session near Three Kings Island, but it wasn't a great succes. (Wilson's Storm Petrel, White-necked Petrel). During the rest of the day we made it up with Gould’s Petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Grey-faced Petrel and a Campbell Albatross.
It was raining when we arrived at Norfok Island, so the Convict settlement looks even more sadly. When we arrived at Norfolk National Park it was clearing up and we started to look for the endemic Slender-billed White-eye, but that wasn't an easy jop, course there was a mixed flock with mainly Silver-eye's. Within a couple of hours we managed to find the other endemics (Norfolk Gerygone and Norfolk Island Parakeet) and also the Pacific Robin, Golden Whistle and Grey Fantail. After a short break in the village of Burnt Pine (where I found a Meadow Argus) we went to take a look at the coast line with signs of Red-tailed Tropicbird, Masked Booby, Grey Noddy and some other butterflies (Caper White, Common Grass-blue, Caper Gull). Our last visit was the Norfolk Botanical garden, which has a beautiful collection of plants endemiC to Norfolk Island. Here we found our last birds (Pacific Emerald Dove and White Tern)

West Pacific Odyssey

This list, give's you a nice idea of the things I h've photographed. So explore the list, to see nice picture's of different familie-goups; there are also detailed list available of the different species.

There are also some pictures available of the When you want to know more about this region, you have to visit my travelpages.

