In the Wake of the Bounty

WildWings small boat charter to Pitcairn, Henderson and islands of eastern French Polynesia

At a Glance

FOCUS:

Bird & Wildlife Cruise: seabirds, island endemics and remote islands.

WHERE:

Tahiti, Pitcairn, Henderson, Oeno, Morane, Tenararo and Gambier Islands

SAMPLE WILDLIFE:

Seabirds: numerous petrels including Murphy's, Juan Fernandez, Kermadec, Herald, Phoenix, Gould's, Collared, Tahiti and Black. Wedge-tailed, Christmas and Tropical Shearwaters, Titan (White-bellied) and Polynesian Storm-petrels, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Brown, Black, Grey and Blue Noddies.

Landbirds: Henderson Crake, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Tuamotu Sandpiper, Polynesian Ground Dove, Atoll and Henderson Fruit Doves, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Stephen's Lorikeet and Henderson and Pitcairn Reed Warblers.

Extension: Grey-green Fruit Dove, Tahiti Swiftlet, Tahiti Kingfisher, Tahiti Monarch and Tahiti Reed Warbler.

Dates and Prices:

Dates: late 2023

Leader: Chris Collins (TBC)

Prices: TBC




  • Polynesian Storm-petrel, off Gambier Islands
  • Tahiti Petrel, Central Pacific
  • Phoenix Petrel, Oeno, French Polynesia
  • Great Frigatebird, Oeno, French Polynesia
  • Juan Fernandez Petrel, Central Pacific
  • Christmas Shearwater, Oeno, French Polynesia
  • Atoll Fruit-Dove, Tenararo, French Polynesia
  • Henderson Reed Warbler, Henderson Island
  • Tuamotu Sandpiper, Morane Island, French Polynesia
  • HMS Bounty anchor, Pitcairn Island
  • Polynesian Ground Dove, Tenararo, French Polynesia
  • White Tern (chick), Oeno Island, French Polynesia
  • Murphy's Petrel (chick), Oeno, French Polynesia
  • Pitcairn Island
  • HMS Bounty cannon, Pitcairn Island
  • White Tern, Oeno Island, French Polynesia
  • Pitcairn Island
  • Pitcairn Reed Warbler, Pitcairn Island
  • Murphy's Petrel, At sea, Central Pacific
  • Pitcairn Reed Warbler, Pitcairn Island
  • Stephen's Lorikeet, Henderson Island
  • Bristle-thighed Curlew, Morane, French Polynesia

Tour overview

After hugely successful expeditions in 2014 and 2018, WildWings plans to return to some of the most rarely visited parts of the Central Pacific in 2023, with an exciting voyage to some truly iconic locations including Pitcairn and Henderson Islands.

Our expedition begins on Tahiti with an optional extension to look for the specialities on this spectacular island and we hope to find almost all the endemics including the critically endangered Tahiti Monarch, as well as Tahiti Kingfisher, Tahiti Reed Warbler, Grey-green Fruit Dove and Polynesian Swiftlet.

Our expedition ship, however, will be awaiting us at the small island of Mangareva and this will be an opportunity to appreciate the vastness of French Polynesia, as our domestic flight from Tahiti to the Gambier Islands is over 1,000 miles each way !!  Once aboard our specially chartered vessel, we will set off to explore this remarkable part of the world and over the next two weeks can look forward to visiting a number of rarely visited islands.  Having been settled by the Bounty mutineers in 1790, Pitcairn is surely the most well-known, however, we also hope to land on a number of other islands including Henderson, Oeno and at least one of the islets in the Acteon archipelago.

Whilst ashore, our priority will be finding the endemics with these surely headed by one of the most desirable waders in the world, the delightful Tuamotu Sandpiper.  This bizarre-looking wader is considered ‘endangered’ by Birdlife International, as it highly susceptible to introduced predators and is now regular on only five small islands.  Whilst we hope to land on at least one of these, our first encounters may even be before we are ashore, as birds sometimes fly out to ‘greet’ arriving ships, hovering overhead to ‘take a look’ !!

