The remote Auckland Islands are seldom visited by tourists - tourist trips here are very expensive, islands are comparatively little known. Number of visitors is restricted by the nature conservation rules and most visitors see just Enderby Island.
Auckland Islands are characterised by dramatic scenery - high cliffs, rough sea, rough weather. Lush, unique vegetation of these Sub-antarctic islands comes as a pleasant suprise to visitors, not less interesting are the numerous curious, fearless birds.
Here are located some of the southernmost forests in this region of globe - mostly consisting of southern rata Metrosideros umbellata trees flowering with beautiful red flowers. Forests are up to 9 m high and inside the fiords the foliage of trees often reaches sea level thus resembling the scenery of tropical islands.
Unique animals and plants
These comparatively small islands have four endemic bird species:
- Auckland Shag (Phalacrocorax colensoi) - roughly 1,000 - 2,500 birds.
- Auckland Snipe (Coenocorypha aucklandica aucklandica) - living on smaller islands around the larger Auckland Island. Population estimate - 20,000 birds.
- Auckland Islands Teal (Anas aucklandica) - a duck, extinct now on the larger Auckland Island and living on smaller islands around it. Around 1,000 birds remaining.
- Auckland Rail (Lewinia muelleri) - nearly flightless bird, living on two islands - Adams Island and Disappointment Island. For a while it was considered to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1966.
On Disappointment Island are nesting almost all White-capped Albatroses (Thalassarche steadi) of the world - some 65,000 pairs. Wingspan of these birds reaches 2.6 m.
Auckland Islands have the highest diversity of invertebrates in sub-Antarctica with more than 200 species of insects, 24 species of spiders and many more invertebrates. Exotic local insect is cave weta Dendroplectron aucklandense. There is found also a unique species of land snail - Palliopodex verrucosus.
Plant life is surprisingly diverse, with well visible altitudinal zones: seaside meadows, up to 9 m tall forests, sub-albine shrubland and alpine meadows. 196 native plant species, including the beautiful, endemic gentians Gentiana concinna and G. cerina.
The most pristine island - Adams Island - is protected since 1910, other islands are nature conservation areas as well.
Among the numerous interesting features of Auckland Islands some of the most interesting ones are:
- Auckland Island and Adams Island have more than 365 m tall vertical basaltic cliffs, mostly on western coast. For most part the weather here is rainy and as a result there form waterfalls falling over these cliffs. Strong winds often divert the falls back, upwards.
- Along the sea coast can be found numerous caves and grottoes. Interesting cave is located in Carnley Harbour - it is told to have a phosphorescent glow on the walls.
- Monument of tragical historical events is enormous grotto in the western coast of Auckland Island where in 1866 sinked ship General Grant. Ship was drifted some 75 m inside an enormous grotto. As the water level rose, mast hit the ceiling of cave and forced a hole through the hull. 26 people drowned here. Wreck had a cargo with gold - reportedly no gold is found thus far.
- Southern tip of Enderby island is surrounded by steep cliffs formed by basaltic columns. Here have formed especially interesting caves.
- Impressive natural arch - Giant's Archway - has formed in the central part of Auckland Island, 460 m above the sea level.
- Among notable waterfalls can be mentioned waterfall in Waterfall inlet, Auckland Island. This is good source of drinking water for the teams of small vessels. Waterfall inlet is adorned with dense rata forest with foiliage up to the sea level.
- Megaherb meadows of southern Enderby Island during the bloom represent a stunning sight. Meadows with countless Ross lilies (Bulbinella rossii) seem to stretch up to the horizon. Not less impressive are the wast forests rata trees during the bloom - when looking from above the whole forest is bright red.
- The only true archaeological monument of sub-Antarctic islands is Polynesian settlement in Sandy Bay, Enderby Island. Here was found Polynesian earth oven with bones of sea lions, birds. Nearby were found flakes of chert and basalt. Polynesians settled here around 1350 AD and lived for at least one year here - but possibly for a longer time period.