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Atlantic Odyssey: The Ornis Special

Join us on one of the best seabird cruises in the world! Dani, our resident tubenose aficionado, is confirmed to be leading this tour. We hope to also have Josh join if we get to 10, and Julien if we get 15 participants, so tell your friends! This is sure to be an exciting time on the ocean full of laughs. In fact, it was during a cruise to the subantarctic on which two of our founders met for the first time, culminating in Josh changing his life direction to follow Dani into a career of bird tour leading, for better or for worse! From Spectacled Petrel and Northern Rockhopper Penguin to Saint Helena Plover and Inaccessible Island Rail, we will cross our fingers for the best of luck on this incredible voyage. However remember, our leaders never rest, so we will certainly be making our own luck!

Next dates

26 March - 17/26 April 2026 (TBC)

Tour length: 23/32 days

Group size limit: 20

Leaders:

Daniel Lopez-Velasco and Oceanwide Expeditions leaders.

Spaces available

Day 0: We recommend arriving early to Ushuaia. To make sure you don’t “miss the boat”, so to speak. We will organise some excursions to search out White-bellied Seedsnipe and the scarce Yellow-bridled Finch for those interested! Gentoo Penguin, Fuegian Steamer Duck, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Blackish Cinclodes can also be enjoyed in the area.

Day 1: The voyage begins where the world drops off. Starting in the afternoon, we embark from “The End of the World” and sail the mountainous Beagle Channel for the rest of the evening.

Day 2-3-4: En route to South Georgia. After passing the Antarctic Convergence, which is a natural boundary formed when north-flowing cold waters of the antarctic collide with warmer subantarctic, the bird life changes. Tubenoses become incredibly abundant. Eyes trained not on the horizon, but right beside the ship, we will enjoy the passing throngs of Cape Petrel, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, and Antarctic Prion, while we work to identify South Georgian Diving Petrel and watch out for spectacular cetaceans like Hourglass Dolphin. Passing by will be the aerial masters of subantarctic: Kerguelan Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Blue Petrel, Southern Fulmar, Slender-billed Prion, Light-mantled Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, and the ruler of them all, Wandering Albatross.

Day 5-6-7: Exploring South Georgia. Vast nesting colonies of King Penguin and Southern Elephant Seal. Up close-and-personal with Wandering Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, all displaying in courtship and synchronised flights to cement their lifelong pair bonds. Hefty Southern Giant Petrels fighting, as bizarre Snowy Sheathbills pick through the colonies. The endemic South Georgia Pipit is now in full recovery and easy to see after a succesful rat eradiction, as is South Georgia Shag and the endemic subspecies of Yellow-billed Pintail. We can’t forget the sublime “Lesser” Snow Petrel and strange Macaroni Penguin, hopefully with a handful of Chinstrap Penguins hanging around. And the scenery… Enough words, you can experience it for yourself!

Day 8-9-10-11: En route to Gough Island. Some of the very best pelagic birding in the entire world. Crossing back into warmer subantarctic waters, we will begin to see Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Sooty Albatross, Atlantic Petrel, Kerguelen Petrel, Grey Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Great Shearwater, Grey-backed Storm Petrel, White-bellied Storm Petrel, Arctic Jaegar, Pomarine Jaegar, and Long-tailed Jaegar on their way back to the Northern Hemisphere. Many possible cetaceans could include Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Sei Whale, or maybe Strap-toothed Whale or Southern Bottlenose Whale. Approaching Gough will be marked by the appearance of Tristan Albatross, Spectacled Petrel, Subantarctic Shearwater, and White-faced Storm Petrel.

Day 12: Exploring Gough Island. Millions of breeding seabirds inhabit this World Heritage Area. Most of the world’s Northern Rockhopper Penguins and Tristan Albatross, along with Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Sooty Albatross, Broad-billed Prion, Great Shearwater, Kerguelen Petrel, Great-winged Petrel, Atlantic Petrel, Soft-plumaged Petrel, Grey Petrel, Subantarctic Shearwater, Grey-backed, White-faced and White-bellied Storm Petrels, the small “Tristan” Brown Skua, Antarctic Tern, and Brown Noddy (a bit out of place, but yes they do breed here!). Weather permitting, a zodiac cruise will allow close approach to see the two endemics: Gough Moorhen and Gough Bunting, interspersed with Subantarctic Fur Seals.

