Discover the wild and untouched beauty of New Zealand’s Fjordland and the Sub Antarctic Islands of both Australia and New Zealand. These islands, collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are some of the best preserved and protected environments of the planet.

You will travel in the company of both a National Geographic photographer and expert, who through lectures, workshops and one-on-one discussions, will give you a deeper understanding of the sights and significance of your journey and teach you how to capture the story of this incredible expedition through your own photography.

Setting sail from Dunedin, we will head for the nature sanctuary of Ulva Island, where you will have the opportunity to search for some of the rarest bird species in the world. As we continue on, we will visit the Fjordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the most beautiful fjords in the world.

Sailing into the Sub Antarctic Islands, we will first visit the Snares Islands. These wild islands are a haven for their endemic Snares crested penguins and for the fur seals that can be found here in abundance. Continuing south, we will sail for Enderby Island, a key breeding site for the New Zealand Sea Lion and Yellow-eyed penguins that we will hope to see.

The southern-most part of our voyage will visit Australia’s Macquarie Island. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Macquarie is home to more than 3 million breeding seabirds, including significant colonies of both Royal and King penguins. With two days planned here, we will be able to take advantage of the best the weather has to offer to experience the extraordinary bounty of these islands.

Making our way north once more, we will visit Campbell Island. Both the flora and fauna will be a highlight with its extraordinary megaherbs and nesting colonies of albatross that can be visited.

Our final destination will be the Antipodes Islands. These volcanic islands have abundant wildlife, with half of the world’s population of erect-crested penguins, as well as several albatross species and two species of parakeets. Today, considered to be an important conservation area, the spectacle of these dramatic islands will be the perfect conclusion to our expedition.

At the end of your trip, sit down with your National Geographic Expert and photographer and reflect on the experiences you have shared on your voyage and how they have changed you upon your return. At National Geographic Expeditions we believe that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard PONANT's Le Soleal, part of the Sisterships fleet.

Trip highlights

Sail with a National Geographic photographer, who will be available for lectures, workshops, one-on-one sessions to help you capture the story of your journey, whether you are a serious photographer or using your phone.

Sail with a National Geographic Expert, a leader in their field who will bring to life the insights and stories of their work, and will guide you to experience the Sub Antarctic Islands through the lens of National Geographic.

Explore the Sub Antarctic Islands of Australia and New Zealand, one of the least visited and best well-preserved regions in the planet.

Visit three UNESCO World Heritage sites of Te Wahipounamu, home of Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sounds, New Zealand’s Sub Antarctic Islands, and Macquarie Island.

Visit Macquarie Island with its incredible abundance of wildlife, including King & Royal Penguins. Visit albatross nesting colonies in the Sub Antarctic Islands and have the opportunity to see some of the rare endemic species only found on these islands.

Sail in the unique Fiordland in the south-west of New Zealand and discover the well-known Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

By travelling with National Geographic to the Sub Antarctic Islands, you will also be doing your part to protect it, as part of the proceeds of your trip are returned to the National Geographic Society, who works to further the understanding and protection of our planet.

Itinerary - 14 Days

1 Dunedin, New Zealand

As you join Le Soleal in Dunedin, you will leave behind New Zealand’s oldest city known for its Scottish and Maori heritage. The city is home to some of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian architecturein the Southern Hemisphere. The close proximity to The Silverpeaks and the Otago Peninsula, with their picturesque beauty and renowned wildlife reserves only hint at the incredible spectacle that will be found on our journey to come. Setting sail, we will head into a true expedition to explore the most remote, and remarkable parts of New Zealand.

2 Ulva Island

Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara) is the largest of 20 islands within Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island, with an area of approx. 270 hectares. The island has never been logged and was declared pest free in 1997, becoming one of the few predator-free sanctuaries in New Zealand. The island is now a haven for many species of birds and plants that are rare, or have died out, on the mainland of New Zealand.

As our first port of call, our visit to Ulva gives you the first opportunity to see wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Bird species regularly encountered include: the flightless Stewart Island Weka, South Island saddleback, yellowhead and Stewart Island robin. Ulva Island is not only a bird enthusiast’s paradise; it is also one of the few offshore islands with a largely undisturbed podocarp forest. Well-maintained tracks offer easy walking for most people providing a unique opportunity to see rare birds and plants at close quarters in a safe environment.

3 Dusky and Doubtful Sounds

As we sail into New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park, you will soon see why it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only is Dusky Sound home to incredible fjordland scenery, with huge mountains rising out of the ocean, lush forests growing on its shores, interspersed with beautiful waterfalls and lakes, it is also home to both New Zealand fur seals and a rare species of endemic penguin, the Fjordland crested penguin that we will hope to spot during our time here. Additionally, in 1773 James Cook made this his home for 5 weeks, during his voyage around the world, while he conducted repairs on his ship, conducted scientific observations and charted the Sound.

Sailing north, we will continue on to Doubtful Sound, known as “the sound of silence”. Named Doubtful Inlet by James Cook due to his uncertainty that the sound could be navigated under sail, this beautiful fjord is renowned for the serenity that can be found here. As we sail through, look for the beautiful waterfalls that cut through the forests and keep a close lookout for movement in the water as Doubtful Sound is home to the southernmost population of bottlenose dolphins in the world.

4 Milford Sound

The world renowned Milford Sound is considered one of the most beautiful fjords in the world. Its distinct landscapes of steep cliffs and dense rainforest are still unspoiled and therefore utterly beautiful. Called the eighth wonder of the world by Rudyard Kipling, its mountains rise out of the water with sheer rock faces 1200 metres high. Look out for marine mammals and penguins in these rich waters, as well as cascading waterfalls over 150m high dropping straight into the ocean below.

