Meet this season’s kākāpō chicks


What’s chubby and feathered but can’t fly? Nocturnal with booming calls and can live for almost a century? Green and fluffy with the cutest muppet faces but super rare, and you probably won’t ever see?

If you guessed the kākāpō, you are exactly right! I’m so proud! You guys have paid attention to all my years of yarning on about odd native New Zealand birds! Anyone? Anyone? *crickets* just my mom and me then!

Well, if the kākāpō perhaps wasn’t what immediately springs to mind AND/OR you have never heard of my favorite creature on earth, well, you’re in for a treat!

Get ready for a bombardment of adorable baby kākāpō photos and stories!

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

Kākāpō claim the somewhat unique title of being both one of the weirdest and rarest birds on the planet. Only found in New Zealand, kākāpō are nocturnal, flightless forest parrots who can live up to 100 years, and look kind of like an avocado and an owl had a baby.

There are only 211 total kākāpō alive today, thanks to the biggest breeding season on record this year, 2019 and the tireless hard work of the fantastic Kākāpō Recovery team. And guess who got to hang out with the new chicks?

In short, kākāpō are special. Really special, and they need our help. Read on, dear ones!

The Story of the Kākāpō

kakapo chicks
Hoki at her nest by Dr. Andrew Digby here

kakapo chicks

Before humans came to New Zealand (and ruined everything in terms of biodiversity – jokes, jokes, but not really), there were no native mammals on this tiny island nation in the South Pacific. No cats, nothing furry, no rats, nothing. Only two types of bats.

It was indeed a land of birds, all of whom evolved without any predators. The only thing that hunted them were other birds. Then humans came and brought with them all of the nasty mammals we hate here today, like possums, stoats (ferrets), cats, rats, etc. Around 50 species of birds went extinct after humans arrived here.

We’ve got some making up to do, am I right?

**Follow kākāpō scientist Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter for the most up-to-date info around these marvelous birds


Our poor unique native birds had no defenses – it was a veritable slaughter.

Nowadays, more than 80% of New Zealand’s native birds are in serious trouble, many facing extinction. And it’s estimated that rats, possums, and stoats kill 25 million birds a year here in New Zealand. Let that sink in for a moment.

However, New Zealand is committed to restoring the ecosystems to how they once were, even launching an ambitious campaign Predator Free 2050 to remove pests from NZ.

The story of wildlife in New Zealand is a tragic one, but one also full of hope too. Let’s look at the kākāpō, a bird by all accounts should not have survived.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

Once the third most common bird in New Zealand, the charming kākāpō didn’t stand a chance once mammals entered the scene. Flightless but well camouflaged, their primary defense mechanism was to freeze and avoid being seen. This worked well when eagles hunted them but didn’t stand up once mammals arrived and hunted by smell.

Another quirky fact about kākāpō is that they have a strong scent to them – super weird, right!

You often can get a whiff of them on the breeze before you see them (if you can see them at all), and the rangers who lovingly tend these parrots have described it to me as the smell of the inside of an old violin case. Musty, sweet and old, rather like these creatures.

Pungent, chubby birds who can’t fly and stand still when scared? Well, I do believe we call that easy prey. The kākāpō didn’t stand a chance.

kakapo chicks
Sinbad kākāpō

kakapo chicks

By the 1970’s century, kākāpō were thought to be extinct, before a handful of old males were living at the very top of some of the steepest mountains in Fiordland. A while later, another population was found living on Stewart Island, though feral cats were decimating them.

The kākāpō weren’t going to survive much longer, and from the ’70s to the mid-’90s, all of the birds were moved to predator-free islands. Then the Kākāpō Recovery Programme was established in 1995.

Now, kākāpō are lovingly tended by a dedicated team of rangers, scientists, vet, volunteers, and donors who are doing everything possible to try to bring back these incredible birds from the very brink of extinction. They’re funded in large part on donations and sponsorships from DOC and Meridian Energy.

Donate to Kākāpō Recovery. All donations make a difference

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

The majority of kākāpō these days live on a few predator-free islands, like Anchor Island and on Codfish Island / Whenua Hou, which I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago.

