Trip Report from South West Pacific Odyssey

23-05-2016

Day 1: Tauranga
Wednesday 6 April 2016

 
1800: 37° 19’ S, 176° 09’ E
 
The sun shone brightly in the beautiful Port of Tauranga as we met for the first time and boarded the Spirit of Enderby. After orientating ourselves with our cabin and the ship layout we cleared customs in the Bar/Library and were warmly welcomed by the expedition staff.
 
At 1600 hours we welcomed the pilot aboard for our departure. The afternoon sun was slowly dipping and the seas were calm and gentle. It was a smooth departure and everyone migrated to the top deck to commence some serious birding. Our onboard Bird Expert, Chris Collins, led the way as we steamed past Mount Maunganui, immediately rattling off several species of bird before we made open sea!

As we headed out, pelagic birds quickly replaced the coastal birdlife and we set course to pass to the west of Mayor Island. Following the sunset we headed to the Bar/Library for refreshments with new friends before dinner.  Chris led the first daily Bird List of the voyage before we retired for the night.


Photo credit:  H.Ahern

Day 2: Hauraki Gulf
Thursday 7 April 2016


0600: 35° 56’ S  175° 14’ E
1800: 34° 44’ S  174° 04’ E

The outer islands of the Hauraki Gulf were magical in the early morning light.  The Mokohinau Islands were scattered before us.  Pelagic birds abound much to our delight and almost everyone was either on the top deck with Chris or trying to get some good shots from the lower deck.

The Spirit of Enderby then made way out to the 200-metre depth contour hopeful of seeing the New Zealand Storm-petrel. Chris and Martin Cohen (Lecturer/Guide) laid a fish oil slick from the aft deck and several sea birds were soon attracted. Passing the slick we were rewarded with some decent sightings including several New Zealand storm-petrels, black petrels, wandering and white-capped albatross, Buller’s shearwater and fairy prions.

The balance of the day was spent on watch for sea and bird life. The Bryde's whale was seen quite often, with about 200 common dolphins swimming close to the ship and albatross that stayed with us through the day.  The bird list grew in size with the highlight being around 25 New Zealand storm-petrels.  Compared to previous years there were plentiful sightings of this critically endangered species, which could be attributable to good on-land conservation which has increased their breeding habitat.

The bar session included the nightly bird log where stories, photographs and anecdotes are shared. We slept soundly with the aid of gentle seas.


 Photo credit:  H.Ahern

Day 3: At Sea off New Zealand
Friday 8 April 2016


0600: 33° 56’ S  172° 24’ E
1800: 32° 43’ S  171° 14’ E
 
We awoke at dawn in the company of Matawahi - Three Kings Islands. Deeply sacred to Maori it is inhabited only by wildlife. We were not allowed closer than 12 nautical miles and instead settled the ship near a seamount to watch for bird life. The usual suspects appeared. Albatross and the rare Gould's petrel were seen. They were encouraged to the ship by a cocktail of fish oil and rice crispies. Apparently an irresistible combination for seabirds!

We had some good sightings of black-winged petrel, black petrel, Wilson’s petrel and possibly a sooty shearwater. The highlight for many was the sighting of several albatross including Antipodean (‘wandering’), white-capped and Campbell Albatross. The rest of the day was spent cruising toward and into Australian waters in relatively calm seas. It was the last opportunity to add to the New Zealand bird list and while sighting was not as frequent due to our distance from land, the day’s birding was highly productive with several more sightings of Albatross, including a snowy wandering albatross. As well as numerous fairy prions, several species of petrels made appearances irregularly including a single giant petrel, a few white-faced, grey-faced, white-necked, black, Tahiti, Gould’s, Cook’s and Kermadec petrels, and several black-winged and Wilson’s petrels.

To finish the day, Chris gave a lecture on the Cetaceans we might encounter as we make our way north.


 Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 4: At Sea
Saturday 9 April 2016


0600: 30° 58’ S  169° 38’ E
1800: 29° 37’ S  168° 26’ E

Another full day at sea - up early and scouring the sea and sky for birds. One of the first surprises was the distant sighting of a wandering albatross, well north of its normal range.

The feature of the day was the migration path of the short tailed shearwater. They spend the summer in Tasmania and then fly north to the Sea of Okhotsk which is on the western side of the Kamchatka Peninsula. By conservative estimate they passed our ship at the rate of 50,000 an hour from 4pm till dusk. Amongst them were some little shearwaters standing out because of a small amount of white on their fronts. The others were totally black. As we steamed into deeper water the bird numbers dropped although we did manage to get some good views of a small pod of Blainville’s beaked and a pod of false killer whales, possibly with a few pilot whales mixed. Some striped dolphins also made an appearance.

