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New Zealand Subantarctic Coral Expeditions

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Expedition to the Albatross Latitudes | Milford Sound to Wellington | 16 Nights

The Subantarctic & Chatham Islands

16 Nights | Departs Milford Sound 4 January 2024 | Arrives Wellington 20 January 2024

Journey into the wilds of New Zealand’s Southern Ocean from the deep and quiet fiords of Murihiku (Southland) to the mysterious and protected wildlife reserves and still remote landscapes of the subantarctic Campbell and Auckland Islands. Hike through colourful fields of mega herbs, visit the ‘world’s loneliest tree’, learn the histories of the land and meet with locals to encounter vibrant cultures along the way. See diverse and rare endemic wildlife up close including albatross, penguins, seabirds and the New Zealand sea lion. A small ship expedition to these islands is an education in pristine isolated environments and a glimpse into an unspoiled natural world.

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Expedition highlights

  • Explore the stillness of rarely visited Dusky and Doubtful Sounds in southern Fiordland, and encounter many species of wildlife, include the Fiordland crested penguin and New Zealand fur seal
  • Stroll through the quiet forests of Ulva Island to spot New Zealand’s iconic birds, including the Stewart Island Weka, South Island Saddleback, Yellow-and Red-crowned Parakeet (Kakariki) and Rifleman (New Zealand’s smallest bird).
  • Discover New Zealand’s Subantarctic UNESCO World Heritage islands, including the Snares, Auckland Islands, Campbell Islands, Antipodes and Bounty Islands
  • Spot incredibly rare birdlife, including the yellow-eyed, rockhopper, and erect-crested penguins, northern giant petrel, Red-crowned parakeet, and 10 species of albatross, in some of the most precious and wild habitats in the world
  • Climb through the red-flowering rata forest and ethereal megaherb pastures on the Auckland Islands to a viewpoint, from where you can gaze over the misty seascape of the Southern Ocean
  • Learn about the brutal history of the sealers and whalers who frequented these islands in the 19th century, and visit the ‘world’s loneliest tree’, a Sitka Spruce planted in 1907 on Campbell Island
  • Spend time on Chatham Islands, meeting the locals and learning of the remarkable history of the Moriori people, surrounded by one of the most remote communities on earth


Bridge Deck Balcony Suite $28,720 n/a
Explorer Deck Balcony Stateroom $21,390 $32,085
Promenade Deck Stateroom $15,990 $23,985
Coral Deck Stateroom $13,360 $20,040

Prices are per person, listed in Australian Dollars (AUD) and include GST. Limited sole use occupancy available. 

The Itinerary

Embark: Board Coral Geographer at Milford Sound at 2:00pm for 3:00pm departure, with a complimentary transfer from Queenstown is available.
Disembark: Arrive a at Wellington and disembark 08:00am

This itinerary includes 5 days at sea to reach these destinations. During sea days, relax or join our Expedition Team for a program of interactive workshops and presentations.

This itinerary is an indication of the destinations we visit and activities on offer. Throughout the expedition we may make changes to the itinerary as necessary to maximise your expeditionary experience. Allowances may be made for seasonal variations, weather, tidal conditions, and any other event that may affect the operation of the vessel. Coral Expeditions suggests that you do not arrive on the day of embarkation or depart on the day of disembarkation due to any changes that may occur in scheduling.

Day 1: Depart Milford Sound

8 Milford Sound (80)

Enjoy a complimentary transfer by coach from Queenstown to board Coral Geographer at Milford Sound at 2:00pm for a 3:00pm departure. Cruise towards the Doubtful & Dusky Sounds while you settle into your stateroom and relax. Take the time to become acquainted with all the facilities onboard before meeting your fellow travellers, the Captain and crew for the Captain’s Welcome Drinks.

Doubtful Sound & Dusky Sound

Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage site once described as the Eighth Wonder of the World, is characterised by 14 fiords carving through just 215km of coastline.  These fiords were carved by glaciers over thousands of years, and you will see waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliffs, rainforest cloaking the steep ridges, and granite peaks reflected in the deep shimmering waters.

These mostly inaccessible and awe-inspiring landscapes were the mysterious source of powerful pounamu (New Zealand Jade), gathered by Maori from the riverbeds and boulders of the South Island – the only place it occurs.  While some European settlers took shelter here, the deep isolation and rugged terrain thwarted all except the toughest from staying. Many of the flora and fauna species have developed in relative isolation, so many of the diverse plants and animals are unique to the area.

