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SHIP REVIEW: SILVER DISCOVERER
SHIP REVIEW: SILVER DISCOVERER
territory, Macquarie Island, usually coupled with stops at
New Zealand’s satellite outposts, Campbell Island, The
Auckland Islands, Enderby and The Snares. This shorter
itinerary avoids the invariably turbulent seas that toss ships
around like corks in the roaring forties and furious fifties,
through the screaming sixties and beyond. Plus there are
more frequent landings and wildlife viewing opportunities
for guests at these little isolated havens. Seals, penguins
and seabirds of myriad species abound on these otherwise
forlorn outcrops, sending bird lovers into a spin.
Our first stop after our departure point of Dunedin is
The Snares, a no-impact reserve where landings are not
permitted. Instead we enjoy leisurely Zodiac cruises around
the rocky alcoves and caves, checking out the endemic
Snares Penguin and elusive snipe.
Then it’s on to Enderby Island, now depleted of invasive
species like cattle and feral rabbits and home to its own
native species of sea lion and cormorant. The feisty sea lions
love to chase us, even though we take a wide berth around
their harems. The young males, in particular, bound up to us
barking and bellowing until a stick is raised over their heads,
a tactic that stops their playful assault dead in its tracks.
The jewel in the crown of this expedition is Macquarie
Island. Lying way down at 54-degrees south, we are made
to earn our passage. With 100-knot winds and 10-metre
swells, it’s a wild old ride. More than once I find myself on
the floor of the cabin during the night.
Restaurant staff, butlers and crew maintain their stations
at all times and even though worrying noises are heard
occasionally from the galley, chef Rainer and his team don’t
miss a single sitting. Fragrant lamb, tasty venison, rib-eye
steaks and baked fish embellished with garden vegetables
and salad continue to emerge from the galley uninterrupted.
Our stewards glide around the dining room as if on skates,
elegantly dodging guests who ride their chairs across the
polished wooden floors during the “big ones”.
Macquarie Island lives up to its reputation as a difficult
location for landings, but our expert expedition team get us
ashore every time with a synchronised and choreographed
regional dishes inspired by Relais & Châteaux grand chef,
Jacques Thorel. And Silver Discoverer’s elegant lounges
and open bar are popular gathering points where travellers
swap tales and relive the day’s adventures.
Guests can relax outside in the fresh air on the sunny
pool deck, a location that also serves as a perfect platform
for birdwatchers and photographers. For the energetic,
there’s a fitness centre plus a beauty and massage salon
for easing tired muscles – particularly appealing after an
adventurous day ashore.
Most Antarctic journeys, as we all know, centre around
the peninsula, that spiny tendril lunging out from the
Antarctic continent towards the tail of South America. But
in recent years more journeys began heading out of Hobart
and New Zealand towards the historic region around
Commonwealth Bay and Cape Adare, where Mawson’s
famous huts are located.
But since 2012, a massive iceberg, dubbed B9B, has
prevented any vessels getting anywhere near Mawson’s Huts,
so voyages were either rerouted or just cancelled. One of the
alternative routes included Australia’s vast sub-Antarctic
Highs: Genuine expedition conducted by expert crew and
guides on a well-planned itinerary that delivers abundant
wildlife opportunities often under trying conditions.
Lows: Be prepared for rough weather in the Southern
Ocean. Drinking water had persistent chlorine taste.
Best suited to: Worldly and well-travelled mature-aged
couples and solos still keen for a dash of adventure, although
not all itineraries involve such arduous sea legs.
manoeuvre on the pebbly beach that sees each passenger
plucked from the Zodiac and deposited on shore with
their cameras and modesty intact.
We spend two days exploring the island, escorted by
head ranger Chris Howard, who gives us insights into daily
life for rangers and scientists and staff on “Macca”. Parks
staff are particularly buoyed by the recent announcement
that, after almost 200 years of human interference and a
concerted eradication program, Macquarie Island has been
declared pest free. Seabirds and penguins can finally nest
unmolested and return to pre-contact population levels.
The balance of the itinerary sees Silver Discoverer head
north-east towards the Bounty and Antipodes islands,
another place where we’re not permitted to land. Instead,
we explore wildlife activity on the shoreline from our
Zodiac. Seals, penguins and more seabirds are in constant
motion, feeding, breeding and checking us out in return.
Majestic albatrosses wheel overhead, swooping low to
pluck food from the water.
Before heading to shore for more conventional
shore excursions at Napier, we stop by seldom-visited
Chatham and Pitt islands where an ambitious local nature
rehabilitation program is the pride on the former.
In all, it ’s an exciting and truly adventurous journey in
the true spirit of expedition cruising. We are thrown at the
mercy of the elements, as it should be, and taken to parts
of our planet only ever visited by committed scientists and
As for Silversea, it has shaken off doubts cast by the
more established operators and confidently joined the
ranks of the true expeditioners.
‘The jewel in the crown of this
expedition is Macquarie Island.’
whales off the
expedition is also
an adventure in
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