As an author of five (nearly 6) books about couples who fall in love on an island at the bottom of New Zealand, it may surprise you to know I’ve mixed feelings about islands. It’s weighted more toward love (hence, 6 books with more on the way!) but the not-so-keen part is there. You see, to get to an island (unless it’s a big island like Stewart Island in the Due South series which has an airstrip) you have to travel there via boat. And like Piper in IN TOO DEEP, I get major-league seasickness.
So great idea of mine, huh? Booking DH and I an overnight trip to Kapiti Island (about an hour or so North of Wellington the capital city) to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive Little Spotted Kiwi in its natural habitat. True to form, we had a beautiful Kapiti day on the morning we left, but the sea between the mainland and the island? Uh-oh. Lots of whitecaps. And it was not a pleasant twenty minute trip for me with the little ferry/water taxi roiling and rolling and lurching and oh God… Yeah. And having a poor kid puking halfway there didn’t help either!
Anyhoo…I made it there without tossing my cookies and Kapiti Island is just beautiful. Unspoiled, wild, and just rife with birdlife. OMG, the birds. For many years I lived in New Zealand’s Far North surrounded by native bush (where the FAR NORTH series is set!) but I’ve never heard bird sound like on Kapiti. Mainly because Kapiti is a Department Of Conservation protected bird sanctuary, so there are no nasty predators to kill the birds/bird’s eggs. All the different calls were just so fascinating to listen to as we walked around a teeny bit of the island. Some brave souls made it to the top—not me I’m afraid—but we still got some amazing views.
Later, while the remaining 12 people were down on the beach waiting for the ferry, DH and I found a quiet picnic table to rest and saw our first Takahe. They are a critically endangered bird, so we felt very privileged to observe it pecking away in the long grass.
The ferry transported us further along the island where we were going to spend the night and most of the next day. Kapiti Island Nature Tours is run by a Maori whanau (family) whose ancestors have been living there since the 1820’s. Their claim of genuine Maori hospitality on their website is well earned – we were welcomed like part of their extended whanau and were extremely well cared for.
After being shown to our accommodation – perhaps the cutest little cabin ever, we had nibbles and drinks on the lodge’s deck and were introduced to some of the island’s shadier occupants. The Kaka. I confess, when writing about BirdBrain the Kaka in READY TO BURN I hadn’t actually ever seen a real Kaka before, just researched them. But claims that they are the feathered gang members of the bird world are not wrong.
They are incredibly adorable, but oh, so naughty! As soon as someone left the inside of the lodge and went out onto the deck, beware if they had food in their hand. Even though our lovely guides warned us about these cheeky parrots, our group of 14 overnighters still managed to lose a substantial amount of cookies/crackers to the Kaka. They would swoop down from the trees and land on your shoulder, and BAM! Your cookie/cracker was gone. Sometimes they would tag team with other Kakas playing Look at me do my cute Kaka drunken-wobbly-walk while his mate would dart in from the other side and BAM! Lost cookie/cracker. Not to mention them sneaking into the lodge if someone left a door/window open, creeping around like feathered cat burglars and getting into the fruit bowl or whatever else they could find.
But the highlight of the evening had to be the night walk we went on to try and catch a glimpse of Kiwi. With over 1200 Kiwi on Kapiti Island, you’d think this wouldn’t be hard, right? Not so much! We split our group of 14 in half and two guides took us out. With an amazing star studded sky above and the sounds of Morepork, Weka (another very cheeky thief of a bird) and other birds I couldn’t identify, our group moved ninja-quiet through the bush. Kiwi are very shy, so we had to keep the torches to a minimum, and speak in whispers, if at all. After about 20 minutes walking our guide identified the call of a male Kiwi nearby, and tracked the sounds to the edge of a path where we finally caught a quick glimpse of a chubby kiwi poking his long nose into the undergrowth. Once Mr. Kiwi discovered he had company that wasn’t of the desirable female Kiwi kind, he scampered/waddled off along the path leaving us with a nice, retreating view of Kiwi butt.
Fortunately, the ferry ride back to the mainland wasn’t quite so rough the next day. We had an amazing night away and if you’re coming to the lower North Island of New Zealand, I highly recommend this tour of Kapiti Island. Here’s their website: Kapiti Island Nature Tours