Western Pacific Odyssey: New Zealand to Japan

South Pacific

Known in birding circles simply as the 'WPO', this expedition incorporates many of the key birding areas in the South West Pacific. First offered in 2007, it is now considered one of the 'must do' expeditions for any birder because of its opportunities to see some of the rarest pelagic seabirds in the world, plus many island endemics. But it is not just for 'birders', the cetacean list can only be described as outstanding. If you ever tire of birding or cetacean watching then there are options for snorkelling, swimming and relaxing

  • Unique birdlife on remote islands
  • Explore remote and Pristine tropical islands
  • Friendly and welcoming villagers
  • Incredible marine life, whales, dophins and more
  • snorkelling and beachcombing opportunities
After departing Auckland, New Zealand, we sail for the rich waters of the Hauraki Gulf where there are numerous speciality seabirds, including the New Zealand Stormpetrel. From there it's northward to Norfolk Island. Next stop is New Caledonia where we search for the amazing Kagu and other endemic bird species in the Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue. We then spend five exciting days in the Solomon Islands birding on Santa Ana, Makira, Guadalcanal, Tetepare and Kolombangara, before cruising across the New Britain Trench, an area known to be extremely rich in cetaceans. As we sail along the coasts of Bougainville and New Ireland, we will look for two rarely seen seabirds: Heinroth's Shearwater and the critically endangered Beck's Petrel which was only rediscovered in 2007, both of which we have seen on almost all our previous expeditions in this region. Next stop is Truk Island (Federated States of Micronesia) for some more intensive birding. We will then set a course for the Bonin Islands south of Japan; our route will take us to Chichi-jima, the largest island in the archipelago and where we saw the critically endangered Bryan's Shearwater during our 2019 expedition. We will then continue north to Torishima Island (where we hope to get great views of the Short-tailed Albatross) before we arrive at our last island destination of the voyage, Hachijō-jima, where we will look for the last specialities of the expedition. Our voyage will then conclude in Yokohama, Japan. This expedition is accompanied by some of the best pelagic birding guides in the world who have extensive experience of the seabirds of the West Pacific and have visited the islands we will be landing on multiple times. Birding starts at dawn and finishes at sundown. Our guides are there throughout the day to assist you and the 'reading of the bird list' each evening is legendary for its detail and discussion. This is one expedition you can't afford to miss.

Stewart's Take

A ‘must do' expedition for any birder or those interested in remote islands!


