Special access to remote locations

Much of New Zealand’s pristine coastlines have limited vehicle access, so we often have tranquil coves and magnificent forests to ourselves. Permission to land on the rarely visited sub-Antarctic islands is strictly limited; with special authorization we explore these remote land masses where our wildlife encounters are optimized by our experienced captains and expedition leaders.

IMPORTANT: Your expedition may be traveling over the International Date Line, so please confirm departure and arrival dates with an Expedition Specialist before booking your flights.


Embark: Auckland

Disembark: Dunedin

The ship travels from Auckland to Dunedin on the itinerary below.


  • DAY 1-3: U.S./Auckland, New Zealand

    Depart on an overnight flight, cross the International Dateline, and arrive in Auckland, where we check in to our hotel. Join us for a welcome briefing this evening to meet your fellow travelers.

  • DAY 4: Auckland/Embark

    Have breakfast at the hotel before joining a tour of this vibrant city center. We’ll stop for lunch midday before embarking National Geographic Orion in the late afternoon. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 5-6: Exploring Coastal New Zealand

    As we continue south along the North Island’s verdant coast, we let nature guide us as your Captain and Expedition Leader choose our next site for exploration. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 7: Gisborne

    Today we delve into the cultural riches of Gisborne – the site of the first European landing place in New Zealand in 1769. The city’s warm, sun-filled climate reflects its disposition and complements its rich soils, bountiful islands, miles of sandy beaches and resource-rich oceans. Visit a local Marae and gain insight into the history and culture of the people of this region. In the afternoon, discover the greenery of a local arboretum, and cap the day off with a wine tour and tasting. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 8: Napier

    Spend the morning getting to know Napier, the Art Deco capital of New Zealand. Choose to discover the city’s unique architecture on an art tour, or leave the city behind and join us on a Gannet Safari Tour where we’ll have close encounters at a large Australasian gannet colony. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 9-10: Abel Tasman & At Sea

    Today we arrive at the South Island of New Zealand where golden beaches and dense rainforests border the snow-capped Southern Alps. We begin discovering this stunning island in Abel Tasman National Park, exploring on hikes and walks with our naturalists. Spend the next day at sea as we sail south toward Fiordland National Park. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 11-12: Milford Sound & Dusky Sound

    Over the course of two days we will explore Fiordland National Park, home to fourteen individual fiords. Here we’ll discover hundreds-meter high waterfalls, snowcapped peaks, and we’ll hope for a glimpse of the Sounds’ resident bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and penguins. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 13: Snares Islands

    Located south of the New Zealand mainland in the remote Southern Ocean, today we begin our exploration of the wild and beautiful sub-Antarctic islands. These remote islands play host to abundant and unique wildlife, with many species of birds, plants and invertebrates found nowhere else in the world. Two small rocky islands, North East and Broughton, comprise The Snares, the closest subantarctic islands to New Zealand. The islands are covered with heavy tussock grass and wind-beaten forests of tree daisies. The Snares are home to huge numbers of breeding birds: the 99 recorded species include albatross, Antarctic terns and Snares crested penguins. (B,L,D)

  • DAY 14-15: Auckland Islands & At Sea

    Spend the next several incredible days discovering New Zealand and Australia’s subantarctic islands and their surrounding waters—the entire marine landscape designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. We have special permission to explore these strictly regulated islands, which are protected at the highest level of conservation status by the New Zealand government, and considered “bird central” among top ornithologists around the world. Keeping a flexible weather-dependent schedule, we plan to explore several intriguing islands.


    The Auckland Islands are the largest of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, with the richest flora, prolific birdlife, and an interesting human history. Conditions permitting, we cruise in Zodiacs to Enderby Island to view a large New Zealand sea lion colony with pups all jostling for position. If we are fortunate, we may see rare yellow-eyed penguins as they move to and from their nests in the forests beyond the beach.

  • DAY 16-18: Macquarie Island, Australia & At Sea

    We will spend two days at remote Macquarie Island, a protectorate of Australia and a World Heritage site. Macquarie is home to a large variety of wildlife, including thousands of seals and millions of penguins. Four species of penguin breed here. The endemic royal penguin has a population estimated at 850,000. Gentoo and southern rockhopper penguins also breed here. And imagine landing on a single beach with 100,000 pairs of king penguins, the third largest such colony in the world!


    With whales beneath and birds above, our time at sea between islands presents an opportunity to head up to the bridge to spot marine life and watch the calm business of navigation. Or spend these days enjoying the ship’s spa, and fitness center. Take some time to browse the library or play a board game in the glass-enclosed observation lounge. And listen to a variety of engaging talks from our staff, including photo talks. (B,L,D)

Please note: All day-by-day breakdowns are a sampling of the places we intend to visit, conditions permitting.

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