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The Pacific Isles: Rare Birds & An Unforgettable Undersea

Palm trees swaying in the lagoon at Raiatea French Polynesia

Largely isolated from the modern world, the remote islands of the Pacific offer rare interactions with a remarkable natural world few ever have the chance to encounter. Special wildlife moments on these seldom-visited islands range from spotting unique endemic birds to snorkeling with spectacular tropical fish to immersing in some of the most beautiful settings on Earth. And no matter where you go, it will feel like you’re the first to discover these incredible, wild wonders.

The Rare Birds of Fiji's Kadavu Island

The isolated Fijian island of Kadavu may lack an electrical grid and paved roads, but it's that dearth of modern infrastructure, as well as the unspoiled natural environment, that has made it a paradise for birdlife. Dubbed “Bird Island” for its breathtaking array of winged wonders, there are hundreds of species to spot, including four endemics found nowhere else. Lucky birders have the chance to check these unique birds off their list: the Kadavu shining parrot, easily identifiable by its stunning crimson body; the yellow and green velvet dove; the tiny Kadavu fantail; and the Kadavu honeyeater which you can identify by its ringing loud call.

 

Visit Kadavu Island on Rites & Relics: From the Solomon Islands to Fiji >

Illustration of a Kadavu honeyeater by Joseph Smit from a report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger 1873-76 {PD-US}

Vintage illustration of a Kadavu honeyeater bird

Ra'iatea's Sparkling Lagoon

Believed to be the original birthplace of Polynesia, Ra'iatea (“faraway heaven”) is sacred to the Tahitian people. On land, the island is known for its lush vegetation and towering green Mount Temehani, but below the surface is just as impressive. An expansive, protected lagoon—shared by Ra’iatea and its sister island Taha'a—is encircled by a single fringing reef, and the crystalline waters create one of the most dazzling snorkeling locations in French Polynesia. As you explore, you’ll encounter a technicolored array of tropical fish and majestic coral, as well as black-tipped reef sharks who often spend time in this underwater utopia. 

 

Visit Ra’iatea on Tahiti to Fiji: Reefs, Lagoons & Volcanic Isles >

An aerial view of the lagoon at Raiatea in French Polynesia

Japan's Whistling Green Pigeons

Strewn like jewels across the East China Sea, the Ryukyu Islands are off the beaten path from Japan's heavily traveled mainland. There are stunning coral reefs and soft sand beaches to visit here, but birders will want to hop into a Zodiac to search for the interesting avians residing in the mangroves. Among those to spot are kingfishers and the endemic highlight of the archipelago, the whistling green pigeon. This little bird has a surprisingly loud call: some say it’s similar to a bamboo whistle, while others compare the trill to a car alarm. Decide for yourself as you explore this rich natural area.

 

Visit Ryukyu on Journey Across the Remote Pacific: Taipei to Tahiti >

A whistling green pigeon in Japan's Ryukyu Islands

The Oro Natural Pool on the Isle of Pines

In New Caledonia, an enchanting French territory in the South Pacific, you'll find a slice of aquamarine paradise on the Isle of Pines. Protected from currents, the Oro Natural Pool is an idyllic natural aquarium where you can swim without fear of tides as you're joined by schools of stunning tropical fish. This natural basin carved from coral is surrounded by the fragrant pines for which the island is famous. Breathe deep as you float blissfully along, listen to the gentle water lapping against the white sand beach, and take in the blue sky overhead as the sun warms your face. It's a sensory delight you'll remember for a long time to come.


Visit Oro Natural Pool on Under the Southern Cross: New Zealand to Melanesia >

 

A spectacular natural pool on the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia

Endemic Flora & Fauna on Henderson Island

The largest island in the Pitcairns is also the most remote and uninhabited. This isolation has allowed the natural world here to develop in a pristine state largely without human contact. Uninhabited doesn’t mean desolate, though. In fact, just the opposite is true—Henderson is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its remarkable biodiversity. Visitors will find a number of endemic species on the island including four birds—the scarlet Henderson fruit dove, the red and green Henderson lorikeet, the Henderson reed warbler, and the flightless Henderson crake—as well as 10 endemic flowering plant species and dozens of other plants, seabirds, and interesting geological points. 

 

Visit Henderson on Easter Island to Tahiti: Tales of the Pacific >

A beautiful white tern soars over Henderson Island