New Zealand - Japan
West Pacific Odyssey
The 'ultimate' wildlife cruise for Pacific seabirds, island endemics and cetaceans
Widely regarded as one of the ‘ultimate’ birding voyages in the world, this amazing trip travels over 6,000 miles from New Zealand to Japan on the comfortable expedition ship Heritage Adventurer.
The "WPO" has been specially designed to maximise on the birding opportunities and WildWings' Chris Collins was heavily involved in setting up this exciting tour in collaboration with colleagues at Heritage Expeditions in New Zealand.
The list of potential species is truly exceptional and this wildlife-focussed cruise undoubtedly encounters more poorly known seabirds than any other voyage on the planet, from New Zealand Storm-petrel in the Hauraki Gulf (New Zealand) to Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater off New Ireland through to its conclusion in Japan where we look for Short-tailed Albatross and Japanese Murrelet.
The trip is, however, not just about seabirds, as we also visit some amazing islands including New Caledonia where the extraordinary Kagu can be found and the Solomon Islands where typically 30 or more endemic species are seen.
The voyage is also spectacular for cetaceans with species such as Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whales (as well as the much larger Sperm Whale), False Killer Whale, Melon-headed Whale, Fraser's Dolphin, as well as a myriad of other species being possible.
Early enquiries are recommended as this exciting trip sometimes books up several years in advance.
Tour Dates & Prices
Thu 21st March 2024
Thu 18th April 2024
- Phone Us to Book
Tour Cost: 29 Days from £8950 excluding flights
The price quoted above is per person for the most basic cabin. Heritage Adventurer has a number of single cabins and the "single supplement" shown above is the difference between a twin and single cabin on Deck 5. Please click on the 'trip info' tab for prices for all cabins types.
All on board ship accommodation, meals and expedition shore excursions. WildWings/Limosa checklist of birds and mammals.
All items of a personal nature, laundry, drinks, gratuities. International/domestic flights, visas and travel insuranceView or Download Tour Info Pack
The voyage will be accompanied by a WildWings/Limosa tour leader subject to a minimum number of bookings (please see "group size" above for the number required). If this total is not achieved, there are always expert bird guides employed by Heritage Expeditions aboard the vessel who are there to assist everyone.
The Tour Cost is the amount you will pay WildWings.
Please note that for all expedition cruises, WildWings is acting as agent for the ship operator and you will need to sign up to their terms and conditions.
- cruise from New Zealand to Japan on a comfortable expedition ship exploring islands such as Norfolk and New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands
- look for some of the least known and rarest seabirds on the planet including New Zealand Storm-petrel, 'New Caledonia Storm-petrel' (only redescribed in 2022), Bryan's Shearwater, Short-tailed Albatross, Beck's Petrel and Heinroth's Shearwater
- land on Norfolk Island (Australian island) with its convict history and home to four endemic birds including Norfolk Robin and Norfolk Island Parakeet
- look for the extraordinary Kagu on New Caledonia at the Riviere Bleue Provincial Park
- chances for the other 17 extant New Caledonian endemics including New Caledonia Goshawk, Crow Honeyeater (critically endangered), New Caledonian Myzomela and New Caledonian Crow
- visit five islands in the Solomon Islands with good chances for more than thirty Solomons endemics
- explore the island archipelago of Chuuk, Micronesia where Micronesian endemics such Caroline Islands Ground Dove, Caroline Reed Warbler and Chuuk Monarch can be found
- look for the critically endangered and only recently described Bryan's Shearwater off Chichi-jima in the Bonin Islands of Japan
- cruise offshore from the remote Japanese island of Torishima for Short-tailed Albatross
- explore Hachijō-jima in the Izu Islands of Japan for the endemic Izu Thrush, Ijima’s Leaf-warbler and Owston’s Tit
Embark Heritage Adventurer in Auckland, New Zealand
Great Barrier Island and seabirds in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand
Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Santa Ana, Solomon Islands
Makira, Solomon Islands
Honiara, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Tetepare, Solomon Islands
Kolombangara, Solomon Islands
Off the coast of Bougainville
Off the coast of New Ireland
Chichi-jima, Bonin Islands, Japan
Hachijō-jima, Izu Islands, Japan
Disembark Yokohama, Japan
Known to many birders simply as the “WPO”, this incredible trip sails from New Zealand to Japan and over the course of a month offers an opportunity to see a truly mouth-watering selection of seabirds, island endemics and cetaceans.