One reason that kākāpō have struggled to bounce back from the brink of extinction is that they only breed every two to four years when Rimu tree’s fruit grows abundantly – the period is known as a “mast year.” Because they are so inbred, genetic diversity is a big problem, and more than half of their eggs are infertile.

It’s an uphill battle.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

But lucky for us, 2019 was shaping up to be a bumper breeding year for kākāpō with an overwhelming abundance of fruit.

Time for all hands on deck!

A great podcast by RNZ called the Kākāpō Files was released this year

kakapo chicks
Hoki on the nest looking like a proud mum, photo by Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter
kakapo chicks
Rakiura-1-A-2019 in Rakiura’s nest, 3 days old by Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter

2019 was a kākāpō breeding season full of highs and lows.

The somewhat quiet offshore islands where they call home quickly become extremely busy throughout the summer as teams of rangers, volunteers and scientists travel down to do everything they can to make it the most successful breeding season possible.

2019 biggest ever on record after a mast year leads to unprecedented amounts of rimu fruit, which is necessary for kākāpō to breed and hatch chicks successfully.

A record of 71 chicks survived through to juvenile age; the previous record was 32.


For many reasons, some chicks were taken off the islands to be hand-reread in special facilities on the mainland, which doesn’t impact them at all if they are raised together – and not alone like Sirocco was – the kākāpō who thinks he’s human.

Later the chicks are released into the wild, tagged with a transmitter.

I was lucky enough to visit some of this year’s chicks down in Invercargill as they were being raised, and it was a life-changing experience, as you might imagine. Making do with limited resources, people, and budget, it’s compelling to see what the kākāpō recovery team can manage.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

Every time I visit them, I dream of the day I am a millionaire so I can adequately fund all of the conservation projects I care deeply about. Sigh. I know it’s a big dream, but one day guys!

In the meantime, if there are any millionaires out there with idly bank accounts looking to support birds, do get in touch.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

The steps taken to look after the chicks are immense, and I can’t even begin to say thank you to the incredibly hard-working kākāpō team who run around like crazy for a year during a breeding season doing everything they can to ensure these birds survive.

It’s dedication and passion that inspires me to my core. These birds wouldn’t have a chance without them.

Suitably sterilized, zipped up, and croc-ed out, I was able to weave my way through the facility to meet this year’s kākāpō chicks.

kakapo chicks
by Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter

kakapo chicks

Greeted by a gaggle of kākāpō in a pen, snorting and chortling their way around a makeshift indoor forest, I let out an audible sigh of deep contentment.

How amazing to see such rare creatures come back from the abyss?

And also, they are seriously so cute. How could you not love them? They literally make snorting noises like a little pig.

I spent hours observing the new chicks, watching them come out and learn how to climb on the branches, try and eat berries and get it all over their faces, and interact with each other. It was such an exceptional experience, and I felt so honored to be part of their story.

I left Invercargill the next day filled with hope and inspiration, but we all know that what goes up must come down, right?

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

It felt like almost as soon as I left, we were hit with the devastating news of a fungal outbreak that was killing kākāpō.

Aspergillosis is a fungal infection threatening kākāpō on Codfish Island / Whenua Hou and can be extremely deadly to birds. Luckily with swift action, many of the infected birds have been hospitalized and treated on the mainland and have survived, though a few have died as well.

Two more kākāpō chicks just died from aspergillosis, and the threat isn’t over yet, with two more chicks dying last month.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

2019 has definitely been a year of ups and downs for kākāpō in New Zealand, and even after some hard times and trials, things are looking up as this year’s chicks make it through the first months of their long lives.

But now the question is, where are they going to live? We’re running out of space!

Ultimately the big goal is to get kākāpō back on mainland New Zealand. With so many more kākāpō, it means we’re running out of pest-free places where we can keep them safe.

What an exciting new problem to have!

Have you heard of the kākāpō? Are they your new favorite bird? Share!

Donate to Kākāpō Recovery. All donations make a difference

kakapo chicks

The post Meet this season’s kākāpō chicks appeared first on Young Adventuress.