5 Snares Islands

As we sail southwards once more, we sail from one UNESCO World Heritage Site to another. The Snares Islands, also known as ‘The Snares’ are the northernmost of New Zealand's Sub Antarctic Islands. Named by Vancouver for the threat he felt the islands posed to sailing ships of the time, the islands remain one of the most pristine areas of New Zealand. As no land mammals were ever introduced on the islands, it is a remarkable haven for wildlife. Over 2 million Sooty Shearwaters breed here, along with 35,000 Snares crested penguins. Similarly, New Zealand fur seals and sea lions can be seen in the surrounding waters. If conditions permit, we will deploy our Zodiacs® to explore the coastline, as landing on the Snares is not allowed to protect this pristine environment.

6 Enderby Island & Musgrave Inlet, Auckland Islands, New Zealand

Enderby Island is the second largest island in the archipelago which is brimming with a magnificent flora and fauna environment. The island is the primary breeding ground for the New Zealand Sea Lion and the rare yellow-eyed penguin. Landing on the shore, you will have the opportunity to walk to the Northern Cliffs and observe both the penguins and the sea lions along the way.

Musgrave Inlet in the Aukland Islands is a unique bay that boasts high cliffs that have formed a natural barrier, protecting its endemic plants. The result is one of the best floral displays of the island group, as well as the opportunity to look for breeding seabirds and even parakeet species found here. As landings are prohibited, we will explore the coastline by Zodiac®.

7 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of your time onboard Le Soleal. Get to know a bit more your onboard National Geographic Expert to get greater insight into the Sub Antarctic Islands via lectures and discussions over coffee in the bar. Meanwhile your National Geographic photographer will give initial talks and workshops to help you capture the story of your adventure with your camera, whether you are a seasoned photographer, or using your phone. Come and learn how to make the most of the incredible photographic opportunities you will find along your voyage. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below alongside one of our naturalists.

8 Sandy Bay, Macquarie Island, Australia

Macquarie Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its major geo conservation significance. It is the only island in the Pacific that is entirely composed of oceanic crust and rocks from the mantel. In addition, it is home to a remarkable abundance of wildlife. The world’s entire royal penguin population can be found here during the breeding season, with about 850,000 individuals. There are also over 100,000 King penguins that breed on the island, as well as Gentoo and southern rockhopper penguins. In addition, 80,000 southern elephant seals can be found here, along with three species of fur seal. A landing at Sandy Bay will give the opportunity to view one of the large breeding sites of both the Royal and King penguins, along with the elephant seals that share these beaches. It is an experience that will not be forgotten, and it offers plenty of photographic opportunities that your National Geographic photographer will help you capture.

9 Anare Station, Macquarie Island

Established in 1948, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions (ANARE) station gives great insight into the work that has been done on the island. With a guided walk through the facility, you will have a unique opportunity to learn about more than 70 years of research and what makes Macquarie Island so special, as well as to see the wildlife that lives all around this remote research station and to learn about the incredible efforts undertaken to protect it from invasive species.

10 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of your time onboard Le Soleal. Look out for wildlife in the air and the sea, catch up with our onboard National Geographic Expert and photographer as they give greater insight into the destination via lectures and workshops, or visit the photo gallery area where you can take a look at some of the professional photos that have been taken during your trip so far. Alternatively, head to the observation lounge to enjoy some reading through a collection of National Geographic magazines and books or, if you prefer some privacy, head to your room where you will find a range of National Geographic documentaries to watch.

11 Campbell Island, New Zealand

The Campbell Islands are a group of Sub Antarctic Islands in New Zealand, known for its rich flora display, with Campbell Island being the largest of the group. Campbell Island has an extraordinary assortment of mega herbs, herbaceous, and perennial wildflowers which are recognised for their great size, colourful flowers and large leaves. Additionally, the island is home to the world’s most remote tree, a solitary Sitka spruce that is over 130 miles from the next nearest tree. Identified as an Important Bird Area, Campbell Island is home to numerous penguin species and a breeding site for some of the largest birds on Earth, including the Southern Royal Albatross and the Wandering Albatross. Each boasting wingspans of over 3m, these birds have the largest wingspan of any species of bird alive today.

During our visit, you will have the opportunity to take a guided walk on the Col Lyell Saddle boardwalk and look, not only for breeding albatross, but also for the rare, and critically endangered Campbell Island teal and snipe.

12 At Sea

During your day at sea, make the most of your time onboard Le Soleal. Catch up with our onboard National Geographic Expert and photographer as they give greater insight into the destination via lectures and workshops. Alternatively, treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or head to the observation lounge to enjoy some reading whilst taking in your surroundings, where you may be lucky enough to spot some wildlife in the waters below.

13 Antipodes Islands, New Zealand

Today is your last day at sea and we encourage you to make the most of your time onboard Le Soleal. Catch up with our onboard National Georgaphic photographer for some final tips and practise your new-found skills out on deck capturing some seabird photos, or talk to the National Geographic Expert to recap on your Sub Antarctic adventure and better understand its wildlife and landscapes. At National Geographic Expeditions we believe that when people understand the world, they care more deeply and are inspired to act to protect it.

15 Dunedin, New Zealand

Today, we bid you farewell as we return to Dunedin and start our journey home. As the plane climbs away from the tarmac for your journey back home, take a last look at the dramatic landscapes you leave behind as you return from one of the most remote regions on earth.

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