The Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project has lead to a fascinating result: Birdlife is thriving in the beech forests around Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park, rare species have recovered and you can see and hear some of New Zealand's most fascinating birds on short walks from Kerr Bay which is the lakeshore of St. Arnaud.
Before pests like stoats, possums, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice have been trapped or poisened many birds had totally disappeared from the region. Now even the Great Spotted Kiwi (roa) has recovered and wanders around in the National Park - at night, of course. But during daytime you can watch a lot of amazing birds if you are a little patient. Others like the bellbird (korimako) are so abundant that you see them flying around the whole day, and you hear their beautiful song everywhere.
Sometimes you think you hear the squawk of a parrot - as there are kea and kaka in the forest - but sometimes it is just a tui which can imitate the sounds and songs of other birds.
The only remaining problem are the wasps which are also controlled - which means their nests are destroyed. Those wasps are such pests because they compete for the honeydew which the endemic and native birds need for survival. (More info about the Honeydew Forest in an extra tip.)
Perfect walks for bird watching walks are the Bellbird Walk (15mins) and the Honeydew Walk (45mins) where you also find great information panels about the recovery project and the birds. But do not only read and watch the track, always follow the birdsong and noises which you hear from the tree canopies. Sometimes it is just a sound of something falling to the ground. This might be a large chunk of bark which a kaka rips off the trunk and then has no more use for it.
The kaka is of the size of the kea, just more colourful (if you forget the orange undersides of the kea's wings for a moment...). He has a greyish white head, a yellow dot beside the eye and rust-red cheeks, also his belly is of this colour, and the wings are brownish-green.
If you walk to higher altitudes you see more and more small birds. The territorial tomtits check who walks into their bush, and the bush robins nearly land on your hand or hat. You hear the beeping of the fantails from afar.
one of the most frequented places in the South Island....known for great Beaches,hiking the Abel Tasman Track.....and no worries about the weather.
an enchanting, beautiful place.....not always tranquile, a lot of Kiwis choose the place for there own Holidays..but hey, I always say..mingle with the locals.
the website belowe is terrific, with all the infos you need, and an Accommotation to boot
After I had seen a photo of Split Apple Rock I absolutely wanted to see this obviously huge rock. On the photos and postcards you see a man in the V-shaped gap of this apple-shaped rock broken in two pieces. I expected a huuuuuuge rock-sculpture.
Well, it was still a very big rock - but I admit, I had expected double size LOL Still it was impressive.
If you go on a boat trip from Kaiteriteri which takes longer than two hours - normally a guided tour including kayaking and/or walking, and also the sightseeing tours on bigger vessels - the first stop is at Split Apple Rock, and when the tour of the rock is done and everybody has taken his photos the trips continues. When I spent an hour on the beach there, about every five minutes a boat arrived, two kayak parties not included, and this was in the off-season in early November.
You see those split rocks - just in other shapes and sizes - everywhere along the coastline, with rocky outcrops, a lot of caves, and also a good number of islands off the shore.
Strictly seen Kaiteriteri does not belong to the Abel Tasman National Park, and Split Apple Rock either. It just starts at the northern end of Marahau. But sure, the geology is the same.
The foreshore with many nooks and crannies is mostly made up of soft granite, but also of scattered limestone and marble, and this is easily eroded by the waves of the sea and the wind. This gives the granite cliffs a sculptured look, and the rocks break up, split up, and boulders lie around everywhere. You also find a lot of rocks on the sea floor, so you really have to pay attention when paddling, so you do not get stuck on wide rocks.
The other phenonemon that occurs by the constant movement of the waves is that little particles are shaved off the rocks, and this gifts the area its spectacular reddisch-golden sandy beaches. Those are circular-shaped thanks to the strong eastern winds.
Photo 2 shows a tour boat at the Split Apple Rock, ...
photo 3 a boat leaving...
photo 4 a cave on the beach.
Tonga Island is the breeding island of the seals off the coast of the Abel Tasman National Park. The beaches of this island are made up of steep boulders with crevices and tidal pools where you can spot a lot of seals at certain times of the year. But also on the rocky parts of the other islands off the coast - like Adele and Fisherman Island - you will see seals almost certainly, mainly non-breeding males. On my last tour in November (2007) they were everywhere. Lying in the sun, swimming, playing.
