In the wake of the Bounty
AT A GLANCE
Bird & Wildlife Cruise:
birds, whales & dolphins, tropical scenery & photography.
Mangareva (Tahiti) – Pitcairn – Henderson – Oeno – Acteon archipelago - Mangareva
Henderson, Phoenix & Murphy’s Petrels, Christmas Shearwater, Tuamotu Sandpiper and island endemics.
warm to hot
Exclusive WildWings charter! 12 passenger expedition ship, twin air-conditioned cabins (without private facilities)
Seabirds and island endemics of the Central Pacific
After our hugely successful first expedition in late 2014, WildWings is delighted to offer a second opportunity to explore some of the most rarely visited parts of the Central Pacific, with an exciting voyage to some truly iconic locations including Pitcairn and Henderson Islands.
Our expedition begins on Tahiti, where there will be an optional extension to look for the specialties on this spectacular island. With the assistance of local guides, we hope to find almost all the endemics including the critically endangered Tahiti Monarch, as well as Tahiti Kingfisher, Tahiti Reed-warbler, Grey-green Fruit-dove and Polynesian Swiftlet.
Our expedition ship, however, will be awaiting us at the small island of Mangareva and this will be an opportunity to appreciate the vastness of French Polynesia, as our domestic flight from Tahiti to the Gambier Islands is over 1,000 miles each way! Once aboard our specially chartered vessel, the New Zealand owned and operated expedition shipBraveheart, we will set off to explore this remarkable part of the world and over the next two weeks can look forward to visiting a host of rarely visited islands. Having been settled by theBounty mutineers in 1790, Pitcairn is surely the most well known, however, we also plan to land on a number of other islands including Henderson, Oeno and at least one of the islets in the Acteon archipelago.
Whilst ashore, our priority will be finding the endemics with these surely headed by one of the most desirable waders in the world, the delightful Tuamotu Sandpiper. This bizarre-looking wader is considered ‘endangered’ by Birdlife International, as it highly susceptible to introduced predators and is now regular on only five small islands. Whilst we plan to land on at least one of these, our first encounters may even be before we are ashore, as birds sometimes fly out to ‘greet’ arriving ships, hovering overhead to take a look!!!
Another of our planned destinations is Henderson Island, which is home to four land endemics, Henderson Island Crake, Henderson Island Fruit-dove, Stephen’s Lorikeet and Henderson Island Reed-warbler. This island was recently the target of a multiple million pound project to rid it of Polynesian Rats (as it also has spectacular concentrations of breeding seabirds), however, sadly the first attempt was unsuccessful, as some of these survived. Despite this, we stand an excellent chance of seeing all the endemic birds, including the crake which is one of the few flightless members of its family to have survived the wave of avian extinctions which occurred as humans spread across the Pacific.
Another species we can expect to find is Bristled-thighed Curlew. This species is surely one of the ultimate migrants, as every year the birds fly over 6,000 miles from their breeding grounds in Alaska to tiny islands in the Pacific, an incredible feat of navigation.
On Pitcairn Island, we are likely to meet some of the descendents of the Bounty mutineers and can expect to hear about the history of one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. It is a certainly a sobering experience to stand at the spot where the mutineers burnt the Bounty and think how they must have felt as their ship, and only method of leaving Pitcairn, literally went up in smoke.......As with Henderson, Pitcairn is also home to an endemic reed-warbler and we can expect to get some great looks at this strange-looking Acrocephalus, whilst overhead there are likely to be Grey Noddies and Herald Petrels.
We plan to also make at least one landing in the Acteon archipelago which, as well as being home to the Tuamotu Sandpiper, is also where there are more special land birds including Atoll Fruit-dove and the critically endangered Polynesian Ground-dove which may now number less than 200 individuals.
Whilst endemics and remote islands are undoubtedly two of the attractions of this expedition, another of the main reasons for visiting this incredible region are the seabirds and during our two weeks aboard, we can expect to see a good number of poorly known species including Herald Petrel, Murphy’s Petrel, Kermadec Petrel, Tahiti Petrel and Phoenix Petrel. The most localised breeder, however, is Henderson Petrel and by visiting the only island where this species is known to breed, we stand an excellent chance of encountering this much-prized Pterodroma.
On Oeno and Henderson Islands the number of breeding seabirds is an incredible spectacle and it will be with genuine reluctance that we will depart each island for our next destination.
During the voyage, we plan to do some chumming and hope to get some good looks at Polynesian Storm-petrel, with three of these rarely seen birds found on our 2014 expedition. Other possibilities include the extremely poorly knowntitan form of White-bellied Storm-petrel, which is increasingly considered be a full species. Indeed, after our discovery of the ‘New Caledonian Storm-petrel’ on the West Pacific Odyssey, we will be alert to the possibility of other mystery seabirds in this even more remote corner of the Pacific.
