Archives For Motutapu

During Conservation Week we saw conservation dogs, Pai and Piri, make their TV début on Seven Sharp.

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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.

For winning What Now’s Ranger for a day prize, Christchurch’s ten year old Louis Harris got to go up to Auckland for the ultimate DOC experience.

Their feathers feel like hair with too much gel in it!

The adventure begins

Louis and his father Graham, met Biodiversity Ranger Hazel Speed and I at Auckland airport bright and early to begin the adventure.

The two-day trip involved a ride out to Motuora Island to help release three kiwi chicks with the BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust; a night at Sandspit Holiday Park; and a day tracking takahē, checking up on tīeke eggs, and playing with rodent dogs on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands.

One cute chick!

It was a well-rounded ranger experience; there was some disappointment (not being able to find a takahē signal), some success (finding Motutapu Island’s first tīeke eggs), and some gross bits (having to put wet socks and shoes back on and trek through swampy grass). But it was all part of being a ranger!

Day one on Motuora was spent with members of the Motuora Restoration Society, exploring the island and learning about all the hard work that goes into keeping it safe and suitable for the kiwi (who were ultra cute and very well behaved). It had been pouring with rain (but had luckily stopped by the time we’d arrived) so the ground was a bit of a mess—this is where the gross bit fits in. Because of the 5 am start to get to Auckland in time, we were all exhausted by mid-afternoon.

From left to right, rangers Nick, Louis, Andrew and Hazel

On day two we ferried out to Rangitoto. “Welcome to my office,” Hazel told us when we arrived. All the tourists started walking and wandering around but, as rangers, we were met by Rangitoto staff Andrew and Nick, who had a DOC ute waiting for us. We were super-confused when Hazel said we were going to Motutapu (not knowing how close it was), and then amazed as we crossed the small bridge to a completely different landscape!

Andrew gave us a safety briefing and then away we went. Takahē hunting, track walking, hill climbing, trap checking, bush slipping, egg finding, photo taking—we did it all. And then it was time for lunch at the house with John Neilsen and his three rodent dogs (the first hedgehog dogs in New Zealand, and possibly the world!).

Trying hard to find a signal

Meeting the dogs

Louis, who’s always wanted to be a DOC ranger, thought at the start that he’d like to be a mountaineering/biodiversity ranger (with a focus on kea, his favourite native bird). However, after meeting John and his furry friends Tui, Polly and Iti toa (the four month old pup), he might be re-thinking his career aspirations.

“I think the highlight of the trip for Louis was the interaction with John’s dogs,” said Graham.

Peanut butter?

“Even though he has his own dog at home, there was something special about Johns’, especially [Iti] Toa,” he said.

After lunch (and a few games of catch) we crossed back to Rangitoto (about 10 degrees hotter because of the black scoria) and walked to the summit. Toa and John came too, while Hazel followed a tīeke pair around the crater to listen to their dialect.

Graham, Louis and I at the summit of Rangitoto

“Both Hazel and John’s passion and knowledge of their jobs was clear to see and we really enjoyed the time spent with them,” said Graham.

The competition was run by TV2’s What Now show and DOC during Conservation Week. To enter, children had to say why they loved New Zealand. Louis’ entry—the only video submission—stood out, with a lot of effort clearly involved.

It was a whirlwind couple of days out in the field (Louis even fell asleep halfway through day one!) but the little guy was up for anything and everything. With his enthusiasm and effort, he’d make a great future addition to the team as DOC’s first dog handling, mountaineering, kea specialist ranger!

Tui, Louis and Toa having a laugh