Known in birding circles simply as the 'WPO', this expedition incorporates many of the key birding areas in the South West Pacific. First offered in 2007, it is now considered one of the 'must do' expeditions for any birder because of its opportunities to see some of the rarest pelagic seabirds in the world, plus many island endemics. But it is not just for 'birders', the cetacean list can only be described as outstanding. If you ever tire of birding or cetacean watching then there are options for snorkelling, swimming and relaxing.
Day 1: Auckland, New Zealand Join Heritage Adventurer this afternoon in the heart of New Zealand’s commercial capital, Auckland. The captain and expedition team will be waiting to greet you on arrival and show you to your cabin. You will have time to settle in and familiarise yourself with the ship; we will also take the opportunity to introduce you to your expedition team and our voyage plans. You are invited to join the expedition team in the Observation Lounge and up on the Observation Deck as we set sail for the Hauraki Gulf. Day 2: Mokohinau Islands and the Hauraki Gulf Daybreak will find us in the Mokohinau Islands (known locally as the Mokes), a group of small islands in the Hauraki Gulf. This afternoon Heritage Adventurer sails northwards through the Hauraki Gulf, join the naturalists on deck watching for whales and seabirds as these waters usually have a few cetaceans around including Short-beaked Common Dolphin, Long-finned Pilot Whale and occasionally Bryde’s Whale. Day 3: At Sea Today will be spent sailing north to Norfolk Island, an area rich in seabirds. We also have a good chance to see Sperm Whales here. There is time to relax, join the naturalists on deck and enjoy presentations as we prepare for our arrival at Norfolk Island. Day 4: Norfolk Island, Australia Upon arrival complete Australian customs (please note a visa may be required). We have a full day to enjoy Norfolk Island, a former penal colony, which Captain Cook encountered in 1774 and named after the Duchess of Norfolk. This morning we will have the opportunity to explore the beautiful St Barnabas Chapel. This five-year labour-of-love features mother-of-pearl inlays, stained glass windows and a spectacular vaulted timber ceiling. This afternoon discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Kingston, a former brutal outpost for British prisoners and Australia's second oldest settlement, or visit the Norfolk Island Botanical Gardens with its 40 endemic, or unique, species including 15 plant species considered to be critically endangered. For the more active you may wish to walk in the National Park towards Mt Pitt. The tracks wind through lush palm forests and stands of Norfolk Island Pine leading to remarkable views of the island and ocean. Day 5: At Sea Continuing our journey northwards, today we arrive in the tropics, sailing across the Tropic of Capricorn and into the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean. Day 6: Noumea, New Caledonia This morning we find ourselves sailing along the southern shores of New Caledonia before passing through the extensive barrier reef that surrounds the island and making our way to Noumea. Today we have a full day set aside to explore the history, culture and beauty of New Caledonia. Visit local institution Port Moselle Market, Noumea and rub shoulders with the locals over the astounding range of fresh produce, souvenirs and handcrafts from around the island before continuing to the Maritime Museum for a journey through the history of the islands including their discovery by Captain Cook. A highlight of our day will be our visit to the Tjibaou Cultural Center which introduces the traditional Kanak culture via six architectural pavilions. There may also be an opportunity to visit Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue. This reserve is home to the unique Kagu bird. Enjoy a traditional lunch before spending a relaxing afternoon at the beach and snorkelling. Day 7: Noumea This tropical island has been described as a taste of France in the Pacific, where Melanesian traditions blend with French sophistication. New Caledonia is a fragment of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, and it is believed that New Caledonia detached and became an island tens of millions of years ago. It is this isolation which explains both the extent of biodiversity and the incredible levels of endemism on this delightful tropical island. This afternoon enjoy an exploration of Noumea with our local guides. Heritage Adventurer will remain in port overnight so you can enjoy the evening ashore. Days 8 to 10: At Sea Enjoy time aboard as we sail through the tropical waters of the South Pacific, relive the experiences of the past days, watch your passage unfold by the pool or in the Observation Lounge and prepare for our arrival to the Solomon Islands. Day 11: Honiara, Solomon Islands Our passage early this morning sees us cruising through Iron Bottom Sound, named after the large number of Japanese and American ships and aircraft sunk here during the intense World War II naval battles. Located on the northern coast of Guadacanal, by the Mataniko River, Honiara was founded by the British as a military base during World War II. Honiara was witness to the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where the Allied forces eventually overcame the Japanese invasion. Options for today include exploring Honiara's bustling central market and visiting historic sites including Henderson Airfield, war memorials and the open-air war museum. Day 12: At Sea, Solomon Islands We sail westwards through the Solomon Islands chain today. Because of its remarkable oceanic topography, the result of volcanic activities and bountiful reefs, the Solomons combines incredible tropical seabirds with marine mammal watching. On previous voyages we have regularly seen Kogias including Dwarf Sperm Whale, and even rare Pygmy Sperm Whales. Spinner and Pantropical Spotted Dolphin are the most regularly observed dolphin species and Pygmy Killer Whales are fairly regular. Blainville’s, Cuvier’s and even Longman’s Beaked Whales have all been seen on previous voyages, while flying fish reach some of their highest diversity in this area. There is also the opportunity to discover the rich history and cultures of these islands in the lecture theatre. Day 13: Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea Today we discover the treasures of Bougainville, long isolated and in a strange way protected due to the conflict which swirled around its shores. Bougainville is emerging once again as a newly vibrant and remarkably pristine island paradise, it is home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the region both above and below the water. We plan to explore the area around Arawa, including the Panguna Copper & Gold Mine site – the setting for the movie Mr Pip – with great opportunities to access the island’s interior and its reefs. Enjoy the unique shopping experience under the thatched roof of the Arawa Markets amongst the hum and chatter of hundreds of locals. Day 14: At Sea, off the coast of Bougainville Today we will be sailing between Bougainville and New Ireland. Options include relaxing poolside, joining lectures or joining the expedition team observing the impressive numbers of seabirds and cetaceans known to visit this stretch of ocean. It can be particularly good for Kogias (the Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whale), along with the blackfish: False Killer Whale, Pygmy Killer Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whale and Melon-headed Whale. Day 15: Kavieng The capital of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland and the largest town on the island of the same name, Kavieng is known for its ancient Malagan culture. Those choosing to disembark today say their farewells after breakfast with a transfer to Kavieng Airport. For those continuing we will enjoy a traditional Malagan cultural performance, explore tropical beaches, snorkel abundant coral reefs and visiting Kavieng town and its highlights including the busy local market before we sail northwards. Days 16 to 20: At Sea We now have five days at sea as we sail northwards where we can relax and catch up on notes and photos as we celebrate our crossing of the Equator and sail through a blue desert poolside and enjoy lectures from our expedition team. Day 21: Chichi-jima Island, Japan We will arrive at the Bonin Islands, the most remote part of Japan with plans to complete customs at the largest of the Bonin Islands, Chichijima. While here there may be time for a short walk on shore to explore the settlement and the surrounding area. The largest of Japan's Bonin Islands, Chichi-jima is considered the 'father island' among an archipelgo rightly described as the 'Galapagos of the Orient' and supported by its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. There may also be an opportunity to see Minami-jima's stone arch and the local Bottlenose and Spinner Dolphin populations. Day 22: Haha-jima Island Today we will be returning south to visit the most interesting of the Bonin Islands, biologically speaking, Haha-jima. Known as the ‘mother island’ to Chichi-jima’s ‘father island’ Haha-jima is smaller, more remote and less developed than its neighbour and is known for its outdoor attractions and activities including pristine beaches, impressive snorkelling, jungle treks and cetacean watching with Humpback Whales often seen here in the nearshore waters. Explore the small but busy village centred around Oki Port, take in the grand scale views of Mount Kofuji while historic sites include the former Kita Port and abandoned wartime gun batteries. Day 23: Tori-shima Island With its name literally translating to 'bird island' Tori-shima, an uninhabited 453-hectare volcanic islet, is an internationallyprotected bird sanctuary and the largest breeding ground for the once thought extinct Short-tailed Albatross. While no landings are possible, we plan to circumnavigate this rocky outpost learning about the incredible conservation story behind this remarkable, endangered bird and the scientific debate surrounding whether it should be considered two species (Torishima- type and Senkaku-type). Day 24: At Sea Our final day at sea will see us sailing towards Honshu with opportunities to catch up on the previous days adventures, enjoy life at sea while reflecting on our voyage and attend any final lectures. This evening enjoy special a farewell dinner and make preparations for tomorrow. Day 25: Osaka After breakfast and arrival formalities have been completed for Osaka, you will disembark Heritage Adventurer. There will be a complimentary transfer from the ship to Osaka Air Terminal. We ask you not to book any onward flights (Domestic or International) until mid-afternoon to account for any delays and the time it takes to travel to the airports. Note: During our voyage, circumstances may make it necessary or desirable to deviate from the proposed itinerary. This can include poor weather and opportunities for making unplanned excursions. Your Expedition Leader will keep you fully informed.

