Eight year-old Olive Paterson from Blenheim was the winner of the recent ‘Find a Whio‘ competition. She won an exciting trip for herself and her family in Tongariro last month. Read her story…
When Robyn from DOC phoned to tell me that I had won the prize I was speechless… and very excited, but I had no idea what was in store for me and my family.
After meeting Robyn at the DOC office in Taupo, we drove to Tongariro National Park. We were surrounded by mountains and bush and in the distance we could see Chateau Tongariro like a miniature castle. Our room was very fancy and on the first night we had room service for dinner!
The next morning it was time to meet everyone: Ranger Malcolm, his conservation dog Fern, and rangers Dean, Pani, Jerome, Rhys, Ali, and Sian.
Malcolm told me lots of funny stories, like the one about the dog painter who painted Fern’s spots but then ran out of paint around her neck and head, which are plain brown. Another funny story was when Fern gets angry with Malcolm, she swears at him in German because she is a German short haired pointer! He also told us all about the traps that keep the whio safe from rats and stoats.
We set off to the Mangatepopo River. Alice and I went with Ali in her truck. I sat in the front and Alice sat in the back. She had a walkie talkie in her truck. When we got there Ali told us it was a place only whio and kiwi rangers know about.
We also met Cam from Genesis Energy at the river. He does a good job looking after the whio too. Suddenly we heard a whistle and Malcolm said it was a male whio. We walked down the hill and we saw two adult whio on a rock. I almost fainted with happiness to see the real birds.
Then we had to put on our togs and wet suits and water shoes and Malcolm gave Alice and me a wetsuit jacket so we didn’t get cold in our short wet suits. Pani gave us a walking stick so we didn’t slip on the wet rocks. I felt happy and excited.
Fern and Malcolm went to the top of the river and tried to see any whio and if they did, they would get Fern to chase them down to where we were so we could have a close look at them. We walked down the river and the water was up to my tummy. It was freezing but very clear and beautiful.
We watched while Dean and Cam set up a net to catch the whio so Ali could check them. Malcolm got on the radio to tell us that there were two adults and a fledgling coming down the river. When they reached the net there were two fledglings because Fern had found the other baby under a rock. Malcolm thought Fern was very clever as he didn’t believe there could be a duck under that rock.
After Ali had checked them it was time for us to release the whio back to the river. Me and my family released the family of whio. I got to release the new girl duckling which we called Fern. It was the most amazing thing and I gave Fern a little good luck kiss so she doesn’t become extinct.
Afterwards we walked back up the river and Robyn made us a yummy lunch on the back of Malcolm’s truck. She even brought my favourite: chocolate cake.
Adventure! First was rafting on the Tongariro River. Our guide Jen made us bundle up in wet suits and I had to have wet suit socks! My family and Sian went in one raft and the rangers went with Danger Dan in the other raft. We saw three adult whio and one fledgling on the river. It was cool to see them in their natural environment. Jen let us do donuts down the big rapids. When the two rafts got close the other boat would pretend to forward paddle and splash us. My whole family loved the rafting and we all got soaked!
Next we went to the Tongariro National Trout Centre to see the whio boot camp and we got to go inside the enclosure to feed them. We gave them meal worms which were very wiggly to pick up. The whio were practising getting their food off the rocks with their rubbery bill.
After we had lunch, we got to go fishing and caught two trout each. We each had a helper and mine was very nice. Once we had caught them, Dean and Pani said they would smoke them for us. We brought them down to Blenheim and had two delicious trout dinners.
As if that wasn’t enough for one day we still had a helicopter ride coming up at 4.00pm. We drove back to the Chateau and got ready for the helicopter ride and set off on another amazing adventure. I was in the front seat next to Malcolm and the pilot Dave. My Dad and Alice were in the back seat.
I had the best view! When we took off my tummy felt very weird because the helicopter tipped forward. We flew all over Tongariro National Park and saw lots of trees and rivers and we flew over Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings, and over the crater of Mt Tongariro.
The one thing that I want to be when I grow up is a Whio ranger. I brought home a whio soft toy and I have named it Fern.
I would like to say a big thank you to all the whio rangers and Robyn. I loved my big trip and I loved that my whole family got to come.
Congratulations Olive – what an awesome experience, something to treasure forever. Well done DOC for giving this wonderful opportunity.