You might be surprised to discover that all around you, hidden in nooks and crannies, are secret treasure boxes. There are dozens in the capital – several are hidden just a few minutes walk from the Department of Conservation’s Wellington office – and there are literally thousands across the country. Every day, people from all over the world are discovering them right under our noses.
All this may sound slightly subversive, but it’s actually part of a very popular game called Geocaching. Here’s how it works: People hide containers – called caches – and list them online along with their GPS coordinates and additional location clues. To find a cache, you enter the GPS coordinates into a portable GPS receiver and track to the general spot.
The receiver gets you close, but actually finding the cache can be tough! They’re often cleverly hidden using magnets, camouflage and other devious techniques. Part of the game is to keep the cache’s location a secret, so you have to be discreet. Inside the cache there will be a log to sign and possibly even items to trade. If you take an object, be sure to leave something behind.
What does all of this have to do with Conservation? Well, put simply, it’s a great excuse to get outdoors, having some fun and exploring conservation places. It’s also important that DOC is aware of recreational activities of all kinds and that our visitor facilities and policies are supportive while also ensuring no harm comes to the natural environment.
One way that geocachers can help is to always follow the Geocachers Code. Another is to try Earthcaching. This variation on geocaching is a good option for ecologically sensitive places because there’s no container. Instead, Earthcaches use natural landmarks as the object of discovery. To claim the find, you’ll have to answer questions about the place and the answers can only be found by visiting in person. So, in addition to being eco-friendly, Earthcaching can teach us about ecology, geography, cartography and technology.
If you’d like to give geocaching a go, try visiting Matiu-Somes Island during their upcoming Historic Open Day (13 September). In addition to many other activities, you can try out DOC’s first official Geocache (GC1WK81) which takes you on a tour of the island’s many historic sights. Don’t forget to bring your own GPS receiver!