The expedition starts by visiting New Zealand’s famed Hauraki Gulf where we hope to find the critically endangered New Zealand Storm Petrel, as well other species such as Black Petrel, White-faced Storm Petrel and some of the southern albatrosses.
Continuing northwards, we plan to land on Norfolk Island where there are excellent chances of finding all the extant endemics (Norfolk Island Parakeet, Norfolk Gerygone, Norfolk Robin and Slender-billed White-eye) before one of the major highlights of the entire trip, a visit to the Rivière Bleue Regional Park on New Caledonia. This is one of the best places on this 300 mile long island to look for the unique Kagu and we also hope to find a good percentage of New Caledonia’s other endemic birds including White-bellied Goshawk, Cloven-feathered Dove, New Caledonia Imperial Pigeon, New Caledonian Whistler and Crow Honeyeater.
As we sail on towards the Solomon Islands, one of our main seabird targets will be the ‘New Caledonian Storm Petrel’, a mysterious species which was first seen on the WPO in 2008. A recent published scientific paper has confirmed that this is indeed a long-lost species which was collected many years ago and then written off as an aberrant individual, something it most definitely is not !!!
Other seabirds we could find on this transit include specialities such as Polynesian Storm Petrel, Tahiti, Providence, Magnificent Petrel and Vanuatu Petrel, as well as more widespread species including Red-footed Booby and Red-tailed Tropicbird.
We then plan to have five days of landings in the Solomon Islands which should allow us to find upwards of thirty species which are endemic to the Solomons and nearby islands. These could include Solomons Sea-Eagle, Roviana Rail, White-headed Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Ducorps’s Cockatoo, Yellow-bibbed Lory, Finsch’s Pygmy-Parrot, Buff-headed Coucal, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Solomon Islands Cuckoo-Shrike, White-winged Fantail, Kolombangara, White-collared and White-capped Monarchs, Solomon Islands White-eye, Midget and Mottled Flowerpeckers, Makira Honeyeater, Sooty, Red-capped and Cardinal Myzomelas and Brown-winged and San Cristobal Starlings.
Our next major targets are two very special seabirds, Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater, which we will look for off Bougainville and New Ireland. These highly localised species are extremely poorly known with the breeding grounds yet to be located but we stand a good chance of seeing them both. The deep water off these islands is also excellent for cetaceans and on previous visits our sightings have included Pygmy Killer Whale, Melon-headed Whale, False Killer Whale, Spinner Dolphin, Rough-toothed Dolphin, Sperm Whale and both Pygmy and Dwarf Sperm Whales.
Crossing the Equator, our next landing will be in Micronesia on the island of Chuuk where once again our priority will be finding the endemics and regional specialities. We hope to find Caroline Islands Ground-Dove, Purple-crowned Fruit Dove, Islands (Caroline Islands) Swiftlet, Oceanic Flycatcher, Micronesian Myzomela and Micronesian Starling. There may also be an opportunity to visit Tol South which is one of the few places in the world where the highly localised Truk Monarch can be found.
Heading north once again, the emphasis moves back to speciality seabirds and we will hope to find Short-tailed, Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses, Matsudaira’s and Tristram’s Storm Petrels, plus the critically endangered Bryan’s Shearwater, over the course of the next week or so as the ship heads onwards towards Japan.
Our final landing will be on Hachijo-jima where we will look for a number of species which are endemic to the Izu Islands including Izu Thrush, Ijima’s Leaf-warbler and Owston’s Tit. We will also hope to find Japanese Wood Pigeon, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese (Izu) Robin, with the final speciality seabird of this incredible voyage hopefully being the tricky Japanese Murrelet.
Day 1: AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Board the ship and sail late afternoon with the first seabirds of the trip likely to include Australasian Gannet, Fluttering Shearwater and Silver Gull.