We spotted a few red-tailed tropicbirds as we headed closer to Norfolk Island. This indicated that we were now entering warmer climes.  An introduction to Norfolk, the bird list, a good dinner and bed early for a 5:30 a.m. start tomorrow on land.

 
Day 5 : Norfolk Island
Sunday 10 April 2016


0600: 29° 01’ S  167° 59’ E
1800: 28° 00’ S  167° 52’ E

Overnight the Spirit of Enderby came to anchor at Cascade Bay on the north-east coast of Norfolk Island. We had an early breakfast and when given the go-ahead, we set off for shore. We were welcomed ashore by Ken and Margaret Christian who were there to show us around their island. Ken is "seven greats" from Fletcher Christian of the Bounty fame. The keen birders piled into the mini-bus to go to the National Park led by Margaret and Chris, while a few boarded the van to take a generalist tour around the island with Ken.
The birding bus drove straight to the foothills of Norfolk Island and into Palm Glen National Park. It was here that the group wandered down the track searching for target Norfolk Island endemic birds. They were soon rewarded with really good views of the Norfolk gerygone, slender-billed white-eye and Pacific robin. Finding the Norfolk Island parakeet took more time and work but they were eventually rewarded with a couple of close up views. Margaret then revealed a magnificent picnic morning tea to replenish energy stores.

The generalist tour also proceeded to Palm Glen National Park in their mini-van and then continued onwards to the Mt Pitt lookout with 360 degree views of the island. They headed back to the township of Kingston and dropped in on the Sunday markets while Ken told them about day-to-day life on Norfolk Island. Finally the generalists headed to the lookout at Emily Bay before meeting and the groups both returned to Spirit of Enderby.

Once back on board we tucked into a superb meal before the ship and our minds turned to our next destination, New Caledonia. 

 
Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions



Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 6: At Sea enroute to New Caledonia
Monday 11 April 2016


0600: 25° 36’ S  167° 36’ E
1800: 23° 26’ S  166° 48’ E

As we continued our expedition northwards we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. The seas were still relatively calm and gentle, but the humidity and daytime temperature were notably increasing.  We visited a disappeared seamount that was clearly recorded on the charts, however once in position our sonar shows it does not exist. The seabed in this part of the world is unstable and things change.
It was a relaxing day at sea with the birders spending much of their time on the top deck searching for elusive pelagic birds. Late in the morning Martin and Chris put out an oil slick and a delightful assortment of fish guts in the hope of attracting some more birds. This slick proved successful with a variety of petrels seen including Tahiti, Karmenek, Gould’s and black-winged. Several Wilson’s storm petrels and, for the first time this trip, a couple of providence petrels.

In the afternoon Andrew presented an educational talk about the geology of New Caledonia. The excitement about exploring New Caledonia grew as we started to see many birds associated with nearby land. These included red-tailed tropicbird, masked and red-footed booby, some distant frigate birds and several white terns.

Day 7: New Caledonia - Riviere de Bleue National Park
Tuesday 12 April 2016


0600: 22° 16’ S  166° 26’ E
1800: 22° 16’ S 166° 26’ E

We made good time overnight and as the new day dawned we were entering inside the reef of New Caledonia heading for the Port of Noumea. The morning was clear and bright and we saw some new birds as we steamed toward the dock including great-crested terns and white-rumped swiftlet.

By 0700 hours we were tied up alongside welcoming customs aboard to clear us into New Caledonia.  The birding group boarded a bus and headed out of Noumea city towards Riviere de Bleue National Park for a full day’s birding with Jean Marc, our local guide, and were shuttled to the edge of the rainforest by minivan to start birding.

Very soon after arrival they were rewarded with excellent views of two of the difficult-to-find birds – the white-bellied goshawk and the New Caledonian crow. Before long, the kagu made it’s appearance. This small flightless bird wandered out onto the track and forest edge and everyone got great views and photographs. We were treated to several more sightings throughout the morning.
Great views noted of the cloven-feathered fruit-dove, New Caledonian friarbird, red-throated parrot-finches, New Caledonian parakeet and even a Pacific emerald dove.  With fifteen of the seventeen target endemic species and a few additional Melanesian birds sighted we made our way back to Spirit of Enderby in high spirits. 
 
