Zegrahm, 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.
Zegrahm Expeditions; zeco.com
Next: Fiji: Live the Lost Island Life
Live the Lost Island Life
The surfing and diving are world renowned on the two main islands of Fiji, but it’s the rare outfitter that goes deeper to engage with islanders and connect clients with local culture. And only Tui Tai pushes to the remote northern Fijian island nations of Rabi and Kioa, where Micronesians and Polynesians live in traditional villages, practice centuries-old dances, and hand-carve their canoes. "You’re actually walking into different countries within the islands, which is completely unique," says Morika Young, co-founder of Tui Tai. Since launching in 2002 as a cruising company focused heavily on adventure sports, Tui Tai has forged relationships with the island communities, and its priorities have shifted to philanthropy—building schools and health clinics, and starting a scholarship fund for kids. It’s also fostered a cultural renaissance among the islanders. "They were losing their identity," says Young. "They’d forgotten their dances, and they’d stopped doing handicrafts; their sole focus was on survival." Trips are based on a 140-foot schooner with creature comforts like air-conditioning, cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, private on-deck daybeds, and a spa. Clients wake each day with a morning yoga stretch before embarking on multisport adventures—mountain biking across an entire island or hiking to a volcanic crater filled with seawater, then exploring the crater by kayak. Travelers also spend time with villagers, watching their dances, helping to teach children English, and eating a meal cooked in an underground oven on the beach.
Tui Tai; tuitai.com
Next: New Zealand: Spend a Month in Kiwi Country
Spend a Month in Kiwi Country
Planting trees, controlling introduced pests, and building trails may sound more like work than play—but work can feel pretty satisfying when you’re on the banks of a glacial lake, on a gold-sand beach, or on a cliff overlooking waters swarming with dolphins. Teaming up with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC), Pacific Discovery’s monthlong voluntourism journey schools clients in New Zealand’s wildlife conservation and national pastimes: caving, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, and skiing. The itinerary is a true Kiwi full monty, stretching from the top of the North Island to the volcanic wilderness around Lake Taupo to Queenstown on the South Island. Travelers start with five days in the Bay of Islands, where the DOC maintains the country’s largest marine park and more than 500 Maori archaeological sites (terraces, villages, and forts). At Lake Rotoiti, guests assist the DOC on projects like the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project: preserving 12,355 acres of beech forest in Nelson Lakes National Park. Accommodation includes hostels (one on the ocean’s edge) and rustic lodges.
Pacific Discovery; pacificdiscovery.com
Next: Worldwide: Around the World—and More
Around the World—and More
These days, National Geographic doesn’t just bring the world to you—in print, on-screen, and online—we bring you to the world. National Geographic Expeditions, our nine-year-old travel company, runs 200 trips every year, each one led by an NG anthropologist, archaeologist, entomologist, or any number of other “ists” (all of them intimately familiar with the destination).
In 2009 NGE launches its most ambitious trip yet: a seven-continent private jet tour with anthropologist and author Wade Davis (a man who, as we wrote in our June/July 2006 issue, “has seen it all, studied it all, and ingested it all”). The 25-day expedition is, essentially, a Best of Planet Earth tour with the world’s best guide (departs January; $59,950; nationalgeographicexpeditions.com
). Also in 2009, NGE and partner Lindblad Expeditions team up for an 18-day voyage on the Indian Ocean. From Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Lindblad’s just christened National Geographic Explorer cruises the specks of paradise between Madagascar and the African coast, including the Seychelles and Mayotte (departs March and April; $12,420).