This trip is made possible by

The sea-journey to New Caledonia was dominated by the tropical storm Solo. When the staf got the information that the storm should reach New caledonia the next day, all the engines where given full throttle and we reached the safety of the harbour Noumea just in time. Still there where birds to be seen (Vanuatu Petrel/Collared Petrel/Wedge-tailed Shearwater/Short-tailed Shearwater) and a pot off Short-finned Pilot Whale's.
Early the next day we headed for the Rivière Bleue National Park to find the Kagu, an endangered species, who's doing quit well now, since all the wild dogs have been shot down. After seeing it very well, we started to find the other endemics (Red-throated Parrotfinch, New Caledonian Parakeet, New Caledonian Whistler, New Caledonian Friarbird, Yellow-bellied Robin, New Caledonian Cuckooshrike, Barred Honeyeater, Green-backed White-eye, New Caledonia Myzomela and Striated Starling)
The Kagu is a "must-to-do-thing"; it's nice but there is much more to see on New caledonia; so get that done and go for the other more interesting things.
We needed tree days at sea to reach the Soloman Islands. This part of the Pacific Ocean is relatively unknown and we found some quit interesting birds (Providence Petrel, Madeiran Storm-Petrel, Polynesian Storm-petrel and South Polar Skua)
Some years ago Rennel Island was an unspoiled tropical island, but the island is now predominanted by de-forestation. Despite that we managed to find the endemic Rennell Shrikebill, Rennell Fantail, Bare-eyed White-eye, Rennell White-eye, Rennell Starling, some nice orchids (Spathoglottis plicata/Spathoglottis pacifica) and some butterflies. (Small Leopard, Common Grass Yellow, Common Eggfly).
An early start the next morning brought us to Mt Austin (Gaudalcanal) to find new endemic-species. (Solomon Islands Sea-Eagle, Solomons Cockatoo, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Solomon Islands Cuckoo-shrike, Midget Flowerpecker, Brown-winged Starling, Steel-blue Flycatcher) Other nice species are: Brown Tree Snake, Pacific Bluetail Skink, Wide-brand Grass-dart, Orange Palm Dart, Brown Pansy, Blue Tiger and Painted Grasshawk.
We couldn't visit Makira-island, becourse the chief of the village was verry ill, so we visited some small islands at the upper north/west side of Santa Isabel Island; an unspoiled region with mangrove's and rain-forest, where we pickted up Singing Starling, Red-capped Myzomela, Yellow-throated White-eye, Brahminy Kite and White-billed Crow. Beside birds i found Solomon Island Birdwing, Spiny-backed Orbweaver, Barred Mudskipper, Dussumier's Fiddler Crab and Sphenomorphus simus (a skink never seen in the Solomons before).
I have missed a couple of parrots until now, so it should happen on Kolombangara, but it didn't happen; we had lots of rain that morning. I only mannaged to get some far away pictures of Pale Mountain Pigeon, Cockerell's Fantail, Solomons White-eye and White-capped Monarch. In the afternoon there was time for snorkling and I made some realy nice pictures off Black-tail Sergeant, Lagoon Damselfish, Orbiculate Cardinalfish, Yellowtail Clownfish, Humphead Bannerfish, Fluted Giant Clam and Blue Linckia. The Solomons have lots to offer for the "nature-minded tourists", hopefully they will find a way between economic profit (de-forestation/sea-mining) and nature conservation
The next day (as we passed Bougainville) the main target was the Heinroth’s Shearwater; an extremely poorly known dark small shearwater of the tropical western Pacific which breeding grounds not known with certainty, but most likely to be Bougainville. And YES, standing around 12 hours on deck paid the effort; I have seen a total off 7 birds. The pictures aren 't great but that corresponds to the pictures off the seen mammals (Spinner Dolphinn, Cuvier's Beaked Whale and Rough-toothed Dolphin); also far..far...away.
The next morning we arrived at the southern coasts of New Ireland where we did a chumming-session in order to find another spcial bird (Beck's Petrel). This species has recently been rediscovered, with confirmed records of at least 30 and 160 birds from expeditions in 2007 and 2008. It may have declined severely from depredation by introduced cats and rats on its breeding grounds (which are unknown but thought likely to be include New Ireland). And there was succes; I have photographed 4 Beck's. The rest of the day we kept cruising along the south-eastern coast of New Ireland; which brought terns (Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Spectacled Tern) and at last some nearby shots of cetacean's (Pantropical Spotted Dolphin and Spinner Dolphin)
The day at Kokopo Papua New Guinea is intended for changing passangers, but "the staying-passangers" were also allowed to go ashore. Although it was above 35 degrees celsius we found nice species (Hooded Mannikin, Bismarck Crow, Brush Cuckoo, New Britain Friarbird Black Sunbird, Shining Bronze-cuckoo and Green Skimmer). In the afternoon (after again some saftey-drillings) we went upon north to Japan. That afternoon all my displeasure's of the far..far..away cetacean's where solved; a very close vieuw of Blainville's Beaked Whale. Well; i have seen the Blainville's before, but i do like the ocean-mammals, so this was one off my highlights off this journey
A beautiful sunset at Steffen Strait (a marine channel between between New Hanover and New Ireland) was also an opportunity to find some shore-birds and a Pacific Flying Fox.
And then it was time for the "death zone" (The Pacific Ocean around the equator is very deep and holds less nutrients, so at most ten birds a day) Fortunately, despite the high temperature at sea surface (around 30 degrees) the flying fish provides enough distraction to pass these days. The flying fish in the pacific ocean are verry colorfull (blue/yellow/reddish) but it's hard to put names on them. At home a two-days work with the help of the internet made it possible to identify 12 different species.
Chuuk Lagoon is an atoll ringed with reefs and containing a number of populated islands. In the (late) afternoon the eastern entrence to the Chuuk-lagoon is a good place to see the Tropical Shearwater. Although it was windy and drizzly all wher prsesent at deck to see these birds.
Birding on Chuuk is an easy job, just go on top of the hill with the Old Japanese Gun (a large WW2-artillery gun) and wait till the birds arrive. And the strategy worked; within a couple of hours all the endemics where seen (Caroline Reed Warbler, Micronesian Starling, Caroline Islands Ground-Dove, Oceanic Flycatcher, Micronesian Starling, Crimson-crowned Fruit-Dove, Micronesian Myzomela and Caroline Islands White-eye. Other observation where Emerald Skink, Philippine Hedge Blue, Chuuk Flying Fox, Caroline sheath-tailed Bat and Agrionoptera sanguinolenta pusilla (the fist sightings of this dragonfly on chuuk).
The next couple off days in the "death zone" we where enjoyed by a couple of Red-footed Booby's. These booby's used the ship for roosting at night and as an observation post at daylight to cath the flying fish. The passenger likes this very much but the crew dislikes it course off the daily deck-cleaning caused by the bird droppings.
We couldn't spent lotts of time near the coast of the Northern Mariana Islands, course the americans didn't like that and sent the ship way.
The Bonin Islands, are an archipelago of over 30 subtropical and tropical islands, some 1.000 kilometres directly south of Tokyo, Japan. Because these islands have never been connected to a continent, many of their animals and plants have undergone unique evolutionary processes. This has led to the islands' nickname of the "The Galápagos of the Orient", and they are plaved as a natural World Heritage Site on June 24, 2011. Unfortunatly we couldn't get landed on these islands, course the needed customs formalities can only be done in Yokohama. But at sea we found some nice things: Bonin Petrel, Matsudaira’s Storm-petrel, Tristram’s Storm-petrel, Bannerman’s Shearwater, Black-footed Albatross, Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin and Omura's Whale.
The species, "Bryan's Shearwater," whose body length ranges between 27 and 30 centimeters, was believed to have gone extinct after it was last seen on Midway Atoll in 1991. Scientists conducted DNA testing on seabirds found on the Bonin Islands between 1997 and 2011, as their features matched those of the Bryan's Shearwater. In 2012, it was confirmed that the birds were indeed members of the Bryan's Shearwater species. The researchers spotted a flock of 10 Bryan's Shearwaters on Higashijima island, approximately three kilometers east of Chichijima island, on Feb. 25-26 2015. One of those birds was holding eggs inside of its nest. -This was the reason that we stayed about 3 hours just before dawn near Higashijima Island. And we have seen one !!! -
The Short-tailed Albatross came perilously close to extinction. They were hunted on an almost industrial scale for their feathers in the later half of the 19th century, with some estimates claiming upward of 10 million birds hunted. By the 1930s the only population left was on Torishima Island. On 1949 an American researcher arriving on this island declared the species to be extinct, but an estimated 50 individuals, most likely juveniles, survived at sea (all albatross species take a long time to reach sexual maturity and will not return to their natal colony for many years). After the return of the birds in 1954 they were more carefully protected; global population today is estimated a 2.000 individuals.
Around sunrise, we stayed about 3 hours circling around Torishima Island Unfortunately we where chased away by the Japenese coastquard, who didn't like this. But we have seen several birds and i've good pictures.
Near Miyakejima island are a couple off rocks (called Onohara-jima) is a breeding site for the Japanese Murrelet and as we passed these rocks a totalo off 9 birds where seen. Other species worth mentioning are: Streaked Shearwater, Aleutian Tern and a small group of Risso´s Dolphin's
Before boarding on the plane back home we did a small succesful birding-session around the Narita-airport. Bringing Japanese Wagtail, Japanese Tit, Pygmy Woodpecker, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Japanese Bush Warbler, Varied Tit, Meadow Bunting and Brown-eared Bulbul.