Doubtful Sound / Patea is the deepest and widest fiord, flanked by towering cliffs and adorned by cascading waterfalls.  The stillness and silence of this Fiord is compelling and unforgettable, especially in the dawn light as we cruise through Te Awa-o-Tū / Thomson Sound and Blanket Bay into Doubtful Sound / Patea, through ‘the Gut’ and past the outer Seal Islands, Nee Islets and. You may spot fur seals lounging on the rocks, pods of dolphins, and the Fiordland penguin.

We trace Acheron Passage to Te Puaitaha / Breaksea Sound, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes on all sides as we retrace Cook’s journey. It is easy to imagine the small wooden Endeavour being dwarfed by the steep-sided fiords and encircled by the blanketing silence of the fog-cloaked peaks.

This afternoon, enter dramatic Tamatea / Dusky Sound. Cruise among the towering cliffs and sheer granite walls of Facile Harbour, cascading waterfalls, past some of the 365 small islands and explore the depths of the inlets in the zodiacs.  Inaccessible by road, Tamatea / Dusky Sound is the largest and most complex of the Fiordland Sounds.  It is also a designated Important Bird Area for the Fiordland Penguins that breed here.  We will encounter the fur seals of Luncheon Cove.

Stewart & Ulva Island

Stewart Island New Zealand expedition

Known in Maori mythology as Te Punga o Te Waka – The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe’ – Stewart Island (Rakiura) is New Zealand’s little known ‘third island’.  Apart from the communities on the island, many people never venture to remote Stewart Island.  Nearby Ulva Island is also found within the Rakiura National Park, offering a predator-free environment for rare and endangered birds including South Island Saddleback, Kakapo, Weka, Yellowhead, Rifleman, Stewart Island Robin, and the iconic Kiwi; the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi birds are known to venture out in daylight.  On Ulva Island, a guided walk will provide the opportunity to spot a vast array of birdlife and hopefully a few fur seals lazing on the shore during the tour. There will be free time to explore the village of Oban, and a guided Xplorer cruise to Prices Point Whaling Station will unveil the history of the region.

Snares Islands / Tini Heke

Macquarie Island - King Penguins

This morning, we sail into our first subantarctic anchorage at the Snares Islands. This small group of islands, also known as Tini Heke, are the most northern of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands and are mostly bordered by steep cliffs except on the eastern side. They are one of the most pristine places in New Zealand, as they were unaffected by whaling and sealing in the 19th century. These islands are protected as part of the Subantarctic Island World Heritage Site and landing ashore is prohibited.

If weather permits, we will cruise along the sheltered eastern side of the island to observe the seabirds that breed on the forested North East Island.  The island is forested by mega herbs, some of which are rare and unique, such as the large tree daisy and stilbocarpa, and is home to many endemic bird species, including the Snares Penguin, which has more than 100 colonies on the islands. The sooty shearwater nests here in enormous numbers and are joined by Buller’s Albatross, the mottled petrel and the brown skua.  The exposed coastlines also provide breeding and resting area for New Zealand fur seals and New Zealand sea lions.

Auckland Islands / Motu Maha

Sub Antarctic Islands Coral Expeditions

Lying 360 kilometres south of Stewart Island, the Auckland Islands is a group of around eight rugged islands, positioned close to each other and separated by narrow sea channels. Dominated by the remains of two 12-million-year old volcanoes, the islands are known for their steep cliffs and towering mountains.

Making our way here means crossing an often-tempestuous sea, but when we reach the Auckland Islands, we can drop anchor in the lee of the islands. The weather here is usually damp and overcast, without being very cold. Evidence exists of Polynesian voyagers having settled here as early as the 13th century. During the sealing era, many ships were wrecked in this region and relics of this period remain, including the ruins of huts and gravestones.

These islands are beautiful and striking, with cliffs rising from the sea and slopes blooming with southern rata and mega herbs. These unusual forests are home to many unique birds and shelter fascinating stories of shipwrecked seamen and wartime Coastwatchers.

Here, we will go ashore at Enderby Island – to spend time birdwatching – you will spot many of the unique birds that nest here, including the Southern Royal Albatross, northern giant petrel, Auckland Island Shag, Red-crowned parakeet, and yellow-eyed penguin. At Sandy Bay, you may also spot the Hooker’s sea lion.

On Auckland Island, we explore the remains of Hardwicke Settlement at Port Ross which was abandoned after 3 years in the early 1800s. If weather permits, there may be an opportunity to climb the slopes to observe the shy albatross colony nesting in the tussock grass. Later, we may cruise by zodiac or Xplorer through the sheltered inlets of Carnley Harbour, climbing through rata forest to take in the views from a vantage point, or visiting a historic site on the islands.

