We found Adam Walleyn to be knowledgeable, experienced, and with expert birding skills and people skills. We enjoyed him thoroughly.
This Melanesian birding, wildlife and cultural cruise takes us into a world that few have ever experienced, including visiting idyllic islands and isolated villages where unique time-honoured traditions and elaborately costumed dancers welcome us into their special world!
Commencing in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, we set sail to discover the beauty of the outer Solomon Islands. Here we can relax as our ship glides into secluded bays, and takes us to remote oceanic islands where the ancient art of traditional navigation survives even until today. In Vanuatu, we have the opportunity to search for several endemic bird species, or else to dive and explore one of the planet’s most famous wrecks and discover hidden underwater worlds bejewelled with a dazzling array of astounding marine life. For birders, this itinerary offers once-in-a-lifetime species on remote islands where very few people have been before. The birding potential is exceptional, and we offer an optional specialised birding programme with customised excursions to maximise our birding opportunities of the region’s numerous endemic and range-restricted species. In addition, these waters provide some of the greatest diving in the world, and there will be various opportunities for everybody to snorkel and appreciate the beauty beneath the waves, as well as an optional scuba-diving programme for those wishing to maximise their underwater experiences.
Please note that a Rockjumper leader may not accompany the expedition unless a minimum of 10 participants are signed up through Rockjumper. In the case that a Rockjumper leader is not on board, the professional expedition staff will take care of all participants signed up through Rockjumper.
Please note: these prices exclude an optional Specialized Birding Supplement of US$450 per person, an optional Kayaking Supplement of US$915 per person, and an obligatory Discovery Fund contribution of US$600 per person. These additional charges are payable on board. Please also note that these prices are subject to foreign exchange fluctuations.
Vanuatu Megapode, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Vanuatu Petrel, Sanford’s Sea Eagle, Pied Goshawk, Tanna, Claret-breasted & White-headed Fruit Dove, Vanuatu, Chestnut-bellied & Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon, Solomons (Ducorps’s) Cockatoo, Cardinal & Yellow-bibbed Lory, Palm Lorikeet, Buff-headed Coucal, Blyth’s Hornbill, Ultramarine & Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Moustached Treeswift, White-billed Crow, Solomons Cuckooshrike, Makira Cicadabird, Santa Cruz Shrikebill, Cockerell’s Fantail, Solomons, White-collared, Buff-bellied & Chestnut-bellied Monarch, Black-headed, Sooty, Red-capped & Red-vested (Red-bellied) Myzomela, Makira & White-bellied Honeyeater, Mottled & Midget Flowerpecker, Makira & Steel-blue Flycatcher, Long-tailed Myna, Polynesian, Mountain, Makira & Brown-winged Starling, Malaita, Santa Cruz, Sanford’s & Yellow-fronted White-eye
possibilities for various cetacean species
open ocean, shoreline, rainforest, mangroves, islets
hot and humid with tropical showers
very relaxed, with some longer optional walks
brilliant coral reef snorkeling, traditional island culture, rarely visited tropical islands, historical World War II relics
Day 1: Arrival in Honiara, Solomon Islands
Today you arrive in the port town of Honiara for our Melanesian cruise and transfer to the Solomon Kitano Mendana Hotel for the first night. As this is essentially a pre-cruise arrival day, you are free to arrive at any time you wish. This evening we will then all get together and you will meet with your fellow travellers and the expedition team over dinner at the resort.
Day 2: Honiara, Solomon Islands
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 and was witness to the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where the Allied forces eventually overcame a Japanese invasion. Today we enjoy the option of touring Honiara, visiting historical sites including Henderson Airfield (one of the key focal points of attention during World War II), war memorials and the open-air war museum. The hills and mountains behind Honiara offer the opportunity for an early morning visit to nearby Mt. Austin, a classic Solomon’s birding destination that offers a great introduction to the birds of these islands. Some of the many specialties we hope to see here include Sanford’s Sea Eagle, Pied Goshawk, Claret-breasted Fruit Dove, Red-knobbed Imperial Pigeon, Solomons (Ducorps’s) Cockatoo, Cardinal and Yellow-bibbed Lory, Buff-headed Coucal, the huge Blyth’s Hornbill, Ultramarine Kingfisher, Black-headed Myzomela, Solomons Cuckooshrike, Cockerell’s Fantail, Solomons and Chestnut-bellied Monarchs, Steel-blue Flycatcher, White-billed Crow, Brown-winged Starling, Long-tailed Myna and Midget Flowerpecker. In addition, from the top of Mt. Austen there is a spectacular view out to sea and across the mountain ranges, which we will take time to admire. This afternoon we will then board the Spirit of Enderby, our home for the next 10 nights, where we can familiarize ourselves with our cabins and the ship. Thereafter we will join our Captain and expedition team on the Bridge as we leave Honiara on the first leg of our Melanesian cruise.