Source link

Meet this season’s kākāpō chicks


What’s chubby and feathered but can’t fly? Nocturnal with booming calls and can live for almost a century? Green and fluffy with the cutest muppet faces but super rare, and you probably won’t ever see?

If you guessed the kākāpō, you are exactly right! I’m so proud! You guys have paid attention to all my years of yarning on about odd native New Zealand birds! Anyone? Anyone? *crickets* just my mom and me then!

Well, if the kākāpō perhaps wasn’t what immediately springs to mind AND/OR you have never heard of my favorite creature on earth, well, you’re in for a treat!

Get ready for a bombardment of adorable baby kākāpō photos and stories!

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

Kākāpō claim the somewhat unique title of being both one of the weirdest and rarest birds on the planet. Only found in New Zealand, kākāpō are nocturnal, flightless forest parrots who can live up to 100 years, and look kind of like an avocado and an owl had a baby.

There are only 211 total kākāpō alive today, thanks to the biggest breeding season on record this year, 2019 and the tireless hard work of the fantastic Kākāpō Recovery team. And guess who got to hang out with the new chicks?

In short, kākāpō are special. Really special, and they need our help. Read on, dear ones!

The Story of the Kākāpō

kakapo chicks
Hoki at her nest by Dr. Andrew Digby here

kakapo chicks

Before humans came to New Zealand (and ruined everything in terms of biodiversity – jokes, jokes, but not really), there were no native mammals on this tiny island nation in the South Pacific. No cats, nothing furry, no rats, nothing. Only two types of bats.

It was indeed a land of birds, all of whom evolved without any predators. The only thing that hunted them were other birds. Then humans came and brought with them all of the nasty mammals we hate here today, like possums, stoats (ferrets), cats, rats, etc. Around 50 species of birds went extinct after humans arrived here.

We’ve got some making up to do, am I right?

**Follow kākāpō scientist Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter for the most up-to-date info around these marvelous birds


Our poor unique native birds had no defenses – it was a veritable slaughter.

Nowadays, more than 80% of New Zealand’s native birds are in serious trouble, many facing extinction. And it’s estimated that rats, possums, and stoats kill 25 million birds a year here in New Zealand. Let that sink in for a moment.

However, New Zealand is committed to restoring the ecosystems to how they once were, even launching an ambitious campaign Predator Free 2050 to remove pests from NZ.

The story of wildlife in New Zealand is a tragic one, but one also full of hope too. Let’s look at the kākāpō, a bird by all accounts should not have survived.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

Once the third most common bird in New Zealand, the charming kākāpō didn’t stand a chance once mammals entered the scene. Flightless but well camouflaged, their primary defense mechanism was to freeze and avoid being seen. This worked well when eagles hunted them but didn’t stand up once mammals arrived and hunted by smell.

Another quirky fact about kākāpō is that they have a strong scent to them – super weird, right!

You often can get a whiff of them on the breeze before you see them (if you can see them at all), and the rangers who lovingly tend these parrots have described it to me as the smell of the inside of an old violin case. Musty, sweet and old, rather like these creatures.

Pungent, chubby birds who can’t fly and stand still when scared? Well, I do believe we call that easy prey. The kākāpō didn’t stand a chance.

kakapo chicks
Sinbad kākāpō

kakapo chicks

By the 1970’s century, kākāpō were thought to be extinct, before a handful of old males were living at the very top of some of the steepest mountains in Fiordland. A while later, another population was found living on Stewart Island, though feral cats were decimating them.

The kākāpō weren’t going to survive much longer, and from the ’70s to the mid-’90s, all of the birds were moved to predator-free islands. Then the Kākāpō Recovery Programme was established in 1995.

Now, kākāpō are lovingly tended by a dedicated team of rangers, scientists, vet, volunteers, and donors who are doing everything possible to try to bring back these incredible birds from the very brink of extinction. They’re funded in large part on donations and sponsorships from DOC and Meridian Energy.

Donate to Kākāpō Recovery. All donations make a difference

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

The majority of kākāpō these days live on a few predator-free islands, like Anchor Island and on Codfish Island / Whenua Hou, which I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago.

