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Mt. Bruce, a Fantastic Place for Birds and People
The main reason for me to go there was the fact that they have some birds we do not have on the South Island, especially the Kokako, a blue-greyish bird with striking blue wattles beside the beak. But what struck me most were the 80 wild kaka (parrots, similar to the kea of the South Island) which fly in every afternoon for a snack, having a party and making a lot of noise.
It is a great place for a stop if you are on the way to Wellington or on the way from Wellington to Napier, or just enjoying a relaxing time on the Wairarapa wine trail (which is part of the NZ Classical Wine Trail).
Pukaha Mt. Bruce - 30 km north of Masterton and 10km south of Eketahuna on SH2, two hours from Wellington and Napier and just one hour from Palmerston North - is the Department of Conservation's (DOC) breeding centre for rare native and endemic birds including the kaka, kokako, stitchbird, and last year they released the takahe there. Also on view for the public are kiwi - actually there are two North Island Brown Kiwi on display in the nocturnal house.
You can have very close encounters with birds and other wildlife in the remnant of a very old forest which one was a "70 mile bush". For example, in favourable weather conditions they present a tuatara to the public, but only from 1 October to 30 April, and only on weekends and public holidays at 12.15pm. In colder weather the tuatara are inactive and cannot be handled or displayed.
Every day at 3pm the kaka - forest parrots, similar to the much more well-known kea - are presented and could well delight you with their cheeky antics.
Open daily except Christmas Day, 9am - 4.30pm, café until 4pm.
Entry fee $ 10. (Will check new family rates; children up to 17yrs free.
Guided Tours ($15; family $45) are available on weekends and public holidays from 10.30am to 12pm and 2pm to 3.30pm, at other times by arrangement ($12pp for groups of 10 and more), also guided twilight tours for groups of 20 and more people at $12 per person, and then you can have dinner at the Takahe Café.
(Prices as April 2007; only general entry fee is updated/Aug. 2008 - will update this soon and write more about the experience.)
Karori Wildlife Sanctuary - Fenced Bird Paradise
The Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is surrounded by a predator proof fence, which means that it is a bird paradise. It is located at the end of Waiapu Road in Karori, just some minutes or two kilometres from downtown Wellington. The only entrance is via the Visitor Centre.
You can walk around the sanctuary or go on a guided tour. They also offer evening tours when you can try to listen to kiwi - but kiwi viewing is not guaranteed. The fence encloses an 8.6 km perimeter.
Thanks to the eradication of and protection from predators not only threatened species recover but also the forest. A lot of trees and shrubs have been planted which attract a lot of native wildlife. Among the birds that can be watched are the saddleback, stitchbird, the North Island kaka and robin. The kiwi that might be seen is the Little-Spotted Kiwi.
They also have the Long-Tailed Bat. Don't expect too much. The NZ bats are only as big as a thumb, so it is not so easy to see them. Bats were the only mammals that lived in NZ before the arrival of humans, only two of the three species have survived. Other animals in the park are our little dinosaurs, the tuatara, and giant wetas.
You find a lot more information and photos about Karori Wildlife Sanctuary on my Wellington page.
Wellington - Te Papa Museum
Wellington can be a windy city and so was glad to seek some shelter at this very famous NZ museum. Excellent display of Maori culture with large exhibits as well as the coming of the early white explorers and the treaties signed.
Located at the waterfront and so excellent views from the museum. Definitely a must visit if you make all the way to Wellington.
See New Zealands capital Wellington
New Zealands capital Wellington is a city with a special charm. In many ways it reminded me of San Francisco - it's also situated at a large bay with a natural harbour, has steep streets, lots of hills, a cable car, old victorian townhouses in contrast to modern highrise-buildings and so on.
It's well worth to spend some days at this city exploring its attractions. For more info see the tips at my Wellington-page
Wellington is a vibrant, scenic, windy, cosmopolitan, diverse, eccentric, maddening and hilarious place. It has the some of the best museums, art galleries, restaurants, microbreweries, and coffee houses in the country. It is the storehouse for the nation's historic, cultural and artistic treasures. Being the first place European settlers arrived, it also boasts lots of historic streets and buildings.
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