Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Encounter the unusual wildlife of Kangaroo Island, known as Australia’s Galápagos, and the marine wonders of the Great Barrier Reef while staying at two spectacular properties that are members of the National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World collection.
  • Meet with Dr. Adam Barnett, a National Geographic grantee who will discuss his latest research on sharks.
  • Take a private tour of the bucolic Shire film set used in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy
  • Spend time with Maori elders on a reservation in Murupara, and enjoy music and storytelling over a traditional hangi lunch.



Encounter incredible wonders down under on a journey across New Zealand to the wildlife-rich rain forests, reefs, and islands of Australia. Glide across the glassy waters of Milford Sound; snorkel the Great Barrier Reef’s intricate maze of coral; and encounter rare kiwis, koalas, and kangaroos on isolated isles. Explore vibrant cities from Queenstown to Sydney, and see how the Maori and Aboriginal cultures are deeply connected to the wild landscapes of Australia and New Zealand.

Day 1: Auckland, New Zealand

Arrive in Auckland and settle into our downtown hotel. Enjoy a welcome dinner on the waterfront this evening.

Meals Included:Dinner
Accommodations:Stamford Plaza Auckland
Day 2: Tiritiri Matangi Island

Board a ferry to Tiritiri Matangi Island, home to one of New Zealand's most important wildlife sanctuaries. Learn about conservation efforts here while seeking out endangered bird and reptile species, including the flightless takahe and the tuatara. Savor a picnic lunch in this picturesque setting before returning to the mainland. This afternoon, enjoy free time to discover Auckland, known as the "city of sails" for the many sailboats that teem in its harbor.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations:Stamford Plaza Auckland
Day 3: Waitomo Caves/Rotorua

Travel to Waitomo and descend into an otherworldly cave system illuminated by the turquoise light of thousands of tiny glowworms. Then drive across the bucolic Waikato countryside and stop at a farm for a traditional barbecue lunch. Continue to Matamata, which served as the “Shire” filming site in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Take a private tour of the set, then continue to the city of Rotorua.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:Princes Gate Boutique Hotel
Day 4: Rotorua

Delve into Maori culture on a visit to the Ngati Manawa tribal lands. Take part in a mini whakatau welcome ritual, and join members of the tribe for morning tea and a tour of the meeting house. Examine ancient Maori cave art found on the reservation; then enjoy a cultural performance of traditional songs, stories, and legends, followed by a geothermal hangi lunch, cooked in naturally hot steam vents. This afternoon, try your hand at Maori weaving and take a guided walk through the native forests of Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park, a biodiversity hotspot.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations:Princes Gate Boutique Hotel
Day 5: Rotorua/Te Anau

Visit the Orakei Korako Geothermal Park and Cave for a private walking tour of its gushing geysers, steaming hot springs, and silica terraces. Descend into volcanic Ruatapu Cave, which plunges to depths of more than 100 feet and harbors the crystalline Waiwhakaata, or “Pool of Mirrors.” Continue to the Rotorua airport for a flight to Queenstown, and transfer to our lakefront hotel in Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodations:Distinction Te Anau Hotel
Day 6: Milford Sound

Journey into Fiordland National Park for a wilderness cruise through magnificent Milford Sound. As we navigate these pristine waters, take in the majesty of the fjords and their surrounding cliffs, blanketed in lush forest and sprinkled with waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and fur seals. This evening, savor South Island specialties during a three-course dinner back at our hotel.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:Distinction Te Anau Hotel
Days 7-9: Queenstown/Mount Aspiring National Park

Set out on a drive through the alpine landscapes of southern New Zealand, stopping along the way for a behind-the-scenes tour of a working sheep farm. Arrive on the shores of stunning Lake Wakatipu and board a private boat bound for Queenstown, where we’ll settle into our hotel overlooking the water. On an excursion into Mount Aspiring National Park, learn about the region’s geology as we hike and ride a jet boat through glacial river valleys. Take an interpretive nature walk along Lake Wakatipu to learn about local medicinal plants.

Meals Included:Day 7 (Breakfast, Lunch) / Day 8 & 9 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Accommodations:Hotel St Moritz Queenstown
Days 10-11: Sydney, Australia

Fly to Sydney, where we begin our exploration of Australia. Set out on a walking tour of the historic Rocks district—a cobbled neighborhood of zestful restaurants, galleries, and shops. Embark on a sunset dinner cruise, savoring a sumptuous multi-course meal and unparalleled views of Sydney Harbour glimmering under the night sky. The following day, visit the Royal Botanic Garden, and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Set out on an optional excursion to climb the Harbour Bridge.

Meals Included:Day 10 (Breakfast, Dinner) / Day 11 (Breakfast)
Accommodations:InterContinental Sydney
Days 12-14: Kangaroo Island

Journey to Kangaroo Island, located off the continent’s southern coast and known as “Australia’s Galápagos.” During your stay, choose from a variety of naturalist-led activities designed to immerse you in the diverse plant and animal life of the island. Walk amid the hundreds of playful pups, cows, and bulls that live along Seal Bay; explore rugged coastal cliffs with unique caves and rock formations; or traverse the island’s rolling hills and eucalyptus forests in search of koalas, platypuses, spiny anteaters, kangaroos, and a dazzling array of birds. Fly to Adelaide for an evening at leisure.

Meals Included:Day 12 (Breakfast, Dinner) / Day 13 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) / Day 14 (Breakfast, Lunch)
Days 15-16: Cairns/Port Douglas/Great Barrier Reef

Fly to Cairns. En route to our lodge near Port Douglas, stop at James Cook University to meet with National Geographic grantee Dr. Adam Barnett, a renowned shark researcher. Hear about his studies on deep-sea sharks such as the sevengill. Enjoy an evening at leisure before our full-day adventure on the world's largest reef system. Embark on a cruise by motorized catamaran to the outer reef and spend the day discovering some of the 2,000 species that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef. Observe the reef from a viewing platform, take a ride in a glass-bottom boat, or go on a private snorkeling tour in this incredible marine ecosystem. Scuba diving is also available for certified divers, at an additional cost.

Meals Included:Day 15 (Breakfast) / Day 16 (Breakfast, Lunch)
Accommodations:These nights include a stay at a National Geographic Unique Lodge.
Overlooking the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea, Thala Beach Nature Reserve invites guests to discover a pristine sanctuary of rainforest and coast.
Day 17: Daintree Rainforest

Begin the day with a cruise on the Daintree River, in search of crocodiles at the convergence of salt and fresh water. Then set off with an indigenous guide on a Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk at Mossman Gorge for an intimate look at the connection of culture and spirituality with the land. Celebrate our journey at the farewell dinner tonight.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:Thala Beach Natural Reserve Lodge
Day 18: Port Douglas/Cairns

Transfer to Cairns for your return flight.

Meals Included:Breakfast