Macquarie Island

Macquarie Island - Penguins

Discovered in 1810 by the Australian sealer Frederick Hasselborough, Macquarie Island is a natural wonder. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997, it is the only location where rocks from the earth’s mantle are exposed above sea level. The island is home to the entire royal penguin population during breeding season, as well as numerous other species including king penguins. Seal species include fur seals and elephant seals. Cruise Lusitania Bay to take in the awe-inspiring site of thousands of penguins, go ashore to visit the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, and marvel at the diverse wildlife.

Campbell Island / Motu Ihupuku

New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Coral Expeditions

600 km south of Stewart Island, windswept Campbell Island is one of the main islands within the Subantarctic Islands World Heritage Site, and New Zealand’s most southern island.  Over many years it was the location for sealing, whaling, and farming endeavours, but was declared a nature reserve in 1954. Since that time, introduced animals have been eradicated, including cattle, sheep, cats and rats. This has allowed the native wildlife, birdlife, and vegetation to recover and be reintroduced.

The rugged island is mostly surrounded by cliffs, which rise to 300 metres on the south and west sides. Three distinct harbours are carved into the eastern side of the island, and at the end of the long Perseverance Harbour is the location for a meteorological station, now automated.  The island is in the weather path and plays a key role in measurements and monitoring.

The steep hills and slopes of Campbell Island are covered with mega herbs – characterised by their huge leaves and colourful flowers. These unusual plants include the Campbell Island Daisy, the Silver Leaf Daisy and the Campbell Island Carrot.  These plants create a colourful display in summer, leading English botanist Joseph Hooker to describe it as a ‘flora display second to none outside the tropics’.

Sharing the space with these remarkable plants are the equally remarkable albatrosses. Six types of albatross breed on the island, including the enormous Southern Royal Albatross. It is also possible to spot many other species include petrels, shearwaters, terns, and shags.  The rare yellow-eyed and eastern rockhopper penguins are also found on the island.

Here, we will anchor in Perseverance Harbour and go ashore at Beeman Base, where a hike along a marked trail enables us to get a close view of the flora and fauna of the island. You may have the opportunity to visit the ‘world’s loneliest tree’, a Sitka Spruce over 100 years old, which is over 200 km from the next closest tree on Auckland Island. We may also cruise the harbours by tender to view the basalt columns, kelp forests fur seals, and sea lions.

Antipodes Islands / Moutere Mahue

Royal Albatross

The Antipodes Island group, volcanic and uninhabited, are part of the New Zealand Subantarctic World Heritage site. The steep and rocky islands, referenced by the Maori name as ‘forgotten’, are now protected but were once the location of violent fur-sealing operations until the early 1800s.  Now, the island is recognised as an Important Bird Area, with several species of seabird breeding here. These include the southern rockhopper and erect-crested penguins, albatrosses, petrels, and the Antipodes snipe, pipit and parakeet. In 2018, all mice and rats were eradicated from the island.

The islands are surrounded by basalt cliffs emerging from the sea, hollowed by sea caves, and blanketed by mist. This gives it a mysterious presence as it emerges from the wild sea. Landings are not permitted on these isolated islands, so if weather conditions permit, we will cruise the coastline to spot birds and admire the landscape of tussock grass, shield fern and mega herbs.

Chatham Islands

The Chatham Islands, a territory of New Zealand, is made up of 10 islands over a 40-kilometre radius. Located on the Chatham Rise, an undersea formation of the sunken Zealandia continent, the islands have sustained human settlement for almost 1000 years. The Moriori set off from what is believed to be New Zealand’s South Island around 1400 AD and arrived on the islands, which they named Rekohu (misty skies), to establish a settlement. For over 400 years, they were isolated from the outside world and developed a unique and distinct culture of hunter-gathering, living from what the island provided, with strong religious beliefs and a ban on war and bloodshed. The islands were discovered when an English ship, Chatham, was blown off course in 1790, and in 1835 Maori from the mainland arrived and killed and enslaved the Moriori.

Today, two of the islands are inhabited. Waitangi is the main town on the islands and farming and fishing are the major economic activities. The main island features an enormous lagoon, separated from the ocean by sand dunes. The island has striking geographical contrasts, from towering cliffs to lagoons and peat bogs, wide beaches to dense forest.

This morning, we will go ashore at the main island and settlement of Waitangi. This village will be our base for a busy day of discovering this unique island and provides an opportunity to meet the people who call it home. We may visit a reserve to spot endemic Chatham Island pigeons, Chatham Island warbler and tui.

With 2 days at the Chatham Islands, we will have time to observe the many unique plants, including the Chatham Island forget-me-not. We will also spot the island’s endemic birds, including the Chatham Island shag, and the black robin. Look for the rare Forbe’s Parakeet at Mangere Island, and take zodiac cruises to spot the Chatham Island Albatross, the New Zealand shore plover, and the Pitt Island Shag. Tender cruises around Pyramid Rock and South East Island will reveal an abundance of species. If we are lucky, we may spot the critically endangered Taiko petrel.

