Zealandia. An inner city sanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand

Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary is the ideal place to see New Zealand’s birds only 3k from our Parliament in the capital – Wellington. I have just bought an annual card so you can expect more blogs on this topic!

A mainland, predator-free valley it has fast become a safe place for birds and from this area, the rest of Wellington is seeing more and more of birds in our backyards.  (www.facebook.com/zealandia)

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More Zealandia bird photos here  and my list of  the top five top outdoor places to visit in Wellington

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Zealandia EcoSanctuary Wellington New Zealand

Just a few of the native birds I saw at Zealandia this morning. Free bus from downtown for visitors


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Tutukaka and Oceans Resort Hotel

Continuing on my Northland road-trip, when I headed for Tutukaka it took me longer than the books says.  The reported half an hour north-east of Whangarei maybe so,  but I was stopping to see waterfalls and great sea views!

Tutukaka is the gateway to the Poor Knights Islands marine reserve. The Islands, 25km off shore, have been rated by the famous Jacques Cousteau as one of the top-ten dive sites in the world – the water is known for its clarity and an abundance of sea life. Sea currents and visibility up to 30 metres underwater allow the diver, (or kayakers and snorkelers) to see a highly populated, rich and diverse tapestry of marine life. The world’s largest sea cave can be found here, a record claim lodged with the Guinness Book of Records. It is an amazing 7,900,000 cubic feet with over a hectare of sea surface area inside the cave itself. (More of these islands and photos in my next blog)

Right on the edge of the Tutukaka Marina is Oceans Resort Hotel and is where I stayed overnight.  I was told that “with a myriad of water-based activities on your doorstep, fabulous beaches and a lush subtropical climate you will feel as though you have escaped to paradise” and I agree. It’s a peaceful setting and I loved wandering around the water front both in the evening and then again in the morning.

Interestingly, I find Oceans is owned by the local iwi (Maori tribe) Ngati Wai who have recently won two well-deserved prestigious awards. (2011 Customer Choice Awards; 2011 Best Emerging Business)

There is a relaxed kiwi-feel to the resort and it is a popular wedding and conference destination – it also has apartment’s long-term rental too. It seems the local pub that was on the site burned down in 2000 and five years later Oceans opened. As well as having a comfortable night and  good service, I also had a great breakfast which was included in the room rate.

Here are some notes I made while there:

  • Compendium says – they have alarm clocks but say they ‘strongly support the use of island time here in Tutukaka.’ (always good advice when vacationing)
  • Lots of local artists work on view and for sale – wonderful that they give space for locals free and with no commission on sales (Well done!)
  • BBQ beside pool for guests use
  • Interesting New Zealand facts in compendium incl. NZ women getting the vote in 1893; Sir Ed and Mt Everest; a kiwi invented the bungee; and that NZ has 6,000 kilometres of coastline with nowhere being more than 120ks from the coast. (translation for my USA readers – 3728 miles of coast and no one lives more than 74 miles from it)

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For more ideas of things to do in Tutukaka keep reading my blogs and of course check out Destination Northland and for a rental car see NZ Rental Cars.

And, to find out about the birds and other creatures in the area see these fabulous New Zealand books: Collins Travellers Guide, Birds of New Zealand 


photo of oyster catcher birds

Stephen Fry, a kakapo, and me

Stephen Fry and I have at least one thing in common: we have both seen the rare kakapo. I saw one at Zealandia (Wellington, NZ) while Stephen, on Codfish Island, (Whenua Hau) watched in amusement as Sirocco, poster boy for his species, attempted to mate with zoologist, and documentary-maker, Mark Carwardine. (see the YouTube clip here )

Behind 8½ kilometres of predator-proof fencing, Te Mara o Tane (the garden of Tane) this flightless visitor has many flocking to see him. One of only 129 left in the world, this fat, native nocturnal parrot is, according to Collins Travellers Guide, Birds of New Zealand is “moss green upperparts, yellowish green underparts” and is “entirely herbivorous, eats fruit, seed, nectar . . .”

Collins Birds of New Zealand

On the moonlit evening we check our bags and enter the sanctuary.  I hear kaka, tui and shags as they settle down for the night.  “Tui are usually the last to stop calling at night and the first to start in the morning’ according to one of my fellow kiwi on this night safari.

It is a privilege to see this rare bird – the heaviest parrot in the world: he was hand raised and unfortunately imprinted on humans, but which now has the advantage of making him available for tours such as this – and changing how other chicks are raised.

Enjoy my photos of this comical bird. (And, if you can, please help with its recovery)

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In this hidden, almost secret valley, kiwi are breeding only 3 kilometres from our parliament – in the heart of our Capital city, a slice of New Zealand is reverting to its pre-human state so, make sure when in New Zealand, visit the world’s first inner city pest-free environment – and it seems Stephen and I have one more thing in common .. we’ve both been to Zealandia!

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