Southwest Pacific Cruise: Nov 06—23, 2007

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Departs: Brisbane, Australia
Tour Limit: 40
Download Itinerary: PDF (162.4 KB)

Tour Leaders

Hobcroftdion

Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 160) to...


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Kagu

Kagu — Photo: K. David Bishop

In the prelude to our original cruise itinerary we stated that, "This is one of those trips one dreams of. Now that dream is about to come true!" Due to circumstances beyond our control we lost our original ship. However, thanks to a little providence, we found an absolutely gorgeous 75-passenger luxury ship based out of Australia that will enable us to not only do much of what we had originally planned, but in a more intimate style (75 versus 110 passengers). In addition, we will visit several islands, including the very exciting Santa Cruz Islands, which were not on the original schedule.

The joy of expedition cruising is that it gives us the chance to visit seemingly inaccessible specks in the ocean, and to experience their unique birds and other wildlife, as well as the genuinely untouched cultures that survive on them. On this specially adapted cruise we will range from mainland New Guinea to Fergusson Island, replete with two endemic birds-of-paradise: Goldie's Bird-of-paradise and the weird Curl-crested Manucode.

We will then continue across rarely traversed waters, ever alert to such global seabird rarities as Heinroth's Shearwater, before reaching the fabled Solomon Islands. On these islands, set in azure seas and bejeweled with some of the world's most unimaginably beautiful tropical coral reefs, we will seek out some of our planet's least-known and rarely seen island endemics. Our explorations in the Solomon Islands will include trips to Gizo, Kolombangara, Guadalcanal, Rennell, stunningly beautiful Santa Anna, and the virtually unknown Santa Cruz Islands. Each island supports its own suite of endemics found nowhere else in the world, in addition to a host of slightly more wide-ranging species. Special birds that come to mind include the gigantic Sanford's Sea-Eagle; the recently described Roviana Rail; a fabulous plethora of gem-like fruit-doves, imperial-pigeons, cockatoos, parrots, and totally endearing lorikeets; and kingfishers such as the handsome endemic Ultramarine. As if this weren't enough, there is also a wonderful array of endemic fantails, monarchs, flycatchers, whistlers, and white-eyes. This is a veritable treasure-trove of evolutionary design. Darwin, eat your heart out!

From Santa Cruz we will head south towards Vanuatu; we will cruise into a 300-meter-tall caldera before stopping for an entire day at Champagne Beach, arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here we will treat ourselves to a swag of new and irresistible Vanuatu endemics, including more fruit-doves and imperial-pigeons, as well as the challenging but very handsome Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher and the distinctive Buff-bellied Flycatcher.

The cruise part of this "expedition" concludes in Port Vila on the island of Efate. However, for those who just cannot resist seeing the Kagu, we will fly southwards to the main island of New Caledonia. We have a good chance of seeing this extraordinary creature, thanks to recent conservation efforts, along with an almost overwhelming number of other wonderful endemics including the genuinely gorgeous Cloven-feathered Dove, the gigantic Goliath Imperial-Pigeon, the globally rare Crested Parakeet, an elusive shrikebill, and the very fancy Crow Honeyeater.

All the while we travel seas rarely traversed by birders and naturalists. This is one of those rare opportunities that come our way only once in a blue moon. We are also offering a pre-tour to the highlands of New Guinea at one of the world's loveliest lodges, surrounded by 16 species of birds-of-paradise!