Meanwhile the ‘generalists’ set off to explore the thriving hub of Noumea.  A leisurely day was spent enjoying the culture and sights of Noumea city – this  included some time spent beachside, enjoying the café culture, souvenir shopping, and swimming in the warm waters of Anse Vata beach. 


 Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions


Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions


Photo credit:  H.Ahern

Day 8: New Caledonia - Mount Koghi
Wednesday 13 April 2016


0600: 22° 16’ S 166° 26’ E
1800: 21° 50’ S 165° 14’ E

After a very early wake up call and breakfast the birding group were picked by bus at 0530 and driven up the nearby range to Mt Koghi.

They walked along a delightful rainforest track as the day dawned. Some got a quick glimpse of one of our targets, the horned parakeet. A search for a few missed targets from the day before and some time spent trying to get the attention of South Melanesian cuckoo-shrike was rewarded with some excellent views of this bird.

Many of the birds from yesterday were seen, including fantastic views of the goliath imperial pigeon. Chris found a patch of bracken fern that he thought might be good habitat for the New Caledonian grassbird or thicketbird although it wasn't on the target list. Certainly a surprise when two grassbirds came and scuttled around our feet - in fact, it looked as though one was going to perch on Phil’s shoes! Great views for everyone and some got photos. A completely unexpected highlight.

Once back on board Spirit of Enderby we headed out to sea at 1100 and many used this time to rest. We traversed the south west coast of New Caledonia and saw several pelagic birds including Gould’s and Tahiti petrels and a few Wilson’s storm petrels.


 Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 9: At Sea enroute to Solomon Islands
Thursday 14 April 2016


0600: 22° 16’ S 166° 26’ E
1800: 21° 50’ S 165° 14’ E

A well deserved sleep in and a relatively quiet, relaxing day at sea. We had now entered deep tropical waters and were making good time heading northwards towards the Solomon Islands. The shade sail was erected, giving those birding on the top deck a welcome reprieve from the heat of the tropical sun.

We got several sightings of Gould’s and Tahiti petrels, short-tailed and wedge-tailed shearwaters. We were also entertained by the flying and fishing exploits of a few boobies, including the brown, red-footed and masked booby. Sooty, brown noddy and black noddy terns were also regularly seen. The oddest thing to happen today was Derrick getting a great shot of a flying squid! Who would have thought?

After lunch, Martin gave a presentation outlining and describing the world’s tropical rainforests and this generated good discussion amongst passengers. As the tropical sun dipped below the horizon we enjoyed the reading of the daily bird list and a pleasant dinner before retiring to bed.


Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions


 Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 10  : At Sea enroute to Solomon Islands
Friday 15 April 2016


0600: 15° 44’ S 162° 24’ E
1800: 13° 23’ S 162° 24’ E

We awoke to another day in the tropics with the sea still calm and gentle. The sky was cloudy and conditions were somewhat cooler. We made good time with the southeast trade winds behind us as we continued our expedition northwards to the Solomon Islands. 

We spent much of the day crossing very deep waters, giving reason to fewer bird sightings.  Several band-rumped storm-petrels were seen. We got a good view of a white-tailed tropicbird with a fish in its beak trying desperately to outfly a pomerine skua. As the chase went out of view we never discovered who won the battle.

Martin completed the second part of his talk on the World’s tropical rainforests after lunch. Tomorrow we were looking forward to exploring the islands of the Solomons and experiencing local culture and discovering the birdlife for ourselves.
 
Day 11: Solomon Islands - Santa Ana / Makira
Saturday 16 April 2016


0600: 11° 25’ S 162° 25’ E
1800: 10° 52’ S 162° 21’ E

At first light we were in sight of Santa Ana and Makira which were our two next destinations. We boarded our zodiacs and cruised towards the beach where warriors greeted us in a challenge, charging out of the undergrowth yelling and shaking spears then disappearing as quickly as they appeared. In the village open arena, we were warmly welcomed with a traditional ‘sing sing’ from a group of women in traditional dress and a warm speech from a village elder.  Our onboard Medical Advisor, Pat Alley, responded in Maori and this was followed by a waiata (maori song) from us all much to the villagers delight. After the official ceremony had finished we wandered around the village admiring and purchasing some of their superb wooded crafts.  The Spirit of Enderby chefs bartered with local villagers for some local crayfish and this trade resulted in a quick change of menu for dinner!

