Oscar and Stanley experience Rakiura and Te Wharawhara

Department of Conservation —  01/09/2018

We check in with the Oscar, Stanley and their family, who won our Conservation Week competition last year to experience Stewart Island/Rakiura and Ulva/Te Wharawhara Island. Oscar and Stanley tell us about their family trip.

We were really lucky to win a family trip to Stewart Island/Rakiura and Ulva/Te Wharawhara Island thanks to DOC’s Conservation Week competition last year. We spent a week in the school holidays completing fun family conservation activities to look after our backyard. Seeing the two islands showed us just what can be achieved by protecting them.

Oscar and Stanley with DOC volunteers on Ulva Island - Photo by Jennifer Ross DOC

Oscar and Stanley with DOC volunteers on Te Wharawhara Island. Photo: Jennifer Ross (DOC)

It was a real adventure getting to Rakiura. We had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to leave for the airport. We got to go on lots of different types of transport to get there, two planes, a taxi, a bus and a boat. While we waited for the bus, we explored the Southland Museum which was very interesting. Watch out for a surprise in the trenches long drop and in the scrub of the Sub-Antarctic exhibition if you visit! There were lots of fun things to do and learn about. Henry the tuatara was pretty cool for an old guy and we learnt from his movie what a grumpy old grouch he used to be.

Rodent detecting conservation dog Gadget. Photo: Jennifer Ross (DOC)

Rodent detecting conservation dog Gadget. Photo: Jennifer Ross (DOC)

Arriving at Halfmoon Bay, we were met by Jen from DOC who showed us to our beach house to settle in. We met again at the Visitor Centre before heading off on a tour of Rakiura with Di in a DOC truck. We had learnt before coming that Rakiura represents Maui’s anchor in the legend of fishing up the North Island so it was cool to see the anchor chain sculpture at Lee Bay where Rakiura is anchored to the South Island (Maui’s canoe).

The next day was really sunny and we were in for a real treat, exploring Te Wharawhara Island. Even better, we had some special friends to go with…. Detector Gadget, the rodent detecting dog and her handler Sandy. Gadget and Jen did a good job checking our gear for seeds and rats before we left to help protect the island. Luckily we didn’t bring any sneaky rats in our bags!

Skipper Meadsy took us to Te Wharawhara Island on DOC’s very cool boat, the Hananui. Before we even left Halfmoon Bay we saw a sea lion playing in the bay. We also saw a cute little penguin floating in the sea and a pod of dolphins with babies playing. This was all before we even got to the island!

Stepping off the boat we saw a beautiful kakariki feeding its chick and then we were off to explore and walk the tracks. We even got to hide a dead rat for Gadget to find and she did a great job sniffing it out. Gross!

We saw so many special birds and plants thanks to Te Wharawhara being predator free. Other highlights were: the cheeky weka who tried to join in our picnic lunch, listening for kiwi in the bush, swimming at Boulder Beach, the Toyota Kiwi Guardian adventure, writing on leaves with natural ink from a tree and swinging on the rope swings! We were met by Skipper Meadsy again who took us on a boat trip to see some other special islands, on one we even spotted a big group of fur seals with cute pups playing on the rocks. It was the best day!

The next morning we headed to Mill Creek looking at where the fresh water meets the sea. We waited patiently to spot sneaky crabs. It got a bit rainy so we decided to head into the bush to the Fern Gully Track, imagining what it would be like to hide there in an invasion as was the plan many years ago. We enjoyed playing pooh sticks at the bridges and listening for white-tail deer. Then it was back to the Visitor Centre to farewell our fabulous host Jen, who gave us some great posters and books. Our whole family learnt so much from Jen about wildlife, history, conservation and plants and it was great to share in her love of Rakiura and conservation.

Oscar and Stanley at the end of the Fern Gully Track. Photo: Jennifer Ross (DOC)

Oscar and Stanley at the end of the Fern Gully Track. Photo: Jennifer Ross (DOC)

Mum and Dad had planned for us to stay for a few more days so we enjoyed lots more including walking many of the Rakiura tracks, swimming, bombs off the wharf, delicious dinners at the South Seas Hotel, the Ackers Point Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure, fishing off the wharf and Oscar even went on a fishing trip to catch delicious blue cod. No kiwi were seen but it’s a great reason to head back to the island again. We were amazed to learn that there are more kiwi on Rakiura than people! The people there were really special too: from the friendly and helpful staff at the Visitor Centre, the Four Square and Hotel, to the man who gave us fresh paua at the wharf and Dave from Rakiura Jade who gave us both a precious greenstone necklace.

We definitely want to visit again. What an awesome family holiday!

4 responses to Oscar and Stanley experience Rakiura and Te Wharawhara


    I have loved reading this Oscar and Stanley. What an amazing experience you have both had with mum and dad. It really makes you realise just how many more species of both plants and birds there would be here in NZ if there were no predators like rats and how important the work that people like Jen from DOC do. Reading this, inspires me …I would love to visit there too.
    PS.I have been to Southland Museum and I am wondering if Henry it is the same Tuatara I saw? From Mrs. Cullen


      Thanks Mrs Cullen, yes it will be the same Tuatara, Henry is well over 100 years old!

    Ella Muckle 02/09/2018 at 2:36 pm

    Wow! What an awesome story to retell your special experience boys. Gadget looks very cute, what an important job he has. Sounds like you had an amazing adventure. Well done Oscar and Stanley. From Miss Muckle.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Celebrating Conservation Week around the country « Conservation blog - September 27, 2018

    […] Our 2017 #ConservationWeek competition winners the Parker family were busy building weta hotels, setting traps and taking part in Toyota Kiwi Guardian events during the week! Read about their adventures to Stewart Island/Rakiura and Ulva/Te Wharawhara Island published earlier in the year here. […]