Day 3: San Jorge Island and Santa Isabel
Despite being one of the largest and highest islands in the Solomon Islands, most of Santa Isabel remains unexplored and undiscovered. Today we will head for the remote southern shores and Thousand Ships Harbour, which is nestled between San Jorge Island and the high peaks of southern Santa Isabel. Here the rhythms of life continue little changed, with daily life still centred on the village and family. The multitude of inlets, channels and bays provide numerous opportunities for divers to experience the thrill of a ‘first’ dive. Since very few birders have ever set foot on this part of Santa Isabel, it will no doubt be an exciting day of exploration during our Melanesian cruise. Some of the species that we could encounter include Red-capped Myzomela, White-billed Crow, Solomons Cuckooshrike, Solomons Monarch and Yellow-throated White-eye.
Day 4: Malaita
Mountainous Malaita is home to one-third of the Solomon’s total population, with pristine rivers and unexploited tropical forests. Anchoring in one of the harbours on the western side of the island, we’ll spend the day ashore, including a visit to Langa Langa Lagoon, famous for its artificial islands. For birders, an excursion into the hills of Malaita provides good chances for finding some of Malaita’s special birds, including the endemic Malaita White-eye and possibly the rare Red-vested (Red-bellied) Myzomela. Other possibilities include Cardinal Lory, Moustached Treeswift and Steel-blue Flycatcher, while additional species such as Cockerell’s (or White-winged) Fantail and Brown-winged Starling have distinctive subspecies on Malaita, which may soon be split as full species.
Day 5: Makira
Makira is the most easterly of the main islands in the Solomons archipelago, and covers some 3,100 square kilometres with a mountain range running right through the centre of the island. Not far to the east lies Santa Ana, a small raised coral atoll. Sea caves on the island are believed to be the first site of human habitation in the Solomons, dating back to 1280 BC. This morning on our Melanesian cruise, we anchor in the calm waters of Star Harbour. Here the option exists to join our naturalists for a Zodiac exploration of the abundant mangrove forests that line the shores and to take a short walk to Makira’s south coast where the villagers live much as they have for millennia. Here we will spend time with the locals, who share with us their traditional song and dance. If we are lucky the local boys might be surfing on their hand carved palm wood boards! In addition, this beautiful island has more than its fair share of endemics, and some of the lowland species we hope to see include the beautiful White-headed Fruit Dove, Makira Honeyeater, Sooty Myzomela, Makira Cicadabird, the shy White-collared Monarch, Makira Flycatcher, Makira Starling and Mottled Flowerpecker. Many other more widespread birds also occur, while Makira seems to be the best place to see the very rare Chestnut-bellied Imperial Pigeon.
Day 6: Nendö – Temotu Province
Nendö is the largest of the Santa Cruz Islands, which lie to the south-east of the Solomon Islands. Biologically these islands share more in common with Vanuatu than the Solomons. Interestingly, the island is the home of red feather money, which is sourced from the Scarlet Myzomela (Honeyeater). We will spend the afternoon birding Nendö for the three birds endemic to the islands: namely Santa Cruz White-eye, the bizarre looking Sanford’s White-eye and Santa Cruz Shrikebill, though the latter is very rare and we will require a hefty dose of luck on our Melanesian cruise to see this special bird! In addition, we also have a chance for Rusty-winged Starling here.
Day 7: Duff Islands
To the north-east of Nendö are the isolated Duff Islands, a cluster of 11 small islands. Here on the tiny island of Taumako, in the Solomon Islands’ eastern province of Temotu, live some 500 Polynesians who may be the only people in the Pacific still capable of building and sailing the ancient voyaging canoes in completely traditional ways. In recent years there has been resurgence in this dying art, and during our Melanesian cruise, we hope to catch a glimpse of the locals hand-crafting their vessels on the shore with adzes. Aside from their mighty canoes, the islanders are also renowned for their great navigating abilities. Since these are such remote and truly oceanic islands, they harbour only a small range of species, with some of the better birds recorded from the islands including Palm Lorikeet, Polynesian Starling and Bristle-thighed Curlew. While cruising the offshore waters, we will also keep our eyes peeled for sightings of a number of tropical seabird species, including the lovely Red-tailed Tropicbird.
