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Aroha Island

By juliesams, 12/05/2010 - 08:41

Aroha Island is going to be another happy place logged in my memory under the 'rose-tinted' section. Aroha Island does translate as Love Island afterall. But this is not the reason for the rose-tinted glasses in this case.

We were now on wind-down time when I picked out Aroha Island as a potential overnight stay. We were looking for somewhere to relax in a picturesque setting, so we thought we'd wander over and check the camping site out. I had also read about the island's attached Ecological Centre and it's commitment to conservation, especially for the endangered brown kiwi, New Zealand's national icon.

After settling in, we went to have a look around the centre and to meet the managers, who had previously been tied up in their AGM when we arrived. The volunteers were a retired English couple who spent 6 months of the year in the UK and 6 months in New Zealand, thus enjoying a year of Springs and Summers. Sounded like a great idea to us, so we wrote it in our book of "Things We'd Like To Do".

We learned more about the kiwis that lived on their island, and how it was possible to sometimes see them after dark if you were lucky. After 7 weeks in New Zealand, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally see a kiwi in the wild. The managers could not have been more helpful in our quest. They gave us a map of the island, showed us where the frequent sightings had been, and leant us a red-filter flash torch to use for our very own independent kiwi spotting walk that night.

At 9pm it was dark, Mark and I set out with the map and torch. It was a still night with no moonlight - apparently good conditions for kiwi spotting because if the wind carries the smell of humans to the shy kiwis they will run away; and without the moonlight it is darker for the kiwis which they prefer, being nocturnal.

Night vision served us well on this mission - good job we'd been eating our carrots. Though most importantly good hearing was required to listen out for rustling in the leaves and vegetation of the foraging kiwis. It was like a stakeout - I was in my element.

Kiwi statue in Queenstown, South IslandDid I mention that a lot of patience is required too? After one full circuit of the island, we had spotted zilch. We had heard a kiwi call, but that was about all. Not giving up that easily, we set off on a second circuit. As our reward for our patience and persistence, the rustling started and kiwis began to appear. In five separate sightings, we saw three adults and two chicks. All as bold as brass and not in the least bit scared off by us so we must have been doing something right! I admit it was pretty difficult to keep quiet though because I was so excited at having finally seen wild kiwis.

After all the excitment and action it was midnight by the time we got back to our campervan. I was on a kiwi induced high by now and wanted to go on a third circuit, but Mark insisted we quit whilst we were ahead! I coudn't sleep that night because my ears were still tuned in to the nocturnal sounds outside, listening for more foraging kiwis.