Day 17: Arrive Wellington

New Zealand Coral Expeditions

This morning, we arrive at Wellington to disembark at 8:00am.

January 2024

Departure Departure Arrival Arrival Cost Per Person Cost PP Ship Availability  
04 January 2024 04 Jan 2024 20 January 2024 20 Jan 2024 $13,360 to $28,720 $13,360 to $28,720 Coral Geographer Available Book

Your cruise price includes:

  • An authentic, flexible expedition itinerary
  • Comprehensive and fully guided sightseeing in each destination
  • Snorkelling & equipment (SCUBA diving at additional cost)
  • Use of Xplorer, Zodiacs and Kayaks
  • Expert Expedition Team and Guest Lecturers
  • Lectures, workshops and demonstrations onboard
  • All meals, chef-prepared on board
  • Selected wines, beers, and spirits, juices, and soft drinks served with lunch and dinner
  • Captain’s Welcome and Farewell Events, and Open Bridge Access
  • 24-hour coffee and selection of teas
  • Post-cruise transfers (in most destinations)
  • All entrance fees to National Parks and Ports
  • Tips and gratuities

Your cruise price does not include:

  • Pre and post flights & accommodation
  • Entry visas/travel permits
  • SCUBA diving
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to phone and internet communications and bar charges (outside of the included drinks package as highlighted), laundry charges and souvenir purchases
  • Optional Extras in some destinations

Tipping not required

Other cruise lines automatically add gratitudes to your account and service charges to your bar invoices. At Coral Expeditions our crew have no other agenda than your delight.

Our friendly reservations specialists are on hand to assist with your booking arrangements to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible. Contact our team on 1800 079 545 during business hours in Australia or email

Travel Insurance:

Comprehensive Travel Insurance is strongly recommended for all travellers as protection against any unforeseen events that may necessitate the cancellation or interruption of your holiday and should be purchased at the same time as you purchase your cruise. Please refer to our Pre-Departure page for facts that should be considered and shared when speaking with Travel Insurance suppliers.

Photos From Your Expedition

Following your expedition, you will receive a link by email to free download the images taken throughout your voyage by our Expedition Team. Please make sure that you have provided our reservations team with your relevant email address.

Additional Information:

Countries Visited/ Currency Accepted:

This cruise begins and ends in New Zealand, with one call in an Australian Territory (Macquarie Island). The currency is New Zealand Dollar (NZD) – You cannot use Australian (AUD) in New Zealand. Please note, all purchases on board will still be in AUD.

Languages Spoken/ Dress Codes & Etiquette:

The official languages of New Zealand are Māori and English. New Zealand is known for its friendly and laid-back inhabitants. The culture of New Zealand is primarily western, with strong influences from the indigenous Maori and the waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed the British colonisation.

Visa Information:

Entry into NZ requires a passport. As of October 2019, the NZ government is introducing an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) and International Visitor Conservation & Tourism Levy (IVL). Australian citizens are exempt from the ETA & IVL, however any other passport holder will have to organise the ETA/IVL prior to travelling to NZ.

Some nationalities are not eligible to obtain an ETA and must apply for a visa. Please consult the NZ immigration website or your travel agent for more information. It is the responsibility of all guests to ensure they meet visa/ETA requirements ahead of arrival to NZ.

Hike/Walk Opportunities:

Several walking/hiking options available. Our Expedition Team will advise walking conditions and fitness requirements prior to each excursion.
There are several walking/hiking options available, although it will be cold, windy and likely wet so guests will need to take that into account when considering their abilities.

Medical/Vaccination Requirements:

Please refer to the CDC website for up to date information:

Suggested Readings:

  • A land Apart: The Chatham Islands of New Zealand – Michael King
  • Moriori: A People Rediscovered – by Michael King
  • The Morioris of Chatham Islands – by HD Skinner
  • Growing Up a Chatham Islander – On the Edge of 44 Degrees South – by Valerie Mete
  • Island of the Lost: An Extraordinary Story of Survival at the Edge of the World – by Joan Druett
  • Sub Antarctic New Zealand: A Rare Heritage by Neville Peat – the Department of Conservation guide to the islands
  • A Decade of Disasters: The Chatham Islands from 1866 to 1875 – John Amery
  • Stewart Island: A Rakiura Ramble – Neville Peat
  • The Enderby Settlement: Britain’s Whaling Venture on the Subantarctic Islands 1849-52 – by Conor Fraser Straight Through from London: The Antipodes and Bounty Islands Taylor, R. (2006)
  • Voyages and Wanderings In Far-off Seas and Lands – John Sen Inches Thomson

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