Protected by the Southern Ocean, secluded and seldom visited, the Australian and New Zealand sub-Antarctic Islands, recognised by UNESCO as one of the worlds’ precious regions of unique biodiversity, will be visited by Orion.
These remote Nature Reserves enjoy World Heritage status, recognised for their volcanic and glacial geological formations and extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna - much of which is endangered or recovering since being discovered and later plundered in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s by sealers and whalers.
Home to over half of the world’s seabirds, some of which exist nowhere else, this wildlife paradise contains 40% of the world’s albatross species and 50% of the world’s penguin species including the endangered yellow-eyed penguin, plus hundreds of thousands of other endemic birds - petrels, prions and cormorants.
At Snares Island there is every expectation that guests will see Sooty Shearwaters, the endemic Snares Crested Penguins, Snares Fernbird and Tomtits. On Enderby Island expect to see pipits, parakeets and plovers, Hooker’s Sea Lions, and perhaps even the Auckland Island Flightless Teal and sub-Antarctic Snipe. Campbell Island, home to the Southern Royal Albatrosses, has the highest diversity of breeding albatrosses of any island in the world.
And then there are plant species that have to be seen to be believed, including 5 meter high tree daisies on Snares, giants compared to their relatives in more temperate climates. With convenient embarkation in Bluff (Invercargill, NZ) or Hobart, Orion will head south to visit (depending on voyage) Macquarie, Campbell, Stewart, Snares and Auckland Islands as well as spending time exploring New Zealand’s beautiful Fiordlands (including Milford and Doubtful Sounds).
NZ & Subantarctic Wildlife Adventure itinerary:
Day 1: Bluff/Invercargill
The largest urban centre in ’s Southland is Invercargill, a city of 49,000 people. Visitors come to admire the elegant Victorian and Edwardian buildings, gardens and landscaped parks. The fishing port of Bluff is a half hour drive south from Invercargill and is home to the famous Bluff oyster and a lively annual seafood festival. On days of embarkation or disembarkation transfers will operate between Bluff and Invercargill.
Day 2: Milford Sound
Orion is the perfect viewing platform from which to see World Heritage listed Milford Sound; a memorable scenic cruise that includes glacial carved hanging valleys, the iconic 1600 metre high Mitre Peak and magnificent Stirling Falls. The Maori were the first to ascribe creation of the fiords to a “titanic mason”, Tute Rakiwhanoa – a concept you will find totally believable as Orion slips beneath sheer granite cliffs, not yet worn smooth by time.
Along with the festivities onboard, Orion guests will enjoy amazing ship based and Zodiac cruising which will allow you to fully explore the famous Milford Sound.
Days 3 & 4: Dusky & Doubtful Sounds
Experience spectacular cruising through pristine wilderness in the very heart of Fiordland National Park, the largest in New Zealand and one of the largest in the world. The park is bordered to the east by glacial lakes and to the west by the 14 fiords that give Fiordland its name. Orion enters via Thompson Sound enroute to Doubtful and Dusky Sounds.
At 421 metres depth, Doubtful is the deepest of these fiords. Exuding a peaceful serenity it is sometimes called “the Sound of Silence”. Abundant in both flora and fauna, these fiordlands are renowned for their excellent dolphin and seal viewing opportunities, either from Orion or onboard one of Orion's Zodiacs. Fiordland Crested Penguins are often seen on many of the small islets at the entrance of the fiord and at Nee Islets there is a fur seal colony.
Doubtful and Dusky both include spectacular ship based cruising as Orion winds her way through the fiords. Due to strict national park controls Zodiac cruising is tightly monitored but does allow us to include a cruise and a landing at Astronomer’s Point where a short walk is possible.
Day 5: Stewart Island
Stewart Island is the southern-most island of New Zealand. The forest is a haven for bird-life including Kaka, Parakeets and Bellbirds as there are fewer predators than on the mainland. New Zealand's national bird, the Kiwi, is found all round the island, often seen feeding on sandhoppers at the beach. Most sand is golden, however there is black iron sand on some beaches while others are white with quartz or red with garnet.
