A great Tongariro whio adventure

Department of Conservation —  12/03/2015

Winning a whio adventure in Tongariro National Park was “an amazing experience” according to Palmerston North student Sarah Ridsdale…

I arrived at Whakapapa Village and met Bubs, the local whio ranger. He showed us on a map where we would be flying in a helicopter (yes helicopter!) the next day, and some information about the incredible whio/blue duck.

The next morning Bubs came and picked us up to take us to the helicopter. I was so excited. It was going to be my first time in a helicopter. I loved the feeling as we rose up in the air.

Tongariro Forest Park and the rivers running through it are so beautiful from up there! We landed twice by the river and saw six whio.

After that we went to the DOC office and met Fern the whio dog. She’s a German short haired pointer—so beautiful! She even has her very own wetsuit, puffer jacket for winter, and fluorescent orange jacket so hunters don’t mistake her for a wild animal.

We drove to Mangetapopo River and waded downstream. Fern went ahead of us so she could show us where the whio were.

Walking upstream. Photo: Sarah Ridsdale.

Walking upstream

Fern managed to corner one whio and catch it with some help from the humans. To catch the second one we set up a mist net across the river, which worked as the whio was flushed downstream.

A whio heading towards the mist net. Photo: Sarah Ridsdale.

Catching whio

Dad held the whio while I helped Bubs put the bands on their legs so they can be identified later. We then got to release them back into the river. They swam away so fast!

It was awesome seeing the whio up so close. They were so beautiful and have amazing eyes. I could see the rubbery lip on their beaks that they use to scrape their food, invertebrate larvae, off the rocks in the river.

Sarah and her dad releasing the whio. Photo: Sarah Ridsdale.

Releasing whio

The next day we drove to the Tongariro river rafting place. We got changed into the rafting gear and drove to the beginning of where we would be rafting.

The rafting was amazing! At first I was scared when I saw rapids coming up but then I realised how much fun they were and looked forward to the next one.

Part way down the rapids we stopped to see one of the gas powered traps by the river that help stop the predators attacking the whio. We were lucky to see 12 whio as we made our way down the rapids.

After the rafting trip we went to the National Trout Centre to see the new whio hardening aviary, where whio that have been hatched in captivity learn to fly and ride the rapids.

There were 23 whio in the two aviaries. They were very entertaining, swimming along the rapids and flying around.

Sarah and her family at the whio hardening facility. Photo: Sarah Ridsdale.

The whio hardening facility

I then got to meet a North Island brown kiwi that I was going to help release. It was adorable. I was surprised how rough its feathers felt.

We drove from the Trout Centre into the forest where we watched the transmitter get put on the kiwi’s leg.

Sarah patting a brown kiwi held by a DOC ranger. Photo: Sarah Ridsdale.


When the kiwi was ready we got on two-seater quad bikes and rode about eight kilometres into the forest.

Bubs found a burrow made from a fallen tree. We lined it with ferns and then got the kiwi out of the box. I lowered it into the burrow and it took a couple steps inside. I feel so lucky to have been a part of something so special.

I had such a wonderful time with the DOC rangers, learning about the amazing things they are doing to protect our environment and the special animals that live there. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

Win your own Great Whio Adventure:

Win a five-day family holiday including a whio wilderness experience in either Tongariro or Fiordland National Park. Entry forms are available on the Whio Forever website. Entries close Thursday 2 April 2015.

One response to A great Tongariro whio adventure

    Wilfried's Fotoatelier 13/03/2015 at 1:22 am

    Hey Sarah, these are lovely photographs. It surely seems you had a great & adventurous time in Tongariro 🙂