Raoul Island Diaries: Dreaming of Raoul Island

DOC on Raoul Island —  07/12/2009

Raoul Island diary #1 by Louise Shirley

I had been dreaming of Raoul Island for over a year, having first read about it whilst at university. I applied for one of the six month volunteer positions at my earliest opportunity, never thinking I’d be successful. I’m glad I was, because my expectations have already been surpassed.

The hostel - home for volunteers and DOC staff on Raoul Island.

The hostel – home for volunteers and DOC staff on Raoul Island

When we arrived, I wandered from Fishing Rock to the hostel in a daze. One such walk is not enough to absorb everything. I was overwhelmed and still am. Every day, Raoul finds a new way to strike me and make me feel profoundly grateful to be here.

Changeover week was hectic, as we tried to adjust to our new surroundings and learn how the island operates from the previous team. It was a steep learning curve (sometimes literally!), but they did a great job of teaching us all we needed to know and making us feel welcome.

Big boy, the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve's resident giant groper.

Big boy, the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve’s resident giant groper

We’ve met some of Raoul’s permanent inhabitants, including pukeko and tui, and the giant groper that live in the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve.

We’ve also encountered the reason for us being here… weeds! Chauncy took us on our first weeding mission. Initially I found the vegetation falling away from under me rather unnerving, but quickly got used to that sliding feeling. We’ve since been on several such adventures. It’s not easy going, which our scratches are testament to, but it seems that even the toughest of weed plots can be fun if tackled with the right attitude. We definitely have that going for us. We hike in areas I would previously have though impossible to enter, let alone scour for weeds.

Safety briefings abound, and not without reason. We are a long way from help, and hazards certainly exist here that I don’t encounter in England. I don’t normally live near an active volcano, or swim with sharks! Regardless, Raoul grants a sense of safety I can rarely enjoy at home. There is no traffic and I needn’t lock anything or worry about personal safety because I know everyone on Raoul, and count them all as friends.

Boating is one of the highlights so far. We were trained to safely operate the foxway and derrick, in order to launch the two boats. We then took off to the Meyer islands, grins across our faces. We got a bit of a look around, plus a stunning view of Raoul’s rocky shores on our return.

Sunset over the Meyer Islands, as seen from Raoul Island.

Sunset over the Meyer Islands, as seen from Raoul Island

I don’t want to idealise this place, but it’s very hard not to. Our days here have a refreshing simplicity about them, free from many of the pressures modern life involves. We have no worries about money or what to wear, for example. I go running here wearing odd trainers, one of them with a huge hole in the toe, and nobody judges me for it.

Everyone’s getting on well and we’ve been hiking, snorkelling and surfing together. There’s always a friendly face (or several) around the corner, but we’re also free to relax by ourselves. I love to sit above the cliff and gaze into the  seemingly infinite expanse of ocean which stretches away from the island. All you can hear is the rush of the waves below, punctuated by a cheery call from the occasional kakariki/New Zealand parakeet

We have had the opportunity to explore the Boat Cove area, and four of us spent last weekend relaxing at Denham Bay, where we slept in the hut our Team Leader Ian helped to build years ago. There is so much to explore and I’m very excited at the prospect of being able to call Raoul home for the next six months.

DOC on Raoul Island


The Raoul Island diary is written by "Raoul Islanders" - DOC staff and volunteers living and working on Raoul Island in the Kermadec Island group. DOC staff include a team leader, mechanic and rangers. Up to 10 volunteers spend approximately 5 to 6 months on the island helping DOC staff get rid of weeds.