Orion will make her way along the sheltered eastern coast of Stewart Island (Rakiura), 96% of which is designated as Rakiura National Park. We will anchor in Paterson Inlet to visit the quaint fishing village of Oban in Halfmoon Bay with its art and craft shops and the wildlife sanctuary on Ulva Island.
Zodiac transfers to Golden Bay Wharf to allow you access to Oban township are offered today. You will also have the choice today of a guided walking tour of Ulva Island Bird Sanctuary or a guided coach tour of Oban township and surrounds on the “Village and Bay Tour”.
Optional Shoreside Expeditions
ULVA ISLAND WILDLIFE SANCTUARY GUIDED WALK
Ulva Island has no invasive species and gives a wonderful natural history experience when walking through the natural forest discovering the endemic plants and birdlife. This tour holds a Department of Conservation concession to offer a professional guiding service on the world renowned open bird sanctuary.
Professional local guides will be waiting for you on Ulva Island Wharf. The guiding service operates with a maximum group size of 12 passengers per guide. On arrival of the tenders onto Ulva Island, you will be given a briefing before splitting into groups of 12 for your guided walk.
There are three different walking routes offered to ensure that the groups may only briefly see one other group over the duration of the guided walk.
Duration: 1 ½ hours
OBAN VILLAGE and BAY TOUR
You will visit Oban and the surrounding bays in modern 19 seater coaches. You will learn about the history and environment of Stewart Island at the local museum and gain an insight into New Zealand’s southernmost community. Stewart Islanders are proud of their island, enjoying a simpler, slower pace. The specialised guides enjoy sharing their local knowledge and there is plenty of time available for photo stops and short walks. Highlights include Lee Bay, Horseshoe Bay and stunning views of Paterson Inlet from Observation Rock.
Duration: 1 ½ hours
* Guests may choose to do either Ulva Island Nature Sanctuary Guided Walk or the Oban Village and Bay Tour as an included expedition today. If you would like to do both tours there is an additional cost of $50 per person for the second tour.
Day 6: The Snares Island
Two small rocky islands, North East and Broughton, comprise The Snares, the closest sub-Antarctic islands to New Zealand. The islands are covered with heavy tussock grass and wind-beaten forests of tree daisies. Weather permitting we’ll launch our Zodiacs for an exploration of the sheltered eastern coastline as the island’s wildlife protection program precludes landings. The Snares are home to huge numbers of breeding birds, 99 recorded species including albatross, Antarctic Terns and Snares Crested Penguin.
The Snares group is highly protected and landings are forbidden, but our Zodiacs allow us to get up as close as practical to the abundant birdlife.
You will enjoy Zodiac exploration of the coastline with our Expedition Team looking out for the numerous bird species along the way.
Day 7: Auckland Islands
Orion's guests will cruise in Zodiacs in Sandy Bay on Enderby Island at the northern end of Auckland Island, to view a large Hooker Sea Lion colony with pups all jostling for position. If we are fortunate, we may see the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin as they move to and from their nests in the forests beyond the beach.
Day 8: Campbell Island
Campbell Island was first discovered in January 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselburg, master of the sealing brig, Perseverance. He named the island after his employers Robert Campbell and Co. of Sydney and sadly drowned later that year after a boat capsized in Perseverance Harbour. Campbell is a volcanic island with fascinating rock formations. 50 years ago, between 2 and 3 million Rock Hopper Penguins were nesting on the island but since then 90% have been decimated by bacterial infection. Erect Crested Penguins are found here in small numbers and less than 20 pairs of Wandering Albatross nest. Approximately 8,500 pairs of Royal Albatross and about 74,000 pairs of Black Browed Mollymawk also call the island home. Over 40 other breeds of birds including the Southern Royal Albatross have also been observed on Campbell Island.
Day 9: At Sea
Enjoy a day of lectures and presentations as well as a chance to catch up on diaries and journals
Days 10 & 11: Macquarie Island
Often described as one of the "wonder spots" of the world, the sub-Antarctic island of Macquarie has been said to rival South Georgia in its magnificence, scenic diversity and prolific wildlife. Designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1933 and a World Heritage Site in 1977, Macquarie now operates a full-time manned station where biological and meteorological research is conducted. The station, located on the isthmus at Buckles Bay, is from where we will collect the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife rangers who will be our guides.