Day 13-14-15-16: Exploring the Tristan Group. Tristan da Cunha with it’s impressive volcanic cone is the main breeding site for the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, which we can approach closely. Introduced cats are still present here, but many seabirds from Gough can be seen from the clifftops. The endemic Tristan Moorhen became extinct in the late 19th century, but Gough Moorhen was reintroduced here in the 1950s.

Visiting the other two islands in the group (hosting immense seabird colonies and four endemics between them) is entirely weather dependant, but with an extra day now included in the Tristan Group on all cruises post-2019, we can cross our fingers. Nightingale Island holds Tristan Thrush and Tristan Bunting in relative abundance, but a longer hike is required for the Critically Endangered and rapidly declining Wilkins’s Finch, which is far from guaranteed these days. Inaccessible Island is almost entirely surrounded by sheer 300m high cliffs, but there are two potential landing beaches if conditions are calm. The world’s smallest flightless bird and one of the most evocatively named is quite common if we can get ashore: Inaccessible Island Rail. This is a breeding site for both Spectacled Petrel and Sooty Albatross, so we can expect some stellar views of these much-wanted seabirds on the ocean nearby.

Day 17-18-19-20: En route to Saint Helena. Heading towards and crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. Calmer subtropical seas. Fewer birds, but more on-deck barbeques and drinks! The southern tubenoses drop off, as we begin to see warm-water species like Bulwer’s Petrel, “Saint Helena” Band-rumped Storm Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, Masked Booby, Brown Booby, White Tern, and Black Noddy. One likely cetacean in this area is Sperm Whale – our eyes will be peeled even during these periods of relative calm.

Day 21-22-23: Exploring Saint Helena. Landing at Jamestown, on this tiny island where Napoleon was exiled after his defeat at Waterloo in 1816. Only one Critically Endangered endemic remains on the island: Saint Helena Plover, which we should find without much difficulty on the Deadwood Plain. A boat trip is possible to some small islets on the west coast to look at breeding Red-billed Tropicbird, Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Brown Noddy, and Black Noddy. Common Bottlenose Dolphin, Rough-toothed Dolphin, and sometimes Whale Shark can be seen around the island. At the end of our third day, we begin steaming towards Ascension island. Snorkelling and cultural experiences can be enjoyed, or hike to the highest point on the island where there is a small remnant of native vegetation with endemic ferns and cabbage trees.

Participants may choose to disembark and fly home from Saint Helena Airport (HLE) via South Africa.

Day 24-25: En route to Ascension Island. Sailing along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the sprawling submarine mountain range that runs about 16,000km from the Arctic Ocean toward the southern tip of Africa. Birds will be sparse, but should include our first Cory’s Shearwater and Leach’s Storm Petrel. Towards the end of the journey, we will keep careful watch for “Ascension” Band-rumped Storm Petrel”.

Day 26-27: Exploring Ascension Island. The tropical volcanic island of course hosts the Vulnerable endemic Ascension Frigatebird, which we will be able to enjoy during a zodiac cruise around rat-free Boatswain Bird Island just off the northeast coast. We can enjoy the large Sooty Tern colony, and hike up to the richly vegetated summit of the island. Long sandy beaches are a major breeding site for Atlantic Green Turtles, which we may be able to see one evening as they come ashore.

Day 28-29-30-31: En route to Cape Verde. Crossing the Equator and the Doldroms. More drinks on deck! Some of the same tropical seabirds from the past week, hopefully with a Cape Verde Storm Petrel or two! Long-tailed Jaegers, Sabine’s Gulls and Arctic Terns on northwards spring migration, with chances for Clymene Dolphin and Spinner Dolphins. On final approach we should see Cape Verde Shearwater and Boyd’s Shearwater, as well as Fea’s Petrel.

Day 32: Arrival into Praia on Santiago Island, with some time for exploring the town and watching Cape Verde Swifts overhead. Lunch is not included but you can come and go from the ship, leaving your luggage onboard until the official disembarking hour of 18:00.

Tour details

Prices below reflect lowest-cost option in quadruple-share porthole cabins. Please contact us for information and rates of variation to triple, twin, single, deluxe, or suite. Pretour extension to the Antarctic Peninsula is available for ~ € 4,700 EUR.

Ushuaia to Saint Helena: € 7,850 EUR (TBC in mid-2024)
Ushuaia to Cape Verde: € 9,000 EUR (TBC in mid-2024)

Deposit: 20% of your total booking cost

Accommodation: Comfortable cabins aboard the MV Hondius.

Walking difficulty: Easy walking during all excursions on the islands.

Sea Sickness: Please contact us if you would like any advice!

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, tips to vessel staff, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.