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Luxury Expedition Vessel: Heritage Adventurer

Heritage Adventurer

The purpose built polar expedition vessel Heritage Adventurer provides a most capable, safe, and exclusive expedition cruise experience.  Heritage Adventurer is a true pioneering expedition vessel of exceptional pedigree. Often referred to as the 'Grande Dame of Exploration Cruising' due to her celebrated history and refined design, she was purposebuilt for adventure in 1991 at Finland's Rauma shipyard and specifically designed for Polar exploration.

Setting a peerless standard in authentic expedition travel, Heritage Adventurer (formerly known as MS Hanseatic) combines the highest passenger ship iceclass rating (1A Super) with an impressive history of Polar exploration. She held records for the most northern and southern Arctic and Antarctic navigations, and for traversing both the Northwest and Northeast Passages. Originally designed to accommodate 184 guests, Heritage Adventurer now welcomes just 140 expeditioners ensuring spacious, stylish and comfortable voyages, while a fleet of 14 Zodiacs ensures all guests are able to maximise their expedition adventure.

For full information about this vessel click here:

Included Landing fees, pre/post cruise transfers, all on board ship accommodation with meals and all expedition shore excursions
Excluded All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insurance. Discovery fund (Payable on board) $1000
Additional Charges - Discovery Fund of $1000 per person for visits to protected islands. This is payable on board. Deposits - Reservations require a deposit of 25% at the time you receive a booking confirmation from Expeditions Online. A payment link will be sent to you and this may be paid by major credit card. Bookings within 120 days of departure require full payment. Final Payments - Balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Cancellations - All requests for cancellation must be received in writing to Expeditions Online. Cancellations received 180 days or more prior to departure, are refunded less a $US750.00 per person administration fee. For cancellations received within 179 and 121 days of the embarkation date the full deposit will be forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 120 days prior to the departure date the total price is forfeited. If cancellation occurs within 90 days and full payment has not yet been received, the total price will still apply and any unpaid monies are due immediately. We strongly recommend that you obtain adequate trip cancellation insurance. Booking Terms - Please read carefully the General Booking Conditions for Expeditions Online. This voyage is operated by Heritage Expeditions and you additionally travel under their terms and conditions as the operator as well as of the Shipping Company/transport carrier. Details will be forwarded to you at the time of booking.
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