Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TiriTiri Matangi, New Zealand

20th - 21st Feb 2009

Tiri Tiri Matangi is an island off the coast of North New Zealand which, like Ulva island near Stewart Island has had all its mammalian predators removed. A regular ferry service takes day trippers there every morning and brings them back every afternoon. The ferry goes from Auckland and does a stop off near Orewa before heading to the island. I decided to stay in a small hostel in Orewa so I did not have to go all the way down to Auckland.

The place was called Marco Polo backpackers and I booked it ahead of my arrival for 2 nights so I could go to the island and return the following evening. I don't think I have been in a more boring hostel in all the time I have been travelling! Not only was the place too far out of town to walk to any bars (I should have read the small print!) but it also had no TV and no Internet for guests. Also, the only other people staying there all spoke German.

I had the foresight to buy some beers from a supermarket in town, so after I made my usual 'can of meat with microwave rice gourmet meal' in the kitchen, I sat around reading and drinking to while away the night. It turned out that most of the 'Germans' were in fact Swiss except one German woman who joined me in the Kitchen so she could practise her English. She was very annoyed with the Swiss and said that she did not come half way round the world to speak German! Having had the 'pleasure' of working with Swiss people in the past I was not too perturbed about them not including me in their conversation - they were probably discussing how to put together a cuckoo clock anyway.

I got up early the next day and drove to the ferry port which took about 20 minutes. There was already a large group of people waiting for the boat to arrive from Auckland - including a large group of youngsters (bugger!).

Once on the ferry I bought a map/guide pamphlet from one of the several volunteers who were accompanying us on the trip. Before we were allowed off the boat onto the island we were given instructions on what to do once we landed - obviously no mammals were allowed on the trip - including dogs.

Once we landed everyone was allowed to go their own way to look at the birds or simply to go bathing in the bay on the far side of the island. It would be over 5 hours before the ferry returned to take us back so I brought plenty of water and a packed lunch to ward off any hunger pains while I walked round the island (there was no where to get food).

For the first 20 minutes everyone was bunched up together as they walked the marked paths that crisscrossed the island. I hung back so I could get to walk around by myself.

For the next 5 hours I did a leisurely walk around the island admiring the scenery and getting really good views of some of the protected birds. Most of the birds such as the Saddleback I had already seen on Ulva island but there was one bird in particular I had come to see on this island - the Takahe.

Featured Animal - The Takahe

If I had to pick one animal I really wanted to see for each country I had been to on my travels I would say the Great White Shark for South Africa; the Tasmanian Devil for Australia and the Takahe for New Zealand. This flightless bird was thought to be extinct until some where found up in the Murchison Mountains on the South island in 1948. Some of those birds have been trans located to some off shore islands including Tiri Titi Matangi where there is now 13 birds.

I thought that finding one would be hard to do but how wrong was I. About 30 minutes in to my walk I was trying (unsuccessfully) to photograph a bellbird when I heard some rustling behind me. I turned to see a takahe walking out onto the path behind me. I couldn't believe my eyes. I was able to follow it as it walked comically within several feet of me. It was a wonderful experience.

As I continued my walk round the island I got an even better view of a pair of them feeding:

Red Crested Parakeet

Bellbird I managed to get a photo off

A branch or rather a Stitchbird which buggered off before I got a photo!

A shag on the shore (oh! err!)

I finished my walk round the island at the coffee shop near the lighthouse with just enough time to take a quick walk round the gift shop. I almost bought a cuddly Takahe to keep DM and Taz company but decided that 3 was a crowd and they would only start fighting amongst themselves (I think a bit of therapy might have been in order at this stage!)

On my way back down to the ferry pier I managed to see one other very rare bird - the North Island KokaKo (sounds like baby talk!) bringing an end to a very satisfactory outing.

A sort of photo of a Kokako!

After the ferry dropped me off I was in no hurray to get back to the hostel so decided to do a bit of a tour round Orewa looking for an Internet point and some food. In the end I did not find any Internet and ended up getting more supermarket food for cooking in the hostel.

That night most of the Swiss and the German girl had gone. In their place were two middle aged American couples who, judging from their complaining, should have been at hotels rather than hostels. I think I would rather have had the Swiss back!

I had an early night and in the morning quickly packed and left to go to Auckland.

Here's a link to the Tiri Tiri Matangi Site.

Animals I have seen

I spent about 20 minutes at a pond trying to get a glimpse of another endangered bird - the Brown Teal after meeting a guy who had just seen one but had to give up - bloody duck!

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