Some passengers chose to enjoy the afternoon snorkeling in the sheltered lagoon where they found good fish life and several ‘bombies’ (large vertical stacks of rocks and coral), before returning to interact with the locals, visit the school, and even a swim with the local children.

Meanwhile, the birders headed for a walk into the forest. Veering off the beach they were soon into the rainforest on a basalt substrate with several huge fig trees and many fruiting trees. As the afternoon progressed there was more bird activity. They were richly rewarded with several great views of white-headed and silver-capped fruit-dove. Chestnut-breasted and white collared monarch, beach kingfisher, sooty myzomela and rufous fantail were also seen.

Back onboard we reflected on our first landing in the Solomon Islands and chefs Ralf and Connor provided a huge feast of the freshly caught crayfish.


 Photo credit:  H.Ahern


Photo credit:  H.Ahern


Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 12: Solomon Islands - Anuta
Sunday 17 April 2016


0600: 11° 25’ S 162° 25’ E
1800: 10° 52’ S 162° 21’ E

The Captain anchored in the small harbour just off Anuta village on San Cristobel Island – sometimes called Makira Island. It was another early start for the birders who disembarked on the beach and walked along a logging track to get into some serious birding in the cool of the day.

Endemic Makira birds sighted included the sooty myzomela, the Makira cicadabird, the Makira flycatcher and the San Cristobel starling, as well a pair of bright red cardinals flying overhead.  Excellent views of the emerald green male eclectus parrot and the blue and red female and the tiny Finsch’s pygmy parrot made for good birding. The birding group came back down the track very satisfied with the morning.
 
Those who had remained on the ship had a later start to their day, with a zodiac cruise planned around the local coastline. This quickly turned into a return to the ship for snorkel gear and some very good snorkeling around a healthy coral reef and some magnificent ‘bombies’ in sight of the village on the shore. The scenes under the water are magnificent in this part of the world and this new site for snorkeling brought more delights.  By this stage, word of our arrival had spread throughout the village and over a dozen younger children had made their way to the beach, waving out in greeting and climbing up a natural rock promentary to catch a sight of ‘their visitors’. 
 
Our landing at Anuta village was enjoyed by all expeditioners, staff and crew of Spirit of Enderbyand a group of local women warmly welcomed us in song as we set foot on the beach.  One-by-one local school children presented us with hand-made lei necklaces and we were ushered together in the shade of a purposely erected shade sail. We were immediately treated to more songs from the local women and from the school choir, including a delightful version of the Hokey Tokey!

After the village chief formally welcomed us, the expeditioners, staff and crew were invited to introduce themselves in return with the villagers enjoying hearing the diversity of our group. We were then given time to wander freely around the village, taking the chance to chat with locals and being thoroughly entertained and charmed by the children. It was a real honor to visit the thriving, happy community and see their commitment to sustainable tourism – even the school was involved with teaching aquaculture and environmental science to the children.  Our Cruise Director, Helen, is an Assistant Principal in New Zealand and was shown inside the school. She returned impressed at how relevant the learning themes are to their village life and what they make do with in terms of limited resources.
 
Once back on board the ship many rested for the afternoon. Birders spent the afternoon watching flat seas searching for elusive shearwaters and were briefly rewarded with two new species – the streaked shearwater and the tropical shearwater.  Late afternoon saw Guadalcanal on our port beam. It was cloudy and the island looked forbidding or maybe that was because we were all aware of the grim war history of the area.

Another fantastic day was completed with a great dinner prepared and served by the dedicated kitchen crew and then off to bed early as we were to be up again the following morning well before sunrise.
 

Photo credit:  H.Ahern


Photo credit:  H.Ahern


Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 13: Solomon Islands - Honiara and Mount Austin
Monday 18 April 2016


0600: 11° 25’ S 162° 25’ E
1800: 10° 52’ S 162° 21’ E

Another early start for what promised to be a big day for all. We had anchored overnight off Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal Island. After being ferried ashore by zodiac, local agent Wilson and his drivers transferred us by shuttle bus and four-wheel drive vehicles up to Mount Austin. 