Day 8: Vanikolo
Today we explore the archipelago of Vanikolo, with its five islands encapsulated by a dramatic barrier reef that offers superb diving and snorkelling opportunities. We will also visit a monument to Jean-François de La Pérouse, a French explorer who was stranded here after both his vessels struck this very reef in 1788. Some 900 people inhabit Vanikolo, with approximately 600 Melanesian islanders and 300 Polynesians, all of whom originate from nearby Tikopia. Our visit here offers the chance to wander through the island’s forests in search of the two endemic bird species that reside here, namely Vanikoro Monarch and Vanikoro White-eye, the latter species described only as recently as 2008. Very few birders have had the opportunity to explore this remote island so it is something of an expeditionary day on our Melanesian cruise! We will also take time to float through the pristine, crystal clear waters in search of the spectacular marine life that abounds here.
Day 9: Vanua Lava
This morning on our Melanesian cruise, we arrive in Vanuatu at the northern outpost of Vanua Lava, the largest island in the Banks Islands and which is crowned by the volcanically active Mt. Séré’ama. These islands hit the birding headlines a few years ago when the Vanuatu Petrel was rediscovered here, along with its nesting grounds. Even more recently, a distinctly dark subspecies of Collared Petrel, dubbed the “Magnificent Petrel”, has also been found. Both species are apparently regularly seen at sea off the islands and we will search diligently for them. In addition, while ashore we will have the opportunity to look for a number of birds endemic to Vanuatu. Of particular note will be several species that occur here at sea-level, but which on Espirito Santo are montane specialists, including Vanuatu Imperial Pigeon and White-bellied Honeyeater. (As an interesting aside, although the island is home to fewer than 300,000 inhabitants, it has the highest language density of any nation on earth, with over 100 official languages!)
Day 10: Espiritu Santo
Today on our Melanesian cruise, we will take full advantage of our day ashore to make the most of Vanuatu’s largest Island, Espiritu Santo; location of James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”. The island is also home to all of Vanuatu’s endemic birds, including the Mountain Starling, a species restricted entirely to Santo. Two protected areas have been established to safeguard the island’s biodiversity, these being the Loru Conservation Area on the east coast and the Vatthe Conservation area in the north. We will be spending the day birding in the lowland forest of one of these reserves, where we should see a good selection of Vanuatu’s endemic birds including Tanna Fruit Dove, Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher, Buff-bellied Monarch and, hopefully, the mound-building Vanuatu Megapode, along with a good range of more widespread species. For divers, the wreck of SS President Coolidge, a military transport vessel which hit a mine in World War II and which rests at a depth of between 20 and 60 metres, provides numerous technical dive options, including swimming through the ship’s corridors and stairwells for those with a sense of adventure. Other opportunities include paddling up river in a dug-out canoe to swim in the breathtaking Blue Hole, a snorkel at Million Dollar Point (where the Americans dumped their equipment after the war), and a visit to Luganville Township to interact with the locals and sample their relaxed and traditional way of life.
Day 11: Ambrym
Today on our Melanesian cruise, we will make an inaugural visit to Ambrym, renowned as the island of volcanoes and magic throughout Vanuatu. We plan to head ashore at Ranon on the northern coast where the traditional Rom dance is still practised and custom carving is alive and well. A short walk through the forest brings us to the ‘arena’ where masked dancers emerge from the forest. The forests here offer some excellent walks to go in search of the local birds and plants, accompanied by our naturalists. Possible species to keep our eyes peeled for include Tanna and Red-bellied Fruit Doves, Pacific Emerald Dove, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Collared Kingfisher, Palm Lorikeet, Cardinal Myzomela (Honeyeater), Polynesian Triller, White-breasted Woodswallow, Streaked and Grey Fantails, Buff-bellied Monarch, Southern Shrikebill, Pacific Robin, Vanuatu (Yellow-fronted) White-eye and both Blue-faced and Red-headed Parrotfinches. This afternoon we will enjoy a final snorkel excursion.
Day 12: Port Vila, Vanuatu
Early this morning we disembark in Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, on the island of Efate. Upon disembarking, you will be transferred to your central hotel or the airport, where this remarkable island voyage will conclude.