Day 2: GREAT BARRIER ISLAND AND HAURAKI GULF
We plan to spend the morning exploring the beautiful Great Barrier Island. This island is largely forest covered and there will be opportunities to explore ashore or join a Zodiac cruise. Our seabirding will then start in the afternoon in the Hauraki Gulf where we will look for the critically endangered New Zealand Storm Petrel as well as Little Penguin, Buller’s, Fluttering and Little Shearwaters and Grey-faced and Black Petrels.
Day 3: BAY OF ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND
We will awake in the protected and historic waters of the Bay of Islands and after breakfast there will be an opportunity to head ashore where we hope to find local endemics such as North Island Saddleback, Bellbird and North Island Robin. We then bid our farewell to New Zealand and set our course northwards.
Day 4: AT SEA
On the transit to Norfolk Island, potential species could include Gould’s, Black-winged, Kermadec, White-necked and Grey-faced Petrels, plus Wedge-tailed and Short-tailed Shearwaters.
Day 5: NORFOLK ISLAND
This Australian island (once an infamous penal colony in the days when convicts were transported from the UK to Australia) is home to four endemics - Norfolk Island Parakeet, Norfolk Gerygone, Norfolk Robin and Slender-billed White-eye. Once ashore, we plan to visit the island’s remnant forest where there are good chance of seeing all of these plus the highly distinctive form of Golden Whistler.
As we head north in the late afternoon, we will look for the endemic subspecies of Little Shearwater as well as White-bellied Storm Petrel.
Day 6: AT SEA
As the ship heads towards New Caledonia, there are several underwater seamounts close to our route and these can be productive for seabirds including Tahiti, Collared, White-necked, Providence and Kermadec Petrels. In 2008, we recorded the first Australian record of Polynesian Storm Petrel in this area.
Day 7: NEW CALEDONIA - AT SEA AND MOUNT KOGHI
We plan to start the morning at sea looking for an intriguing storm petrel, the 'New Caledonia Storm Petrel', which was first seen on the WPO expedition in 2008 and has been found on a number of occasions since then. Although seemingly a close relative of the New Zealand Storm Petrel, it is unquestionably different and it is now considered that this is the same as a long-lost species collected in Samoa more than 200 years ago.
The ship will then proceed to the wharf at Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, and we will make an afternoon visit to the forested slopes of Mount Koghi where there are chances for both New Caledonian Crow and New Caledonian Grassbird, birds we are highly unlikely to see the following day at at Parc de la Rivière Bleue. Other possibilities include White bellied (New Caledonian) Goshawk, South Melanesian Cuckooshrike, Streaked Fantail, Southern Shrikebill and Yellow-bellied Robin.
Day 8: NEW CALEDONIA - PARC DE LA RIVIERE BLEUE
We plan to leave the ship well before dawn for a visit to the Parc de la Rivière Bleue Regional Park where our main priority will be more of the island’s endemics including the incredible Kagu and critically endangered Crow Honeyeater. Other species we might find include White bellied (New Caledonian) Goshawk, Horned and New Caledonian Parakeets, New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon, Southern Melanesian and New Caledonian Cuckooshrikes, Yellow-bellied Robin and Red-throated Parrotfinch.
Days 9 to 10: AT SEA
As the ship heads for the Solomon Island, new seabirds could include Polynesian Storm Petrel, Tropical Shearwater, Providence Petrel, Vanuatu Petrel, Collared Petrel and Tahiti Petrel.
There are also chances for some interesting cetaceans on this transit and in 2019 we had some of the first at sea sightings of the recently described Deraniyagala’s Beaked Whale.
Day 11: SANTA ANA, SOLOMON ISLANDS
Santa Ana is one of the most easterly of the main islands in the Solomons archipelago and has a very distinctive avifauna. We can expect to find birds such as Silver-capped Fruit Dove (whose main stronghold is on remote Rennell Island) along with a number of endemic species from nearby Makira. Santa Ana is also home to an endemic and highly distinctive subspecies of Rufous Fantail.
Day 12: MAKIRA, SOLOMON ISLANDS
We plan to land at the western end of Makira Island where there are excellent chances of seeing a fantastic range of endemics. These could include White-headed Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Makira Honeyeater (San Cristobal Melidectes), San Cristobal Starling, Makira Flycatcher, Makira Cicadabird, White-collared Monarch, Sooty Myzomela and Mottled Flowerpecker. Other species could include Red-knobbed and Island Imperial Pigeon, Brahminy Kite, Pied Goshawk and Pacific Baza.