After a quick briefing we made our way down the forest track that dropped off quite steeply into a river valley. The first section of the walk gave us spectacular views into large areas of the forest and as it had rained overnight the clouds were moving through and still hugging the peaks. The views alone were worth the early morning start. It wasn't long before the large Blyth’s hornbills were calling and flying into view. These spectacular birds have very loud wing beats – you literally hear them coming before you see them. Also seen was a pair of buff-headed coucals, a gang of Solomon cockatoos, several claret-breasted fruit-doves, Solomon Island cuckoo-shrikes, blue-steel flycatchers and several tiny midget flowerpeckers. It was suggested tongue-in-cheek that due to political correctness, maybe these birds should have their name changed to ‘vertically-challenged’ flowerpeckers.
 
After several hours, the climb back up the hill left the birders tired but satisfied with the birding success. On the way home a sighting was made of the elusive ultramarine kingfisher whose back was the deep rich blue of royalty. This sighting topped off a great day.
 
The ‘non-birders’ spent a day on a City Tour of Honiara by mini-van and explored different aspects of the city from the rugged port area, Chinese quarter (which has experienced crippling floods in recent years) and the Botanical Gardens that had also been damaged by the flash floods. A visit was made to a viewpoint high above the city that has a large memorial to the Allied deaths in WWII. Time was spent reading the plaques in memorial and to unpack the events that took place in the region during the war.  Their guide then made a ‘pit stop’ and showed them his family house. A very good tour of The Round House – the Solomon Islands government building - and the onsite educational tourguide was very transparent about the challenges facing the country in recent times as well as what lay ahead in coming years. 

Back on the ship for the afternoon and evening while we continued our journey northwards. To finish the day we watched a pod of dolphins (probably striped and Fraser’s) jump and play around the ship’s bow just before we headed into a tropical squall.


 Photo credit:  H.Ahern


Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions

Day 14: Solomon Islands - Barora Fa and Poru Channel
Tuesday 19 April 2016


0600: 07° 36’ S 158° 13’ E
1800: 07° 29’ S 158° 15’ E

We anchored at Barora Fa Harbour early in the morning. It had rained all night but cleared up for us just as we all loaded into the zodiacs. Once in the zodiacs we realised the advantage of getting up early with the gentle light of the new dawn bathing us as we cruised into the Poru channel.
 
The channel is influenced by strong tide and fast current and we were surrounded by dense tropical rainforest on the slopes with mangroves lining the shoreline. The banks were made of limestone and the water was crystal clear water with great coral. We just had to lean over the side of our zodiacs to clearly see life below the surface. The birding was very good also. Seeking birds while gently cruising in a zodiac was a pleasant change to hiking. We had excellent views of terns, kingfishers and cockatoos. The highlight was watching 40 or more Blyth’s hornbill and many species of pigeon fly out of a single fig tree heavily laden with fruit.

On the way back we made a stop at a delightful guesthouse – 'Vavaghio' - run by a Kiwi, Gary, and his wife Lydia, a Solomon Islander. Lydia prepared a lovely morning tea of freshly baked bread rolls, banana jam, pomelo (citrus fruit) and paw paw. We had a quick break before some headed into the surrounding forest searching for a megapode and an endemic crow and were rewarded with brief glimpse of both.
 
After lunch back on Spirit on Enderby, the group split into the birders and snorkelers. The birders visited Kupikolo village where  a 'bird field guide' had been left the previous year to help the locals understand what visitors may be looking for. The locals took them up a steep, muddy track but the birds remained quite elusive. Fresh coconut was offered for afternoon tea. Meanwhile, the snorkelers spent a relaxing afternoon swimming and snorkeling a reef at Ritamala, home to a single family.  The snorkeling was arguably some of the best of the expedition with giant clams, healthy coral and abundant fish life within metres of the beach.
 
Once back on board we learnt that Captain Dmitry had caught six skipjack tuna. Sushi tomorrow?!


 Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions


Photo credit:  Heritage Expeditions


Photo credit:  H.Ahern

Day 15: Solomon Islands - Kolombangara
Wednesday 20 April 2016


0600: 08° 08’ S 157° 07’ E
1800: 07° 52’ S 156° 32’ E

Another early morning wake up call as we prepared for a big day on Kolombangara Island. Just as the sky began to brighten we arrived at Kukudu village in Ringi Cove boarded the back of a truck and four-wheel drives for a 45-minute drive through the village, past the hardwood plantations and to a research lodge (Imbo Rano) at around 350 metres above sea level. The view over untouched tropical rainforest surrounding the rim of an extinct volcanic crater was breathtaking.
 
The lodge proved an excellent viewing platform for bird watching in the cool mountain air and it wasn't long before we all had good views of pale mountain pigeons. We walked on a couple of tracks and saw white-capped monarchs, crimson-rumped myzomela and Solomon Islands white-eye.
 