Another of our planned destinations is Henderson Island, which is home to four land endemics, Henderson Island Crake, Henderson Island Fruit Dove, Stephen’s Lorikeet and Henderson Island Reed Warbler.  A few years ago, this island was the target of a multiple million pound project to rid it of Polynesian Rats (as it also has spectacular concentrations of breeding seabirds), however, sadly this was unsuccessful.  Nevertheless, there is a good chance of seeing all the endemic birds, including the crake which is one of the few flightless members of this family to have survived the wave of avian extinctions which occurred as humans spread across the Pacific.

Another species we can expect to find is Bristled-thighed Curlew.  This species is surely one of the world’s ultimate migrants, as the birds fly over 6,000 miles from their breeding grounds in Alaska to tiny islands in the Pacific, an incredible feat of navigation.

On Pitcairn Island, we are likely to meet some of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers.  It is a certainly a sobering experience to stand at the spot where the mutineers burnt the HMS Bounty and think how they must have felt as their ship, and only method of leaving Pitcairn, literally went up in smoke.......As with Henderson, Pitcairn is also home to an endemic reed warbler and we can expect to get some great looks at this strange-looking Acrocephalus, whilst overhead there are likely to be Grey Noddies and Herald Petrels.

We plan to also make at least one landing in the Acteon archipelago which, as well as being home to the Tuamotu Sandpiper, is also where there are more special land birds including Atoll Fruit Dove and the critically endangered Polynesian Ground Dove which now probably numbers less than 200 individuals.

Whilst endemics and remote islands are undoubtedly two of the attractions of this expedition, another of the main reasons for visiting this incredible region are the seabirds and during our two weeks voyage, we can expect to see a good number of poorly known species including Herald Petrel, Murphy’s Petrel, Kermadec Petrel, Tahiti Petrel and Phoenix Petrel.  The most localised breeder, however, is Henderson Petrel and by visiting the only island where this species is known to breed, we stand an excellent chance of encountering this much-prized Pterodroma.

On Oeno and Henderson Islands the number of breeding seabirds is an incredible spectacle and it will be with genuine reluctance that we will depart each island for our next destination.

During the voyage, we plan to do some chumming and hope to get some good looks at Polynesian Storm-petrel, with this rare species seen on both our 2014  and 2018 expeditions.  Other possibilities include the extremely poorly known titan form of White-bellied Storm-petrel, which is increasingly considered be a full species.  Indeed, after our discovery of the ‘New Caledonian Storm-petrel’ on the West Pacific Odyssey, we will be alert to the possibility of other mystery seabirds in this even more remote corner of the Pacific.

Other more widespread seabirds we can expect to see include Red-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, Masked and Red-footed Boobies, Brown, Black, Blue and Grey Noddies plus White, Sooty and Great Crested Terns.  There are also two interesting shearwaters to look for during our voyage, with both Christmas and Tropical Shearwaters previously seen in these waters.  The ‘Tropicals’ here, however, are quite different from those in the Western Pacific and it is surely only a matter of time before a thorough taxonomic review splits this taxon into multiple species.

Itinerary

Day 1: Morning flight from Papeete to Mangareva.  Board vessel.

Days 2-14: Exploring the region - flexible itinerary.

Day 15: Disembark.  Flight from Mangareva to Papeete.


NB: As applies to all expedition cruises, the exact itinerary will be subject to weather and local conditions. All landings are subject to government and local permissions.

Potential Seabirds (selected species only)

Seabirds: numerous petrels including Murphy's, Juan Fernandez, Kermadec, Herald, Phoenix, Gould's, Collared, Tahiti and Black. Wedge-tailed, Christmas and Tropical Shearwaters, Titan (White-bellied) and Polynesian Storm-petrels, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great and Lesser Frigatebirds, Masked, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Brown, Black, Grey and Blue Noddies.

Potential Landbirds (selected species only)

Landbirds: Henderson Crake, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Tuamotu Sandpiper, Polynesian Ground Dove, Atoll and Henderson Fruit Doves, Long-tailed Cuckoo, Stephen's Lorikeet and Henderson and Pitcairn Reed Warblers.

Extension: Grey-green Fruit Dove, Tahiti Swiftlet, Tahiti Kingfisher, Tahiti Monarch and Tahiti Reed Warbler.

Potential Cetaceans (selected species only)

The following cetaceans have been seen on one or more of the previous expeditions: Humpback Whale, Blainville's Beaked-Whale.