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The Grand Prize for Conservation Week 2013 is an amazing Great Barrier Island holiday package – the perfect summer getaway for you and three others.

Great Barrier Island beach. Photo: Andris Apse.

One of the beautiful beaches on Great Barrier Island

I’ve heard Great Barrier Island described as a remote, tranquil and untouched paradise. My Auckland friends who are lucky enough to holiday there induce jealousy every summer by raving about the pristine beaches, the unique wildlife and the relaxed vibe of the island – if you are reading this I’m still waiting for my invite!

The island boasts scenic mountain biking trails, walking tracks that weave through coastal forests, and isolated coves to snorkel and explore. It’s also perfect for those who want to do a bit of boating, kayaking or fishing. If all that sounds a bit too exhausting, there is always the chance to retreat to the Kaitoke Hot Springs to relax at the end of the day.

Kayaking in a cove on Great Barrier Island.

There are plenty of activities to do on the island like mountain biking and kayaking

All you have to do to win is to make a pledge for Conservation Week, it’s nothing too strenuous. Simply head to the Conservation Week website, choose a nature-related activity for your pledge and fill in the form. Your pledge can be as simple as changing your Facebook cover photo or something ambitious like planning a Great Walk.

Conservation Week banner.

What’s your whānau doing for Conservation Week?

There are also loads of great spot prizes to be given away to those who share their pledges through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest using #pledgefornz. So what are you waiting for? Head over and make your pledge today.

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There are only 124 kākāpō left in the world and I have been waiting to see one up close and personal ever since I started working at DOC. I have seen the fans going crazy for kākāpō online, even voting them as the ‘World’s Favourite Species’ in a recent poll. They are a native New Zealand bird that I just had to meet.

I was glad to find out that Sirocco the kākāpō would be visiting Zealandia sanctuary in July. Sirocco has been touring New Zealand for a few years now and this was my chance to get close to one of the few remaining kākāpō left.

To say I was ‘excited’ is probably an understatement. When Zealandia announced the visit I got on their website immediately and booked my ticket for opening night. The anticipation only grew throughout June as Sirocco’s face popped up all over town and in the local newspapers and television.

A sign for Sirocco's Zealandia visit at the Wellington Railway Station. Photo by Elizabeth Marenzi.

Sirocco, world famous in Wellington

The night finally arrived. It was a cool but calm one, and luckily the earthquakes from the previous couple of days had quietened down. The night tour started with a screening of part of Alison Balance’s documentary ‘To Save the Kākāpō’ where we were introduced to Sirocco and the respiratory illness that almost took his life. Sirocco developed this condition while very young and was hand-raised, which has led him to imprint on humans. This makes him very comfortable around people (some might say too comfortable).

After the film the Zealandia guide took us into the sanctuary, making sure we checked all our bags and pockets for any stowaway pests that might harm the creatures that call Zealandia home. My bag was predator free (if a little messy) so we headed out into the night and up the track to see Sirocco.

The track along the way was beautifully lit up with fairy lights. While we walked I chatted with some of the other visitors in the group. I was surprised to find people had come from all over New Zealand, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

Fairy lights up the path to Sirocco's enclosure. Photo by Jo Moore.

Lights lead the way to Sirocco

Sirocco spends his days at Zealandia in a specially fenced off section of forest and at night he comes out into a display area. When we finally arrived at Sirocco’s display area he was already hopping around at the glass peering through to suss out his newest visitors. There was a group of children who he immediately ran to. Sirocco loves children and, at 16 years old, he is not much more than a child himself.

Over the next 30 minutes the DOC ranger told us all about the lifestyle of the kākāpō and about the efforts being undertaken to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Everyone managed to get a good view of Sirocco as he wandered the enclosure.

Sirocco in his viewing enclosure at Zealandia Sanctuary. Photo: Janice McKenna.

Sirocco meets his fans

On the way back down the track we were treated to some high pitched kiwi calls that resonated around the sanctuary. Seeing a kākāpō and hearing kiwi calls all in the same night was a great experience, something I hope becomes more commonplace throughout New Zealand.

If you are in Wellington in the next few weeks I would recommend you head along and cross this unique experience off your bucket list.

Sirocco on display at Zealandia Sanctuary. Photo: Janice McKenna.

Sirocco smiling for the camera

Sirocco at Zealandia:

Memories to last a lifetime – the night you met a kākāpō! Don’t miss this rare chance to meet Sirocco the kākāpō at Zealandia – just 10 minutes from Wellington city. Book your date now on the Zealandia website.

Camping is often seen as a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, away from the work phone calls and emails flooding your inbox. But not everyone is so keen to undertake the digital detox and cut themselves off for a week long camping adventure.

Luckily all is not lost for the keen campers who want to stay connected this summer. Technological advances now give you the means to rough it in a tent while still keeping in touch with what is going on in the outside world. Here are three tips to make it easier to stay connected while camping these holidays:

Tent on a beach in New Zealand.

Some still want to rough it and stay connected this summer

1) Check your campsites coverage

The Department of Conservation manages over 200 campsites throughout New Zealand, and while mobile reception can be patchy when you are out enjoying our wonderful natural scenery there are some things you can prepare for. Check up on your mobile carriers coverage before choosing your campsite. All major carriers have detailed maps on what the likely mobile coverage will be:


Mobile coverage signal boosters are also an option and are available online and in some electronic stores.

A low battery screen on an iPhone.

The screen of death for many a summer camper

2) Use alternative energy sources

While a lack of power plugs may limit the life of a smartphone when you are out camping there are plenty of other ways to charge that iPhone or Android mobile. Portable battery chargers, that run off AA batteries, are available from all good electronic stores and as long as you have enough long lasting batteries, they should see you through most camping trips.

Solar chargers are also an option, presuming a plentiful supply of sun is on hand this summer. They are a great, clean and renewable source of electricity to keep you charged.

If you need a bit more of a physical work out while camping there are also hand crank options to keep you powered up while you get back in touch with nature. So long as you have the energy to keep manually charging up your phone this is the perfect option.

A portable solar charger in the sun.

Portable solar chargers are a perfect summer gift

3) Choose a Wi-Fi hotspot holiday 

Yes they really exist. WhananakiCable BayUretiti Beach are to name a few connected campsites but all up there are more than 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in popular summer regions throughout New Zealand this summer, including Northland, the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty Tasman and Queenstown Lakes. This will help keep you connected all summer long.

So what are you waiting for? It is time to start preparing for your first connected camping adventure. Remember though that being connected is not what your camping trip is about – take time to enjoy the surroundings and activities away from your mobile devices and appreciate the beautiful places you get to explore. If the technology fails don’t panic, enjoy camping!

A laptop on the beach.

Stay connected even at the beach

Do you have any other tips for staying connected while camping? Leave them in the comment section below.