We also finally got some magnificent views of a soaring Solomon Island sea eagle set against an unbroken tropical rainforest background. It was where many who hadn’t had good views of Mackinlay’s cuckoo-dove were finally rewarded. The most curious bird seen was the buff-headed coucal. Not only does it make mammal-like noises, it also forages like a mammal in the treetops using its tail for balance amongst the branches. Many small lizards (skinks) were scuttling around in the sunshine near the viewing platform. One species had a distinctive blue tail (Pacific blue-tailed skink) while the other species seen was pale green all over (green-blooded vine skink), and spent much of its time hunting from the trunk of a palm.
 
 We arrived back at the ship hungry and lunch was quickly served. After a short rest the birders were keen to get up on deck and search for a couple of rare petrels (Beck’s and streaked) and Heinroth’s shearwater. Soon the tropical rains came and the afternoon was a wash out with rain persisting well into the evening.
 
Ralf and Connor produced some dishes made of the captain’s tuna as entrees at dinnertime. Many thought the sashimi was delicious! 


Photo credit:  H.Ahern

Day 16: Solomon Islands - Shortland Islands
Thursday 21 April 2016


0600: 07° 09’ S 155° 59’ E
1800: 07° 19’ S 155° 21’ E

It was another beautiful sunny tropical morning as we loaded the zodiacs and went cruising and exploring a new channel between some of the islands of the Shortland Island group. The channel was lined with mangroves and behind was tropical rainforest. This rainforest had been selectively logged recently and the damage was often evident.

Birding while cruising along the channel was slow but every now and again we were compensated with a great sighting. Many parrots, especially cardinal loris and coconut lorikeets, and pigeons (red-knobbed and island imperial pigeons) flew overhead. We got some excellent views of the Solomon sea eagle and brahminy kites. Some saw a variable goshawk and we got views of a moustached tree swift.

As the sun rose higher the bird activity reduced, so we headed for the little island of Onua and the small village of Pirumeri.  Here we were warmly greeted with music, songs and dancing at the small village. Chris led the birders on a walk behind the school area to do some last minute birding and they had great views of red-capped myzomela and Bougainville monarch.
 
We returned in very warm conditions to the ship. Spinner dolphins and the rarer spotted tropical dolphins appear. A beautiful sunset and a distant lightning show concluded the day.


 Photo credit:  H.Ahern

 
Photo credit:  H.Ahern

Day 17: At Sea enroute to Papua New Guinea
Friday 22 April 2016


0600: 05° 57’ S 153° 43’ E
1800: 05° 00’ S 153° 00’ E

It was another beautiful sunrise on the tropical seas as we made our way northwards towards Papua New Guinea. During the morning we were cruising over a trench that can get up to nine kilometres deep which meant that few seabirds would be around. Many made use of this time to sort out gear, edit and download photos and generally relax.

After lunch we were closer to seamounts, which meant we had better chances of seeing some of the target seabirds. Chris started the task of slowly squeezing fish guts into the sea at the back deck to start a slick to attract birds. After doing this for two hours he struggled to find willing volunteers to take over but in her usual cheerful way, Helen took over the task.

The birds came to the slick, including several Beck’s petrels and a few streaked shearwaters. The birding group was well satisfied and even Chris mentioned that he had seen more birds this trip than on any other through the region. We were treated to a sight of a pod of Fraser’s dolphins as we made our way to the southern end of New Ireland on dusk.

Just before dinner Martin gave a summary of the trip and presented a 15-minute slideshow of the voyage that captured some great memories. Following this we had a delicious dinner provided by chefs Ralf and Connor, and served by the lovely and hard-working restaurant staff, Natalia and Albina. Our final night was one to remember.
 
Day 18: Papua New Guinea - Kokopo
Saturday 23 April 2016


0600: 05° 00’ S 152° 38’ E

As dawn broke we were stationed just off Kokopo, Papua New Guinea. The custom officials were picked up and then we had a short voyage to the Rabaul pilot station and back before we were officially cleared to enter Papua New Guinea.

We left the ship for the final time and onboard bird expert Chris still managed to take the group for a bit of birding on the beach where we spotted black sunbirds and New Britain friarbirds!

We said our final farewells on the beach at the Rapopo Plantation Resort in Kokopo with some fond memories, numerous new birds and shared experiences that we will remember for a long time into the future.  Bon voyage and safe onward travels!
 

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