Discover Darwin-topiaZegrahm, an expeditionary cruising company founded by an ornithologist and a handful of naturalists, is pushing to the end of the Earth in 2009. "The hard-core explorers have long come to the Kermadec and Chatham Islands," says Zegrahm program manager Patrick Kirby. "It’s time to bring the rest of the world." The scene here, some 700 miles east of New Zealand, is reminiscent of the Galápagos a hundred years ago, with a startling number of endemic species. Twitchers (energetic birders) seek out magenta petrels and red-crowned parakeets; divers float above sharks, rays, and candy-colored reefs. The 16-day trip starts in Fiji and heads south aboard a 338-foot ship to the Chatham and Kermadec Islands—spits of volcanic rock, some still active, others encircling lagoons and home to exceedingly rare soaring ferns. The vessel is expedition-ready, with a fleet of zodiacs, a GPS unit in each of its 64 cabins, a swimming pool, a library, and a gym. Tauranga Island, off the North Island of New Zealand, is the penultimate port of call, where hot springs and performing Maori warriors await.
Outfitter: Zegrahm Expeditions; zeco.com
Length: 16 days
Next: Fiji: Live the Lost Island Life