Archives For marlborough sounds

I have never been much of an outdoorsy person — I usually prefer to spend my holidays in the city or on a beach, close to mod cons and most importantly, hot running water. This summer, however, I decided to do something a bit different and disconnect from the world and spend a week on Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds.

Islands in the Marlborough Sounds.

Escaping to the Marlborough Sounds for a week

A week of camping, swimming, fishing and exploring might sound like bliss to some, but the thought of having no mobile reception, internet, or power, had me worried. Luckily I was not alone — 15 of us had made the trip down from Wellington, all filled with a similar sense of trepidation, but a keenness to have fun.

A bay on Arapawa Island bathed in sunlight.

Picturesque bay on Arapawa Island

First stop was the supermarket in Picton to pick up supplies, and then off to catch the water taxi. We had obviously ordered too much food and the boat captain probably wasn’t too impressed when we rocked up with box after box.

We were welcomed to the island on a spectacular day, with a single Hector’s dolphin greeting our water taxi as we passed through Queen Charlotte Sound.

A lone Hector's dolphin in the water.

A Hector’s dolphin welcoming us to Queen Charlotte Sound

On reaching the island the first issue we had to contend with was the curious group of weka who were ready to investigate our bags and belongings and anything else that caught their attention. They sure do love shiny things and we had to keep our food hidden at all times.

A tent at Wharehunga Bay campsite on Arapawa Island.

Wharehunga Bay campsite

There are two DOC campsites on Arapawa, which are situated on either side of the island, and both are surrounded by beautiful bays and breathtaking walking tracks. Wharehunga Bay campsite is a particularly beautiful spot.

Swimming in a bay on Arapawa Island.

Swimming – a compulsory activity on the island

Swimming was a compulsory activity every single day despite some people being put off by the plethora of stingrays and jellyfish in the bay. The bay was also home to a good number of blue cod that can be caught at this time of year.

Everyday we would discover a different track on the island that would lead us to some new discovery. We managed to discover a forgotten shipwreck, remnants of a historic pa site and a freshwater stream filled with massive eels.

Stars over Arapawa Island.

The magnificent night sky

Absent of any other light pollution, the night sky was breathtaking and it was even warm enough to sleep out under the stars most nights.

On the final day, we climbed the highest peak on the island called Narawhia. It was from the peaks of Arapawa Island in 1770 that Captain James Cook first saw the sea passage now known as the Cook Strait.

The view from Narawhia, the highest peak on Arapawa Island.

The view from Narawhia, the highest peak on Arapawa Island

It was a fantastic break away from the city and the crowded beaches and I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

The bush wren, laughing owl, and native thrush are all extinct.

Stoats are thought to have caused their demise—as well as the decline of many of New Zealand’s other indigenous bird species. They also feed heavily on our native reptiles and invertebrates.

The images below show the devastation that a stoat can wreck on our native species—in this case New Zealand’s smallest bird, the rifleman/titipounamu.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

DOC ranger, Anja McDonald, sent through these heartbreaking images.

They were taken at Tennyson Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds. She explains:

The male bird was in the nest when the stoat came and we don’t see any pictures of him coming out again. The rifleman mother then returns to her nest. The things in her beak are likely to be the remains of either her husband or her chicks.

When we climbed the tree later, to bring the camera in, there was only a female around, which suggests the stoat possibly ate both the adult male and the chicks.

A very sad end for these small birds, but a important reminder of the pest control work that needs to be done to protect our native species.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Siobain Browning, Community Relations Ranger in the Sounds Area Office.

Siobain Browning with her daughter Lajla in the Sounds.

InDOCtrinating my daughter Lajla – “see how great it would be to be a ranger”

At work

Some things I do in my job include … preparing education material, talking to schools, leading guided walks, assisting community groups in their wonderful work, looking after volunteers, writing articles, keeping track of the hundreds of relationships the office needs to maintain, and taking opportunities to escape the office and get out in the field occasionally.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by … helping people engage with conservation and value its benefit.

The best bit about my job is … doing something I really care about as part of an awesome and supportive team.

The awesomest DOC moment I’ve had so far is … having over 100 people turn up to a walk/talk to see the long tailed bats at Pelorus Bridge. It was awesome and a bit scary! I was so happy to see the level of interest (which was also due to excellent promotion of the event) and very relieved when the bats actually showed up and gave people the chance to hear them!

Siobain and her dog overlooking some of the islands in the Sounds.

My first ever hunting expedition in the Sounds

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is … everybody has something inspirational about them, but Gen Spargo and Chelsea Hall have particularly inspired me by having a dream of a different lifestyle that they wanted and then working hard to make it a reality.

On a personal note

My best ever holiday was … during the summer when I was 18, my parents had the courage and trust to let me go to Greece on my own to volunteer on a turtle conservation project. I spent the whole summer on the beach monitoring and checking turtle nests as well as talking to tourists about conservation. One of the best memories is of sitting on the beach at sunrise watching a nest of turtle hatchlings emerge and race to the sea. It was an amazing summer and confirmed to me that I was on the right path.

Siobain with several members of the DOC team in the Sounds.

One of those special days out of the office – this was a weeding trip to Brothers Island with some of the team

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be … a long-tailed bat. I’d find out where all my batty friends were hanging out in the Sounds so that we can work to protect them.

My secret indulgence is … not very secret—cream doughnuts.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to … in the real world I would probably be a stay at home mum for a while. But in a parallel life I would be doing research in some remote part of the world about some wonderful creature or combining conservation and vet nursing at a wildlife hospital.

A tiny Kihansi spray toad sitting on a rock.

The tiny Kihansi spray toad (declared extinct in the wild in 2008)

Before working at DOC I … spent several years working on a project to protect the critically endangered Kihansi spray toad in Tanzania. The species was only discovered in 1996 after construction had started on a hydropower project so we had to learn about the frog’s requirements and put in mitigation measures to protect it.

It was an amazing time, camping in the Udzungwa Mountains, researching the frog and other species in the wetland, looking for other waterfalls where the frog might live (which it didn’t – the entire global habitat was just a few hundred square metres).

It wasn’t looking good for the toad and by 2003 I was so disillusioned with the aid industry and conservation that I retrained as a vet nurse. When I came home to New Zealand in 2006 I realised that I had to go back to conservation though!

A waterfall between two hills.

The waterfall where I spent five years studying the Kihansi spray toad

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is … I recently saw the seeds of hope exhibition and liked the quote, “We must realise that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more”.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is … by my Dad – “If it were easy, everybody would do it”.

In work and life I am motivated by … my daughter, positive people, cream doughnuts.…

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is … consume less and DO more!

Question of the week

What is your biggest pet peeve? People using “I” or “myself” when they actually mean “me”.

Siobain standing in the snow in Norway.

I spent eight years in Norway—a lovely country with many similarities to New Zealand (but much richer!)