The seal tours are from Nov to May.
The best time to swim with seals - if you dare, I don't - is Feb to May. If the animals - normally pups - interact with you totally depends on their mood, the tide, waves, water visibility, and feeding patterns. The higher the tides, the more lively the encounters. Pups sometimes climb onto kayaks - and obviously do not bite LOL The ones we met on our kayak tour seemed very friendly.
I hope they keep their relaxed approach to swimming with seals. If there is too much activity the seals could get stressed and aggressive. In our "seal capital" Kaikoura I spoke with some people, and they said the first biting incidents have already happened, and they were not part of playful encounters.
On Tonga Island, the bulls establish or maintain their territories, fight, mate and depart between late Oct and Jan. During this 6 to 10 week period they do not eat or drink. The cows arrive in late Nov, give birth by early Jan (a single pup conceived the year before), and feed their pups. About 8 days later they mate. The pups are weaned in July/Aug. Then the pregnant female goes out to sea to fatten again. The pups swim out to sea and come back to shore occasionally.
The seal cows can suspend the embryo's growth for about 2 to 4 months after fertilisation. Only then it emplants in the mother's uterus and development starts. This is very practical, as it enables the female to give birth and mate during the same period ashore. Gestation is about nine months. Fascinating!
Aqua Taxi ride (45 mins) and seal swim (1 hr) cost $ 149 (as Nov. 2007), departure times from Kaiteriteri and Marahau vary. Wetsuits provided.
Seal Watch only comes to $ 70.
Different in every part you will enjoy the fantastic scenery of the New Zealand native rainforest with huge fern trees, pass a real suspension bridge or have to walk over the beaches of golden sand and will have to cross some inlets (ask for the tides).
The track runs for 50 km from Marahau along some lovely beaches like Torrent Bay, Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay and further north.
Along the track you will find camping sites.
It is a great walk through native bush and along lovely golden beaches. With the frequently running 'water taxis' it is also possible to walk a part of the track.
Although the smallest of all national parks in New Zealand, it has a lot to offer.
Most famous is the Coast Track (total 50 km). This track runs from Marahau along some beaches to Awaroa Bay (with lodge) and further north.
You can hike along this beautiful track for more days (along the track you will find camping areas) or just do a part.
We took a “water taxi” from Kaiteriteri ( it is also possible from Marahau), disembarked on one of the beaches, walked along the track, enjoyed the golden beaches and picked up your "taxi" on another beach and returned to Kaiteriteri.
Or just take a "taxi" to one of the golden beaches and enjoy the sun, the beach and the water.
Finally you can hire mountainbikes and go on freedom or guided trips in Marahau and bike in the Abel Tasman National Park. I had considered hiring a bike for biking in the Motueka area but got lured off this activity by the offer of a kayak trip and the walk to Split Apple Rock... I will try again next time ;-)
But I can already say now that I would only hire a bike ($45 half day, $65 full day). The guided tours are just too expensive for my taste. For example, it costs $145 to get you 1000 metres up Takaka Hill from the base of the company in Marahau, and then your downhill and cross-country tour starts. It takes 4 to 5 hours and leads over the Rameka Track which is high on the to-do-list of Kiwis. But for someone who loves MTB on steep downhill trails and difficult terrain more than I do, it might be well worth the investment.
Other options are combined adventure tours which - apart from mountainbiking - include kayaking and/or water-taxi ($110 freedom, $210 guided, $240 with water-taxi). Biking is always on the Rameka or Marble Mountain which offers great views. You are not allowed to ride on the Coastal Track.
If you just hire the bike you get a map, so you can find the firebreak tracks on the hills between Kaiteriteri and Marahau.
Multi-day tours are also available, four example a 2-day Do-it-All experience for $385.
The company is part of MSK Kayaking, also has the same phone numbers.
You can also have a great view of Split Apple Rock for free - by walking down to the beach.
At low tide you could access the beach from Kaiteriteri by climbing over the rocks of two bays. But I would not really recommend this.
Although the rock is closer to Marahau you do not reach it on foot from there as you would have to cross the tidal mudflats at low tide - which is really, really dangerous.