Before departing we will visit the local community on nearby Anuta Island who are our hosts and their friendly welcome is a truly special experience.
Day 13: HONIARA, GUADALCANAL, SOLOMON ISLANDS
We will anchor off Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, and depart before dawn for the forested slopes behind the town. The birding here is exceptional and the specialities could include Ultramarine Kingfisher, Solomons Cuckooshrike, Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Steel-blue Flycatcher, Midget Flowerpecker, Brown-winged Starling and Black-headed Myzomela. Depending on the number of fruiting trees, there could also be a good variety of parrots and pigeons, including Yellow-bibbed Lory, Ducorps’ Cockatoo and Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon.
Day 14: TETEPARE, SOLOMON ISLANDS
Tetepare is a community run reserve located in the New Georgia Islands. There are a number of new Solomon endemics to look for here including the highly localised Dark-eyed White-eye. Other possibilities include Melanesian Scrubfowl, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Island Imperial Pigeon, Buff-headed Coucal, Crimson-rumped Myzomela, Cockerell’s Fantail and Kolombangara Monarch. If we are extremely fortunate, both Nicobar Pigeon and Solomons Nightjar are both present.
Day 15: KOLOMBANGARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS
Kolombangara will be the last island we plan to visit in the Solomon Islands and there are yet more endemics and localised species to look for. We have chances to find both Kolombangara and White-capped Monarchs and there is also the possibility of the elusive and highly localised Roviana Rail. Fruiting trees here can also be excellent for Duchess and Meek’s Lorikeets and should we have failed to see it so far, there will be more opportunities for Sanford's Sea-Eagle.
By mid-afternoon we will be back at the ship and will be on the lookout for the very poorly known Heinroth’s Shearwater which we have seen on a number of occasions in these waters.
Day 16: SHIP CRUISING OFF THE WEST COAST OF BOUGAINVILLE
As we cruise up the western side of Bougainville Island, this will be another opportunity to look for Heinroth’s Shearwater. The waters here can also be good for cetaceans with possibilities including Sperm Whale, False Killer Whale and Fraser’s Dolphin.
Day 17: SHIP CRUISING OFF THE EAST COAST OF NEW IRELAND
At dawn we plan to be off the south-eastern coast of New Ireland, where our main target is the critically endangered Beck’s Petrel. This species was only rediscovered in 2007 after the original specimens were collected in 1928/29.
This area will be our final opportunity to look for Heinroth’s Shearwater, however, there is also a dark pseudobulweria petrel which has been seen here on a number of occasions which appears to be an undescribed species.
Due to a deeply shelving trench between New Ireland and Bougainville, this is a fantastic area for cetaceans with the possibilities including Melon-headed Whale, Dwarf and Pygmy Sperm Whales and Orca.
Days 18 to 19: AT SEA
Over the next couple of days the ship will cross the Equator as we head for Micronesia and whilst the seawatching can be quiet, there will still be birds to look for and the possibilities could include Bulwer’s Petrel, Tropical Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicbird and Sooty Tern.
Days 20 to 21: CHUUK, MICRONESIA
Our main birding will be on Weno Island in the Chuuk archipelago and we hope to find most of the speciality birds including Purple-capped Fruit Dove, Oceanic Flycatcher, Caroline Reed Warbler, Islands (Caroline Islands) Swiftlet, Caroline Islands White-eye, Micronesian Myzomela and Micronesian Starling. There may also be an optional excursion to Tol South to look for the endemic Teardop (or Great Truk) White-eye and Chuuk Monarch.
Days 22 to 25: AT SEA
As the ship continues on towards Japan, we will start to encounter the seabirds associated with this region and new species could include Matsudaira’s Storm Petrel and Bonin Petrel, as well as Bannerman’s and Christmas Shearwaters, with chances for Humpback Whale closer to Chichi-jima.
