Kapiti Island

Nov 7, 2015

This morning we were off for an overnight trip to Kapiti Island, a conservation reserve just off the coast. It’s one of New Zealand’s oldest reserves and was once the only place where Little Spotted Kiwi survived. At 7 am Rosemary phoned the company to confirm our departure time, and they said it would be 9 am. Since the departure point was literally just across the street, we didn’t have to rush. We packed our overnight bags for the island and stashed the rest of our gear in the car. We were also lucky that the hostel manager said we could leave our car on the grass in front of the hostel.

The check-in procedure was much more informal then we had been led to believe, and once it was done we walked down to the beach. The launch facility was also very informal; the beach at Paraparaumu extends far out into the water, so there are no docks. Instead, the boat sits in a cradle on wheels. When it’s ready to go a tractor pushes the cradle out into the water until the boat floats out of the cradle. While we were getting ready to go we watched a car trying the same thing, but the car’s wheels got stuck in the sand before its boat could float off! The driver spun the wheels but nothing happened. But this sort of thing must happen regularly, because within minutes somebody had arrived to tow the unfortunate car back out of the water.

Boat-launching system

Boat-launching system

The trip to the island took about half an hour, arriving at the midpoint of the island. We disembarked on a shingle beach via a landing ramp; no docks here either. There were about a dozen of us on board and we were met by a ranger named Matthew, who gave us a short talk about the island. After that we set out on our hike to the summit. Matthew had suggested that we climb up the Trig trail, which is steeper, and return via the Wilkinson trail, so we followed that advice.

Native forest

Native forest

We were walking through native forest, as we had been on Tiritiri Matangi, but this forest was older and taller, so it was harder to see the birds. We’d heard that the near-mythical Kokako was present, and we looked for it but we didn’t see or hear it. By the time we reached the summit, at 521 meters above sea level, it was lunchtime. So we sat at a picnic table which was sheltered from the wind. Shortly after we sat down a Weka came to visit, hoping for lunch handouts. It was very friendly and wandered around our feet while we ate. (The Weka is a bird in the rail family, but unlike many other rails it doesn’t hide in swamps.)

Weka

Weka

We headed back down the Wilkinson trail, arriving back at the base around 2 pm. We looked at the visitor centre’s exhibits more closely and then went out to walk along the lower trails in what was called Rangatira Flats. We saw numerous Wekas and also saw some of the Takahes which lived in the area.

North Island Robin

North Island Robin

Our boat returned at 3:30 pm to take us up to the north end of the island, where we would spend the night. This trip took about 15 minutes, and upon arrival we were guided up to the lodge, where we were given tea and cookies and shown around the area. The lodge is located on private land, an area which historically belonged to one family, descendants of the original settlers. When the Department of Conservation took over the island as a sanctuary, this area remained in private hands.

Kapiti Island Lodge

Kapiti Island Lodge

We were assigned to a room in a large cabin behind the lodge; our room had enough beds for five people and it looked out onto a large grassy area. Once settled in we spent the rest of the afternoon watching birds and chatting with our neighbours. At 6 pm we went over to the lodge for wine and cheese, and dinner was at 7 pm. The food was very tasty, starting with a tomato vegetable soup which was followed by fish, lamb, veggies, and salad. Dessert was bread pudding with fresh strawberries and cream.

Red-crowned Parakeet

Red-crowned Parakeet

About half of the guests were locals and the other half were tourists from far way. One of the locals was a student from Palmerston North, and he was planning to go to university in Saskatoon to study evolution of red squirrels in the boreal forest. So we talked to him for quite a while discussing what life in Saskatoon might be like.

New Zealand Pigeon

New Zealand Pigeon

At 9:30 pm it was time to go out and look for kiwis, which are very common on Kapiti Island. Our host Manaaki gave us a brief talk about kiwis, and then we all went out with him and Matthew to hopefully find one. Most of the evening was spent standing in the dark listening to rustling sounds in the grass and bushes. A few of the group were lucky to see a kiwi run quickly across the path, but we weren’t close enough to see it. We then walked along a trail in the dark to hopefully find another kiwi. No success, but we did see a gecko and a weka, which is a strange-looking insect. Back at the cabins again we said our goodnights and headed to bed.

Nov 8, 2015

We had a good breakfast—basically the Full English, buffet style, and then went back to our little room to pack up. There were no scheduled activities today so we had the rest of the day to walk on the trails in this part of the island.

Second-growth forest

Second-growth forest

We left our packs in the office and then went out to walk to the north-end lookout. The trails in this area are not particularly long or steep, so it was quite enjoyable walking on them. We passed by a lagoon where we saw a pair of Black Swans with about six or eight chicks before reaching a boulder-covered beach at the north end of the island. The trail continued uphill through grasslands and second-growth forest, which made it quite different to yesterday’s hike. From the lookout we could see back to the mainland, although the weather was overcast.

Whitehead

Whitehead

Kaka

Kaka

The whole trail took about an hour and half to complete, and back at the lodge we had tea and biscuits. Lunch was served at 1 pm, a very good spread, and then at about 2:30 pm Matthew led us on a walk into the restricted area so we could see the Royal Spoonbills. The area was full of Black-backed (Kelp) Gulls on their nests, and some of them were not too happy at having us walk past them! But luckily they don’t attack intruders like some terns do.

Royal Spoonbill colony

Royal Spoonbill colony

By the time we finished the walk it was time for the boat to arrive and take us back to the mainland. When the boat got there the tractor pulled it all the way up into the parking lot before letting us off. We headed off towards Wellington, and it took us about 50 minutes to get there. We checked into the YHA and stashed the car in a place where in only cost $7.50 per day before going out to do some food shopping (pre-cooked roast chicken!) and settling in for the evening.

Next: Wellington