Wednesday, June 29, 2011


My wife Clare and I have recently returned from our first ever cruise. I thought I would post a few pictures of the trip on my blog even though our bird/nature watching activities were fairly limited.
We left Brisbane on Saturday evening for the two day journey to Noumea, with perfect weather and a two meter swell once we reached the open sea.

Brisbane City skyline from our balcony.

Just on dusk we passed Caloundra and saw the familiar shapes of the Glasshouse Mountains in the distance.

The next morning I was able to get some photos and video of a large sea-bird following in the wake of the ship. After observing it for a couple of hours, quartering the swell about 200 meters away I was able to identify it as a Wandering Albatross. It was an immature bird (they take 8 years or so to reach full adult plumage) and my first ever albatross, or any really pelagic species for that matter. Yippee!
Wandering Albatross

Later that day a Booby species I had never seen before buzzed the ship a few times before continuing on its way.

Masked  Booby

Our ship docked in Noumea, capital of New Caledonia late on Monday afternoon so we didn't have a lot of time for exploring. 

Pacific Dawn

Noumea harbour

One of the more exotic birds we saw in our walk around the town were the Red-vented Bulbuls, an introduced species only found around Noumea and environs, and also my first ever bird from this family. 

Red-vented Bulbul - front view.

Red-vented Bulbul - rear view.

Another introduced bird was a small flock of waxbills which I first mistook for juvenile Red-browed Finches.

Common Waxbill

The next day we reached Lifou one of the Loyalty Islands and part of New Caledonia. 
As we approached we noticed the spectacular limestone cliffs and stunning blue waters of the bay. 

Cliffs of Lifou

We were dis-embarked on the ships tenders and had a few hours to explore this jewel of an island. The birdlife wasn't prolific but I did manage a couple of new species including a Red-bellied Fruit Dove
and lots of low flying Glossy Swiftlets.

Baie de Santal

We overnighted again, this time to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. We had pre-booked a kayak tour on one of the tidal rivers on the east coast of the island (Efate) through Vanuatu Eco-Tours (highly recommended!)

We had a couple of blissful hours paddling the pristine waterways and enjoying the scenery with our guide Pascal and one other couple. One of the highlights of our holiday!

After lunch in town and running the gauntlet of shops and market stalls we arrived back portside tired but happy after a great day out.

Our journey home was a three night haul back with more great weather and relatively calm seas.
And also a chance to view three Red-footed Boobies feeding on flying fish right below our cabin balcony and amazing us with their aerial acrobatics.

Our never ending wake.

Red-footed Booby

This cruise was actually in celebration of our 25th Wedding Anniversary and something we have been wanting to do for many years and finally had the chance. Would we do it again? Maybe! We would definitely like to explore more of these two countries and see the Kagu, which we missed due to our restricted timetable.

The last Pacific sunset before our return.