Day 26: CHICH-JIMA, BONIN ISLANDS, JAPAN
After clearing into Japan at the largest of the Bonin Islands, Chichi-jima, we may have time to go ashore to look for Japanese Bush Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Brown-eared Bulbul and Japanese White-eye. Our main priority, however, will be to be off the eastern coast by mid-late afternoon as there is a small islet which is the only known breeding site for the critically endangered Bryan’s Shearwater. It is thought the world population of this recently described shearwater could be as low as 70 individuals and we will have to search through the Bannerman’s Shearwaters in the hope of finding this smallest member of the shearwater family.
Day 27: TORISHIMA, JAPAN
Landings are not permitted on this special island but we plan to cruise offshore in the hope of finding what is surely one of the most beautiful seabirds in the world, the gorgeous Short-tailed Albatross. This species was believed to have been driven to extinction in the early part of the 20th Century due to feather trade but has slowly begun to recover and it is now thought to number about 2,500 birds.
We will hopefully also find Black-footed Albatross and there are also chances of Laysan Albatross and Streaked Shearwater.
Day 28: HACHIJO-JIMA, IZU ISLANDS, JAPAN
This island is in the Izu Islands archipelago and is home to the endemic Izu Thrush, Ijima’s Leaf-warbler and Owston’s Tit. We will also look for Japanese Wood Pigeon, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Japanese (Izu) Robin and once back on the ship will be on the lookout for our last speciality seabird of the expedition, the rarest of the world’s alcids, Japanese Murrelet.
Day 29: YOKOHAMA, JAPAN
After completing Japanese arrival formalities, this amazing trip concludes at the port of Yokohama.
Please note: All itineraries are subject to weather, local conditions and final approval by the relevant authorities
Heritage Expeditions have been running the "WPO" since 2007. Previously these expeditions ran on a converted Russian research vessel, the Spirit of Enderby (or to give it it's Russian name Professor Khromov), however, as from mid-2022 Heritage Expeditions will instead be operating Heritage Adventurer, and all future West Pacific Odyssey voyages will be on this vessel. This purpose built expedition ship (which was previously known as Hanseatic and Resolute) offers extremely comfortable cabins and passenger facilities.
Originally designed to accommodate 184 guests, Heritage Adventurer will carry a maximum of 140 expeditioners ensuring spacious, stylish and comfortable voyages. There will be a fleet of 14 zodiacs to ensure all guests are able to maximise on their expedition adventure.
CABINS OPTIONS AND PRICES - 2024
Main Deck Triple - 2024: £8,950 including landing fees
Main Deck Triple Cabins on Deck 3 are a spacious 22m2 and feature two porthole windows, two single beds and one Pullman bed which folds down from the wall, comfortable lounge, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Superior Triple - 2024: £10,000 including landing fees
Superior Triple Cabins on Deck 5 are a spacious 22m2 and feature large panoramic windows, two single beds and one Pullman bed which folds down from the wall, comfortable lounge, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Deck 4 Superior - 2024: £10,600 including landing fees
Superior Cabins on Deck 4 are a spacious 22m2 and feature large panoramic windows, king or two single beds, comfortable lounge, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Deck 5 Superior - 2024: £11,450 including landing fees
Superior Cabins on Deck 5 are a spacious 22m2 and feature large panoramic windows, king or two single beds, comfortable lounge, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Main Deck Single - 2024: £12,850 including landing fees
Main Deck Single Cabins on Deck 3 are a spacious 22m2 and feature two porthole windows, king bed, comfortable lounge, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Superior Single - 2024: £13,950 including landing fees
Superior Single Cabins on Deck 5 are a spacious 22m2 and feature large panoramic windows, king bed, comfortable lounge, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Worsley Suite - 2024: £16,450 including landing fees
Located on Deck 6, Worsley Suites are a spacious 22m2 and feature large panoramic windows, king or two single beds, comfortable chaise-style lounge suite, writing desk, private en-suite with shower, ample storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
Heritage Suite - 2024: £22,900 including landing fees
Located on Deck 6, Heritage Suites are an expansive 44m2 and feature large double panoramic windows, king bed, large living area with a sofa, coffee table and chairs and grand marble bathroom with a double basin, bathtub and shower, large writing desk, floor to ceiling cabinetry for storage and a flat screen entertainment system.
View a gallery of images for this tour below, click on an image to view as full size with caption