So... You have to drive on the coastal road from Kaiteriteri to Marahau, up and down and again up the hill until you see a simple sign to Tokongawa Drive. Correctly it would be spelled Toko Ngawa Drive - named after the bay it leads to. (The G in Ngawa is not pronounced.)
You follow this Toko Ngawa Drive to a carpark. Split Apple Rock is signposted only after the first turn from the main road.
Then a downhill track over steep staircases and boardwalks through native forest with a lot of tree ferns takes you down to the beach. The walk takes about 15 minutes, and it is accompanied by the calls of tuis who especially in spring get crazy because all their favourite trees are blooming, so they can feed on the nectar.
I only had a lift to the turn of Toko Ngawa Drive and walked 30 minutes to the track carpark. In November it was wonderful, as the whole road is seamed by all kinds of manuka shrubs and trees, blooming white and pink, and all the shades between, and the tuis were everywhere. From this road I also had fantastic views over to Marahau, first seemingly surrounded by dry land at low tide, and two hours later, on my way back, it was surrounded by the returning sea water.
I absolutely cannot recommend to walk on the main road between Kaiteriteri and Marahau. The road is narrow and winding, and rather many trucks and many vans use it. There is no millimetre of space for pedestrians. You would risk your life by walking there. Also on Toko Ngawa Drive you will have the odd truck as they have some building sites on the hillside but you hear them approaching, and you can quickly make a step into the shrubs ;-)
Click here for Part 1
Depending on how many water taxi rides are included, the prices for the trips vary a lot. The cheapest option for a guided tour is the Split Apple Classic half-day tour ($80) which does not require any water-taxi ride. You will see and stop at this famous apple-shaped split rock near a beach between Kaiteriteri and Marahau on every trip, be it from the kayak or the water-taxi. The most expensive one-day option is the One Day Soul Food for $250. This includes two water-taxi rides and leads up to Mutton Cove in the very north of the Abel Tasman National Park.
On most tours you will see seals, land on those circular-shaped red-golden beaches, have tea, milo or coffee with FROTHED milk!
I did the One Day Royale with Cheese ($165). Due to the wind the trip started by water-taxi in Kaiteriteri, past the Split Apple Rock, we had stops for watching seals on the small islands off the coast. Paddling started at Bark Bay. We had a snack and coffee stop at Te Pukatea Bay. There we also made a walk through beautiful native forest up to a great lookout. Then we continued past Adele Island, and landed on Fisherman Island for lunch, and finally paddled back to Kaiteriteri. As the wind was not very strong we could not set sail. So in total our six-hour trip required five hours paddling. One not very fit lady had to be taxi-paddled by one of the guides, the other one had to tow a couple which had lost motivation... ;-) So the group did not suffer from the lack of fitness or other imponderabilities. They are rather flexible with seat and boat swapping, and if really someone cannot make it they call a water taxi. So once more: Talk to the people when booking!
Freedom rentals cost $45 to 55 for 2 to 4 hours.
Other option are multi-day tours, which can be flexibly combined with water taxi, paddling and walking. Do not expect a guide ON the walking leg - there will only be someone who picks you up and drops you off at your lonesome tent LOL
Finally I went on a kayak trip in the Abel Tasman National Park. And as a super-athlete in athletics I thought I should go on a full-day kayaking trip - which somehow was the wrong decision as I normally do not paddle during the year although I once learnt it on the Danube. Although it was a great day out on the water five hours paddling was obviously too much for my right hand which gets permanently stressed by garden work, weightlifting in the gym, discus throwing and shot-putting, endless typing... To make it short: Although I did not feel the slightest muscular pain (while other participants of the trip could not lift their arms the next day) I got a very bad tendinitis, and was out of service (kitchen, cleaning, gardening LOL) for quite a while.
So choose wise what you do - as there are endless possibilities about kayaking in this wonderful region.
First of all, you can choose from half- and full-day tours, with lots and just some paddling. You can also rent a kayak and decide for yourself how far you will go. (And never forget - you also have to get back to the base LOL)
I suggest you start the kayak tours in Kaiteriteri as there you can start right from the beach whereas the dramatically changing tides in Marahau make some improvisation necessary. Also the water-taxi rides in Kaiteriteri start right on the beach whereas in Marahau first you are transported from the base to the beach, and often - already sitting in the boat - by tractor to the water. All this costs time.