One reason that kākāpō have struggled to bounce back from the brink of extinction is that they only breed every two to four years when Rimu tree’s fruit grows abundantly – the period is known as a “mast year.” Because they are so inbred, genetic diversity is a big problem, and more than half of their eggs are infertile.

It’s an uphill battle.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

But lucky for us, 2019 was shaping up to be a bumper breeding year for kākāpō with an overwhelming abundance of fruit.

Time for all hands on deck!

A great podcast by RNZ called the Kākāpō Files was released this year

kakapo chicks
Hoki on the nest looking like a proud mum, photo by Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter
kakapo chicks
Rakiura-1-A-2019 in Rakiura’s nest, 3 days old by Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter

2019 was a kākāpō breeding season full of highs and lows.

The somewhat quiet offshore islands where they call home quickly become extremely busy throughout the summer as teams of rangers, volunteers and scientists travel down to do everything they can to make it the most successful breeding season possible.

2019 biggest ever on record after a mast year leads to unprecedented amounts of rimu fruit, which is necessary for kākāpō to breed and hatch chicks successfully.

A record of 71 chicks survived through to juvenile age; the previous record was 32.


For many reasons, some chicks were taken off the islands to be hand-reread in special facilities on the mainland, which doesn’t impact them at all if they are raised together – and not alone like Sirocco was – the kākāpō who thinks he’s human.

Later the chicks are released into the wild, tagged with a transmitter.

I was lucky enough to visit some of this year’s chicks down in Invercargill as they were being raised, and it was a life-changing experience, as you might imagine. Making do with limited resources, people, and budget, it’s compelling to see what the kākāpō recovery team can manage.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

Every time I visit them, I dream of the day I am a millionaire so I can adequately fund all of the conservation projects I care deeply about. Sigh. I know it’s a big dream, but one day guys!

In the meantime, if there are any millionaires out there with idly bank accounts looking to support birds, do get in touch.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

The steps taken to look after the chicks are immense, and I can’t even begin to say thank you to the incredibly hard-working kākāpō team who run around like crazy for a year during a breeding season doing everything they can to ensure these birds survive.

It’s dedication and passion that inspires me to my core. These birds wouldn’t have a chance without them.

Suitably sterilized, zipped up, and croc-ed out, I was able to weave my way through the facility to meet this year’s kākāpō chicks.

kakapo chicks
by Dr. Andrew Digby on Twitter

kakapo chicks

Greeted by a gaggle of kākāpō in a pen, snorting and chortling their way around a makeshift indoor forest, I let out an audible sigh of deep contentment.

How amazing to see such rare creatures come back from the abyss?

And also, they are seriously so cute. How could you not love them? They literally make snorting noises like a little pig.

I spent hours observing the new chicks, watching them come out and learn how to climb on the branches, try and eat berries and get it all over their faces, and interact with each other. It was such an exceptional experience, and I felt so honored to be part of their story.

I left Invercargill the next day filled with hope and inspiration, but we all know that what goes up must come down, right?

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

It felt like almost as soon as I left, we were hit with the devastating news of a fungal outbreak that was killing kākāpō.

Aspergillosis is a fungal infection threatening kākāpō on Codfish Island / Whenua Hou and can be extremely deadly to birds. Luckily with swift action, many of the infected birds have been hospitalized and treated on the mainland and have survived, though a few have died as well.

Two more kākāpō chicks just died from aspergillosis, and the threat isn’t over yet, with two more chicks dying last month.

kakapo chicks

kakapo chicks

2019 has definitely been a year of ups and downs for kākāpō in New Zealand, and even after some hard times and trials, things are looking up as this year’s chicks make it through the first months of their long lives.

But now the question is, where are they going to live? We’re running out of space!

Ultimately the big goal is to get kākāpō back on mainland New Zealand. With so many more kākāpō, it means we’re running out of pest-free places where we can keep them safe.

What an exciting new problem to have!

Have you heard of the kākāpō? Are they your new favorite bird? Share!

Donate to Kākāpō Recovery. All donations make a difference

kakapo chicks

The post Meet this season’s kākāpō chicks appeared first on Young Adventuress.





Source link

Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise


Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.


Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise


Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.


Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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