Q&A with The Nature Conservancy

Zegrahm Contributor|February 23, 2017|Blog Post

This blog originally appeared on The Nature Conservancy.

The Nature Conservancy's New Zealand Country Director, Michael Looker, reflects on his Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand expedition aboard the Caledonian Sky, with Conservancy travel partner Zegrahm Expeditions.

You recently joined Zegrahm Expeditions on a trip to the Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand; what was the most memorable part of the trip?

There were a number of memorable parts on the trip, but each time we arrived at another island across the vast Southern Ocean was exciting. It was very special to see, close-up, the wildlife on each island—penguins, seals, sea lions, and a range of birdlife in general. Seeing nesting southern royal albatross on Campbell Island was particularly memorable. There were also many great times sharing the experience of the journey traveling across the ocean with the tour staff and guests on the trip.

Being a seasoned scientist and expert in the region, was there any wildlife that intrigued you or got you specially excited?

I was really excited to see the number and range of seabirds on the ocean and on all the islands we visited. It was interesting to note the recovery of many species following the pest animal eradication programs that have taken place on the islands we visited. I was totally intrigued by the different penguin species we saw and the large rookeries we observed on a number of the islands. The rockhoppers were truly intriguing and almost comical in the way they jumped across the rocks! We were all fascinated by the huge number of king penguins that surrounded our ship and Zodiacs as were undertaking shore landings on Macquarie Island. As a botanist, the plants were also interesting, especially seeing the megaherbs on Campbell Island; these are unusually large leaved herbaceous plants growing in a cool island environment with prominent and showy purple or yellow flowers. They seem to sit low on the ground soaking up the sun, protected from the prevailing high winds by the surrounding tussock grass and shrub layer.

What's so special about traveling to see this remote side of the world?

Traveling to this remote region is a rare opportunity given the large ocean distances required to reach each sub-Antarctic island. The vastness of the Southern Ocean and the isolation and geology of the islands rising out of the ocean was a special experience. It was fascinating not only to see the unique wildlife on remote islands, but even on the way to observe the seabirds that live a large part of their life on the ocean. For example, the southern royal albatross lives the first five years of its life on the ocean without ever touching land; it is easy to understand why New Zealand is recognized as the seabird capital of the world!

What's it like traveling with an ecotourism company?

It was great to travel with a company that really cared for the environment and organized activities each day to ensure we had as little impact as possible on the places we visited. This came down to making sure we followed strict biosecurity procedures so that we didn’t transfer pest plants and animals or soil borne pathogens from place to place that could impact the native wildlife. The information and lectures provided about each of the places we visited, and the wildlife we would see dispersed through the program, was also a special part of the tour and well received by guests. There were always experts on hand to point out and describe the various habitats and wildlife we encountered.

What's unique about this partnership?

The Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends, and travel is an effective vehicle to help people understand, firsthand, the true importance of conservation. By partnering with these three leading ecotourism companies, our supporters get a chance to not only travel to beautiful places around the world, but also get the unique opportunity to travel with scientists from the Conservancy. During my trip, I really enjoyed traveling with some of our members and helped them understand our regional work.

Related Blog Posts

  • Portal Point, Antarctic Peninsula
    Blog Post

    Peak Experiences on the Antarctic Peninsula

    May 17, 2017 | Blog Post

    Antarctica is the driest, windiest, chilliest place on the planet—and one of today’s hottest destinations.

    Read More

    Neko Harbor Antarctica
    Blog Post

    Antarctica: A Day in the Life

    April 6, 2017 | Blog Post

    We've been exploring the Antarctic region for over 20 years. In that time, we've honed an incredible trip—from Zodiac cruises among massive icebergs to hikes along glaciers, and all of the wildlife you get to see, our trips are truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

    Read More

    Queenstown, New Zealand
    Field Report

    Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand 2017 Field Report

    March 31, 2017 | Field Report

    Thursday - Saturday, January 19 - 21, 2017 Queenstown, New Zealand / Milford Sound / Embark Caledonian Sky

    Read More

  • Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
    Blog Post

    Global Warming in Antarctica: How Climate Change is Impacting "The Great White Desert"

    March 27, 2017 | Blog Post

    Although it’s typically thought of as one of the planet’s coldest places, global warming in Antarctica is raising temperatures at an alarming rate. In late February 2017, the temperature in one area of Antarctica was the same as in Cairo, Egypt.

    Read More

    South Georgia
    Blog Post

    How to Approach Antarctic Wildlife

    March 22, 2017 | Blog Post

    Brent Stephenson is an ornithologist who spent years studying the breeding biology of Australasian gannets in New Zealand.

    Read More

    Island Sky
    Infographics
  • Adelies in Antarctica
    Blog Post

    Antarctic Animals: A Wildlife Guide to the Antarctic Region

    March 14, 2017 | Blog Post

    Known as “the great white desert,” Antarctica doesn’t provide the most hospitable environment for life forms to survive in; Antarctic animals have to adapt to extreme dryness, high exposure, and bitterly cold temperatures.

    Read More

    Ushuaia, Argentina
    Field Report

    Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands 2017 Field Report

    March 14, 2017 | Field Report

    Friday & Saturday, January 6 & 7, 2017 Ushuaia, Argentina / Beagle Channel / Embark Ocean Diamond

    Read More

    Lanzarote, Canary Islands
    Blog Post

    2018 Travel Bucket List

    March 6, 2017 | Blog Post

    Where will your travel dreams take you in 2018? Here are just a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences Zegrahm can help you check off your bucket list next year.

     

    Read More

  • Antarctic Continent landing!
    Blog Post

    Top Reasons to Travel to Antarctica with Zegrahm Expeditions

    February 28, 2017 | Blog Post

    Only a few adventure travel companies voyage to the Antarctic and even fewer still do it very well. Zegrahm Expeditions has lead expeditionary cruises to the Antarctic for over 25 years and offers an unparalleled experience that many our guests rave about to this day.

    Read More

    Lemaire Channel, Antarctica
    Blog Post

    In Honor of Carmen Field

    December 15, 2016 | Blog Post

    The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) has shared some incredible news; a group of islands in the Grandidier Channel will be named the IAATO Islands, to reflect the organization's essential role in advocating and promoting the practice of safe and environmentally-responsible Antarctic tourism.

    Read More

    Bay Islands, Honduras
    Blog Post

    Happy Thanksgiving from Zegrahm Expeditions

    November 22, 2016 | Blog Post

    At this time of year, as we join our family and friends and reflect on what we're thankful for, a common thread that unites the staff here at Zegrahm is, of course, travel. Here are just a few of the moments—across all seven continents—we're most grateful for experiencing over the past year: 

    Read More