Also the same tours are never the same, depending on the wind. Sometimes you start a kayak trip by water-taxi, sometimes the same trip starts by paddling and ends by water-taxi, and if the wind is right they pull the kayaks together and set a sail, and you do not need to paddle at all for some time.
Click here for Part 2.
Marahau is not just a great place to start a walk on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, take a water taxi or make a tour in a sea-kayak. It is also wonderful for birdwatching.
If you leave the township towards the Coastal Track, just at the carpark, do not walk along the road but on the boardwalks through the wetlands, and over the beach at the start of low tide, you will spot a lot of sea, shore and wading birds, not just seagulls which you find everywhere in New Zealand. There are a lot of shags, pukekos, wekas and other rails, as well as white-faced herons, banded dotterels, white-fronted terns and many others.
Already a lot of work has been done in the re-establishment of a wetland habitat for native fish and birds to provide a diversity of breeding sites and feeding areas. The project began in 1996 with local initiative, money and labour. A piece of Crown land by the Marahau Road was an unappealing, neglected section covered in thick gorse two metres high. Now - thanks to the people of Marahau - it is an attractive reserve featuring a wide variety of native flora and fauna. On information panels you can see which birds nest and come to the shores, so you recognise them more easily when you come to spot them.
Somewhere I read that New Zealand has lost 90 per cent of its wetlands through development, and in the Tasman District only two per cent remained. So this project is a fantastic effort and a great success at exactly the right spot.
On the Coastal Walkway you find mainly birds of the forest, especially bellbirds, tuis, fantails and silvereyes, but also all kinds of finches and other introduced species.
Check the tides before your search for birds. At high tide you will not see a lot of them. They come to the shore to feed at low tide.
Although you are not alone on this rather easy walk in the Abel Tasman National Park - one of NZ's Great Walks - you are in totally peaceful surroundings because there is no car access. The only noise you hear is the song of tuis, bellbirds and silvereyes. You can walk the whole Coastal Track in two to five days or just get out for a great day walk.
The latter starts with a water taxi trip from Kaiteriteri or Marahau. The boats take you to any major beach, you walk from beach to beach, up and downhill through manuka and kanuka ("tea tree") forests, past lots of tree ferns, especially silver ferns, over swing bridges and rocks, and after some hours or at the end of the day they pick you up where you had told them to. You must plan your walk carefully because some beaches can only be crossed at low tide, or need big detours at high tide.
The path on the red soil is narrow, sometimes you have to stop for oncoming trampers. On a sunny day the views are breathtaking, a symphony of colours, and to be honest: I would only do this walk on a nice day because without those colours it would not even be half the magic. The water varies from turquoise green to ultramarine blue, the light blue mountains on the horizon, the beaches from orange golden to ochre and white, the bright green of the tree ferns is striking and the greyish green of the manuka relaxing. The tides paint wonderful pictures into the sand. The walk will take much longer than noted in the maps because you sit in the sun, swim, photograph...
There are several companies which offer water taxi trips. On the multi day tours you can stay on the campgrounds and huts along the track. There is also the not so popular Inland Track from Marahau to Totaranui (3 to 5 days) which is more strenuous. Totaranui is the only place north of Marahau you can reach by car. You can also hire a kayak and paddle along the coast, the water taxis transport the kayaks.
A nice bonus is a water taxi tour past the seal colony on Tonga Island. On the way back we even saw three orcas.
Although not really spectacular, the grey-coloured modern Christ Church Cathedral dominates the sunny and relaxed town of Nelson, as it sits on a hill above the harbour and the town, right at the end of the main shopping street (Trafalgar St). There you have lots of restaurants and cafés with outdoor seating areas and the nice view.
In the warm season the streets are lined with spectacular hanging baskets, filled with begonias.
There are lots of colourful historic houses along the streets which give the town a very cosy atmosphere. The parks and gardens are very beautiful, especially the Victorian Queens Gardens, next to the small arts museum The Suter. Those gardens have established trees and palm trees, and a nice duck pond.
You get around the main attractions rather quickly. Just walk around the blocks of Trafalgar, Bridge (The Suter, Queens Gardens), Hardy and Rutherford Streets. There the next right leads to Montgomery Square and a Saturday morning market.