Sandy Bay, situated halfway down the island's eastern seaboard, is our planned landing site. The Zodiacs will traverse breakwaters of giant kelp before reaching rocky beaches where landing conditions can best be described as "wet and challenging". Once ashore you'll find the bay, with its rugged backdrop of mountains and tussockcovered headlands, is home to 20,000 breeding pair of royal penguins, king penguins, rock hopper penguins, gentoo penguins and elephant seals. This profusion of wildlife wasn't always so protected, the rusting remains of machinery used by whalers being stark reminders of the exploitation which took place on the island during its early history.
Days 12-14: At Sea
Sailing towards Hobart, Tasmania reflect on your expedition and attend final presentations and lectures form the onboard resource team.
Day 15: Hobart, Tasmania
Set on the River Derwent, Hobart is very much a city of the sea with views of the Derwent estuary appearing around every corner. Historic 19th century waterfront warehouses remain, still bordering the commercial fishing harbour, though today it is easier to feast on seafood at one of the restaurants they now house. Hobart is the finishing line for the famed blue water Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and its deep harbour precinct once bustled with whalers, soldiers, petty bureaucrats and opportunistic businessmen. A walk through the town will reveal that the city has resisted the pressure to move with the times, having retained and preserved old buildings such as the Parliament built by convicts in the 1830's.
Designed and purpose built in Germany in 2003 specifically for expedition travel,National Geographic Orion was created from the outset to explore the far comers of the Earth in complete self-sufficiency.
Engineered for maximum comfort and safety, Orion is equipped with the latest technology including large retractable stabilizers, sonar, radar, and an ice-strengthened double hull. A shallow draft plus bow and stern thrusters provide the convenience of being able to maneuver close to shore. Ten Zodiacs ensure quick disembarkation and offer the ideal transport for up-close exploration.
National Geographic Orion meets strict specifications for environmental protection and the on board waste management systems meet the stringent Antarctic operational standards enabling us to travel to the most pristine environments. A host of advanced design features and technology ensures sustainable marine environmental practices.
The privilege of wildness and the luxury of comfort
National Geographic Orion accommodates 102 guests in 53 cabins, including several with balconies. She is spacious and modern, with a variety of public rooms that offer panoramic views of the passing landscape. Friendly and informal, Orionfosters a welcoming atmosphere where like-minded guests share in exceptional experiences and enrichment.
Her public rooms include a dramatic window-lined main lounge and library, as well as an observation lounge perched at the very top of the ship, plentiful observation decks. The spacious lounge is the heart of our expedition community, and is suited for spirited cocktail hours, informative presentations and our nightly tradition of Recap. In addition, a dedicated theater provides a unique setting for specialist presentations or films and slideshows. Both the main dining room and outside buffet easily accommodate all guests at once for open seating dining. On selected nights, weather permitting, our dining room menu is also available on the outside deck.
While Orion interiors are elegant, life aboard is always casual, with no need for formal clothing. And you’ll find shipboard services like laundry, in-room cabled internet, and public-area wifi make packing and traveling more convenient.
Length: 103 metres
Beam: 14.25 metres
Draft: 3.82 metres
Hull: Ice-reinforced for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic
Ice Class: E3 (Germanischer Lloyd)
Gross Tonnage: 4,000
Engines: Mak; 8M25; 3,265HP
Speed: 15 knots. Cruise speed: 13 knots
Stabilisers: Blohm & Voss, retractable fin stabilisers
Manoeuvrability: Bow and stern thrusters
Delivery Date: November 2003
Builder: Cassens Shipyard-Emden, Germany
Staterooms and Suites: 53
Guest Capacity: 106 (twin occupancy)
Classification: Germanischer Lloyd 100 A5 E3 Passenger Ship MC E3 AUT
Regulations: Orion is built according to the latest international safety regulations, including those of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health, Canadian Arctic Shipping, and St. Lawrence Seaway.
Additional Craft: 10 Zodiac Heavy Duty MK5, 10 Kayaks, 2x12 passenger tenders
Communications: Direct-dial satellite telephones; fax; e-mail; Internet access; internal telephone system