Archives For caving

This year, my family left behind the craziness of Christmas and went camping. Very few New Zealanders were holidaying at this time, so the roads, attractions and campsites were quiet. The weather was also wonderful—packing up only after we’d packed up and moved on.

Today, I thought I’d share with you three of the special DOC managed places (your places) that I visited:

Rangitoto Island

To celebrate my birthday, and our first day in Auckland, we took a harbour cruise and briefly visited pest-free Rangitoto Island.

Sign on Rangitoto.

It was a balmy Auckland morning and the island was so summery and serene—such a contrast to the city I’d just left behind.

While the kid’s played around the shore and climbed pohutukawa trees, I nostalgically imagined what summer would’ve been like staying in one of the remaining baches nestled into the bush.

Exploring Rangitoto.

Unfortunately you can’t stay on the island now—as much as I would’ve loved to. But you can camp on neighbouring Motutapu Island, and I’m sure as eggs going to do that.

This was my first visit to an island in the Hauraki Gulf and it’s easy to see why it’s rated as the number one attraction for Auckland on Trip Advisor.

Waitomo Walkway

Feeling smug that the weather was finer here than at home, we worked off Christmas lunch on the Waitomo Walkway. At just over 3 km—starting at Waitomo Village and ending at the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve—it was a manageable length for the kids.

Waitomo Walkway signs

The karst landscape (a fancy-pants way of referring to the limestone features—arches, tunnels, caves etc) was magical, and quite Tolkienish.

Waitomo Walkway

The boys enjoyed climbing and launching themselves off stiles and rocky outcrops, while my four-year-old daughter delighted in the wildflowers and the sheer number of downy white seed heads she found for dandelion wishes.

Waitomo Walkway

Waitomo Walkway.

With all the climbing, launching, and wish making, it took us longer than expected to complete the walk one-way (at least double the 1 hr 15 mins time suggested on the DOC sign).

Launching - Waitomo Walkway

In order to make our dinner reservation at Huhu Cafe (yum!) I sent hubbie running back to camp for the car, while we played Octopus Tag in the large, empty picnic area by the Ruakuri car park.

Note: Hubbie prides himself on doing everything in significantly less time than what’s stated on DOC signs. Missing the deadline on this one is no reflection on his manliness (read: craziness/stubbornness). The blame must fall entirely on the rest of us layabouts.

Ruakuri Caves & Bush Scenic Reserve

While a number of our extended family were suffering from a post Christmas tummy bug in Wellington (food poisoning perhaps?) we enjoyed Boxing Day at Ruakuri Caves and Bush Scenic Reserve.

With beautiful native bush, limestone outcrops, caves, tunnels, gorges and cantilevered walkways high above rushing water, this site definitely deserves its recent international award.

Ruakuru Bush Walk

Once again it took us much longer than the 30-45 mins suggested to complete the loop walk. It would’ve been achievable if we’d steadily walked but, given the number of marvels we had to stop at, admire, and photograph, it was never going to happen.

Ruakuru Bush Walk

And, while the budget wouldn’t stretch to a guided caving experience in Waitomo (we’d blown it all at Huhu for Christmas dinner!), we went back to Ruakuri at nightfall for a wonderful show of glow worms. They’re right near the beginning of the track, so you don’t have to walk far.

I love glow worms. Love them. I like to think of them as nature’s fairy lights rather than the larvae (maggots) of the fungus gnat, which is actually what they are.

Native plants at Ruakuri.

Your holiday highlights

So, that’s three holiday highlights from me. I’d  love to hear about your summer adventures in New Zealand’s great outdoors. I may be back at work now but I’m sure another chance to get away is just around the corner and I’d love some inspiration from you. Of course, Motutapu is always a good idea.

By Caroline Carter, Ranger – Community Relations, Te Anau.

It is a rainy weekend – but it can’t be raining underground – so we grab some friends which include two geologists, two cave guiders, three five year olds and a couple of nervous mums and head to Clifden Caves!

At the entrance to Clifden Caves.

At the entrance to Clifden Caves

This experience blows your mind! It’s amazing in there.

Glow worms.

The Clifden Caves provide a natural habitat for the glow worm

We are fully equipped and made sure we have given our intentions to our families before heading off.

A young boy with headlight and helmet in the cave.

We were fully equipped for cave exploring.

The Clifden Caves are one of only a few cave systems in Southland. The DOC reflector triangles help guide our way. There are places to crawl, pools of water to walk around, and luckily two ladders to assist with an assent and descent.

Geologists looking at some of the rock formation in the cave.

Exploring the cave

It’s amazing – a challenge – but the kids loved it and we will definitely be going back again.

The caving group outside the Clifden Caves.

After the great exploration

Why not go explore Clifden Caves for yourself? You can find out more on the DOC website.

Every Monday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week we meet Spatial Information Management Officer, Wayne Tyson:

The ascent to Crater Lake, Mt Ruapehu

At work…

Name: Wayne Tyson

Position: Spatial Information Management Officer (GIS), Canterbury Conservancy Office.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I work primarily with creating maps and databases of spatial information. A lot of my work is involved with converting data from spreadsheets and tables into usable maps.

Recently I have been involved with Wildfire Threat Analysis which involves using GIS analysis tools to assess the likely threat of fire across Canterbury.

What is the best part about your job?

Meeting a bunch of people who are really passionate about their work and the contribution they make to the environment.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Trying to fit in all the projects that we are involved in.

Caving in Vietnam

What led you to your role in DOC?

I’ve always had a keen interest in the outdoors with a strong background in caving. Being skilled in GIS and working for DOC seemed to be the logical choice.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

The Canterbury Wildfire Threat Analysis project was a large collaboration of data inputs with support from a range of organisations. Creating some really useful fire threat data that will be used across Canterbury is pretty cool.

No big earthquakes was also good!

Exploring caves under the Nullarbor Plain

The rule of three…

Three loves

Apart from my wife and cats, the things I would list as three loves include:

  • Skiing (especially those really long runs in Canada)
  • Caving (although I don’t get too many chances since moving to Christchurch)
  • Good quality rugby games

Three pet peeves

  • New Zealand road rules
  • Campervans
  • Earthquakes right under my house

Three things always in your fridge

  • Beer (because I never drink it)
  • Cheese (because my cats love it)
  • One or two bottles of wine for unexpected friends who may drop around

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  • Cardrona in winter—the best ski field in the Southern Hemisphere
  • South Island’s West Coast is just truly spectacular
  • Tasman Glacier, my introduction to the New Zealand wilderness

    Getting a weather report in the Stirling Range

Favourite movie, album, book

  • The Castle—it introduced a great set of catch phrases to the Australian vocabulary: “Tell him he’s dreaming!”
  • Amarok by Mike Oldfield—one solid hour of amazing guitar and sound woven around a number of recurring themes.
  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson—the only book I have sat down and read in one sitting from 6pm to 4am.

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Move to New Zealand now!

Who or what inspires you and why?

The people of Christchurch. Over the last year they have had to put up with so much and have come through with great strength and determination.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A Merchant Navy Officer. I spent three years at it before I realised it was not such a good social lifestyle.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?


If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

A cave weta so I could explore those caves that the humans can’t get into.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Having grown up in arid Western Australia and overpopulated Malaysia, I think most New Zealanders take their incredible environment for granted. This is one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Look after it.

Travelling to school in Penang, 1966