Nelson's biggest asset, the World of Wearable Art Awards Show, has been shifted to Wellington in the meantime but the Museum of Wearable Art (and Classic Cars) is still in Nelson (95 Quarantine Road, www.worldofwearableart.com). Apart from that there are still many festivals in the city, like the arts, jazz and seafood festivals.
Of course, another big thing are the beaches, especially beautiful Tahunanui Beach. I remember that I found it a lot more impressive on my first visit in 1991, as it was rather empty, and the last time we were there it was absolutely crowded, and I found the views to the docks and industrial plants a loss less attractive than then. The sand is still very nice but clearly it is a very busy beach, and a water fun centre attracts even more people.
Between Tahunanui Beach and the city you find a lot of great seafood restaurants including the famous Boat Shed Café.
The region has more (international) artists than any other region in NZ, so it is a good place for purchasing pieces of art.
---- Part 2 under "Directions" ----
As mentioned in the tip about birdwatching in the beech forests of the Nature Recovery Project on the shores of Lake Rotoiti, the honeydew forests play a big role in the survival of endemic and native birds, especially the honeyeaters which first and foremost are the bellbird (korimako) and the tui.
They heavily depend on the honeydew droplets in those forests as they are nectar-feeding birds, and there are not a lot of flowering trees in the area, just some fuchsia trees which they love a lot.
When you do not know anything about honeydew you might think the many charcoal-black tree trunks would have burnt at some point but this is absolutely not the case. The blackened trunks and branches of most of the red and mountain beech trees in this forest are brought up by a small scale insect that buries itself within the bark of the tree. It feeds on the sugar-rich sapwood of the tree and excretes any excess sugar surplus - the honeydew - out through an ana1 tube. This sticky stuff produced by the scale insect coats the trunks, and on it thrives the black, sooty mould that forms another coat on the trunks.
After trying to keep the 5000 hectares of the Rotoiti Nature Recovery area on the slopes of the St. Arnaud Range predator-free by trapping and poisoning possums, weasels, ferrets, stoats, rat and mice the biggest threat to the honeyeathers are the wasps which are still buzzing through the forests although their nests are destroyed. The dominant African wasps build huge nests right on the trunks, so those can be spotted rather easily. They have outcompeted the German wasps which had their nests under the ground. The worst months with wasps are from December until April.
If you discover an active wasp nest inform the DOC rangers.
Although Golden Bay is a remote area as it has road access only from one side, and this is over a nearly endless hill (Takaka Hill) which reaches 792m, it is a favourite holiday destination. If you are there you do not wonder why. The red-golden beaches are spectacular.
North-west of the lovely dairying town of Takaka, also known for its beautiful marble, is the Farewell Spit, a 35km long slender sandbar that curves eastward and partially enclose the waters of Golden Bay. A great place for birdwatching. Unfortunately nearly every year whales get stranded there, as there is no obvious escape way. It starts north of the town of Collingwood which is about 30kms from Takaka. Good map on http://www.treasuredpathway.co.nz/takaka.html
Only 5 km west of Takaka are the Pupu Springs, one of the largest and purest springs in the world, with a daily outflow of about 2.16 billion litres. The water is incredibly clear, and to keep those springs, correct name: Te Waikoropupu (Bubbling Waters), as clear you should not swim in them as some tourists do. The risk is high as NZ has a problem with the algae didymo already spreading in the rivers of the area.
The drive east to Totaranui (40kms one way) is spectacular. It is the only road access to Abel Tasman National Park, and the last kilometres seem very long as they are on a gravel road that leads up and downhill through wonderful native bush.
The golden beaches of Pohara, Tata and Totaranui are magnificent. You should stop for a walk to the Wainui Falls. The walk leads through native bush and over a small swingbridge to the falls which are quite impressive although they are not the biggest falls in the world ;-)
At Totaranui is a campsite, and the weathered grey limestone outcrops and rocks form a dramatic contrast with the red-golden beach. From Totaranui you can walk to Whariwharangi Bay (2hrs one way), at Separation Point is a seal colony, or walk further south on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.
Steer clear if you expect clean, ironed sheets. On turning bed down, we found un-ironed, and...more
The Alpine Lodge is hard to miss in St. Arnaud - the fact that it is the only Hotel there may have...more
30 Fairfax Street, Murchison, 7007, New Zealand