Other more widespread seabirds we can expect to see include Red-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, Masked and Red-footed Boobies, Brown, Black, Blue and Grey Noddies plus White, Sooty, Grey-backed and Great Crested Terns. There are also two interesting shearwaters to look for during our voyage, with both Christmas and Tropical Shearwaters previously seen in these waters. The ‘Tropicals’ here, however, are quite different from those in the Western Pacific and it is surely only a matter of time before a thorough taxonomic review splits this taxon into multiple species.
After two weeks aboard our vessel, we will reluctantly return to Mangareva and our journey back to civilisation will begin with a flight back to Papeete (the capital of French Polynesia).
Our first departure was in November 2014 (see our trip report) and all species named above were found including one of the first ever at sea sightings of ‘Titan Storm-petrel’. Unexpected sightings included good numbers of Juan Fernandez Petrels plus single Stejneger’s and Cook’s Petrels so more surprises are likely in 2016. Uncharacteristic sea conditions somewhat reduced the chances of finding cetaceans on our previous expedition but despite this, several Humpback Whales were spotted along with a stunning encounter with a pod of Blainville’s Beaked Whales which spent more than 20 minutes swimming around the stern of the vessel.
We intend to keep the itinerary somewhat flexible on this expedition to maximise on our birding opportunities, however, our plan is to land on Pitcairn, Henderson and Oeno Islands, as well as at least one of the islands in the Acteon archipelago.
We have ample time in the itinerary to thoroughly explore all of these locations and whilst some of the transits between islands will be at night, we also plan to spend time at sea during daylight hours to maximise our chances of finding the special seabirds of this region.
(Day 0: Arrive Tahiti, overnight Papeete.)
Day 1: Transfer to airport for morning flight to Mangareva. On arrival, board vessel and sail.
Days 2 – 14: Exploring this part of the Pacific in our specially chartered vessel (see above).
Day 15: Disembark vessel in the morning and fly back to Papeete.
Various albatrosses, Herald Petrel, Henderson Petrel, Murphy’s Petrel, Kermadec Petrel, White-necked Petrel, Gould’s Petrel, Collared Petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Phoenix Petrel, Juan Fernandez Petrel, Stejneger’s Petrel, Black Petrel, Polynesian Storm-petrel, Titan (White-bellied) Storm-petrel, Christmas Shearwater, Tropical Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicbird, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, Lesser Frigatebird, Masked Booby, Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, Black Noddy, Blue Noddy, Grey Noddy, White Tern, Sooty Tern and Grey-backed Tern.
Henderson Island Crake, Tuamotu Sandpiper, Wandering Tattler, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Henderson Island Fruit-dove, Atoll Fruit-dove, Polynesian Ground-dove, Stephen’s Lorikeet, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Henderson Island Reed-warbler and Pitcairn Island Reed-warbler.
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities.
Dates: 20th September – 4th October 2016
Leader/s: Chris Collins and ship’s team.
£7995 per person, sharing a twin air-conditioned cabin
Prices based on NZ$1.95 = £1
Price includes: Return economy class flights from Papeete to Mangareva including prepaid taxes and surcharges, group transfers airport/ship/airport, voyage with accommodation as booked, including all meals, shore excursions, services of WildWings leader and ship’s team plus day by day bird checklist.
Price excludes: Flights UK to Papeete return (available from c£1449pp), pre-voyage hotel night in Papeete (room only, from £90 per room per night), transfers in Papeete, meals and drinks in Papeete, voyage landing fees – c.US$85 payable locally, optional birding excursions in Papeete (approx. £130pp for two excursions, includes a donation to Birdlife of £35pp), travel insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature onboard the vessel.
Chris Collins first visited these islands in 2006 and also led our 2014 expedition. The 2014 trip report is available on this website.
20th September – 4th October 2016
We will either use the MV Braveheart or MV Claymore, both of which are small expedition ships, based in the Southern Hemisphere, which carry only 12 passengers in twin berth cabins, plus WildWings leader Chris Collins and up to five crew. They have two inflatable boats for shore landings and know these waters very well indeed. Outside is a shaded area, perfect for tropical sea-watching. Inside are the three shared bathrooms, the dining area plus a small lounge/library.
NB Exact itinerary subject to weather and sea conditions.
Chris has birded in over 50 countries around the world and now spends quite a lot of his time at sea. Although professionally qualified as a Chartered Accountant, these days Chris concentrates on wildlife-related projects and was very instrumental in setting up the Western Pacific Odyssey and also guides our Russian Far East voyages.