We just completed our third campervan trip around New Zealand and Kapiti Island was definitely one of the highlights of this trip. Its unique and rich diversity of birdlife makes it one of the best places we have been to for birdwatching and add to that native bush and stunning sea views – you can easily see why we found this nature reserve so special!
On this trip we drove from Auckland, North Island down to Wellington and then took a ferry to South Island where we flew back from Christchurch. Kapiti Island is located 5km off the west coast of the southern part of North Island, and within one hours drive to the capital city Wellington. The entire island is 10km long and around 2km wide and covers an area of 1,965 hectares.
You can only get to this island through a chartered boat trip but once you are on the island, you can explore on your own for the six hours that you are there. After a short ferry ride to the island Paraparaumu Beach , the guide led us to the visitor centre and gave a brief talk – about the different walks you can do and also about the fascinating history of how Kapiti Island came to be a nature reserve, how it saved so many birds that have become extinct on the mainland and about the Maori tribes that inhabited the island.
We did part of the Wilkinson Track, which is a 4 hour return, 3.8k one way, and most of it a steep climb up to Tuteremoana, the highest point on Kapiti Island – 521 m above sea level. The views were just absolutely stunning. We had to stop every few minutes to enjoy the beautiful seascape and I don’t think we have seen so many birds in our time in New Zealand as we had on this island!
We had a funny (bit scary) experience with the infamous Kaka – a very inquisitive and fearless bird! We were told by the guide that the kakas are very friendly and can be aggressive when it comes to taking food from you. It has been known to land on your bag pack, unzip the bag and take your food.
We had climbed one third of the way up and had stopped at the Hihi feeding station to have a little snack. We were admiring the many Hihi birds around the feeders when we heard a shriek from a distance further up the trail. I immediately knew it must be the kaka landing on someone and I instinctively dropped my bag pack as I didn’t want it landing on my shoulder. Within minutes the kaka arrived! I have never seen such a fearless bird. It flew onto our table, tried pecking on our bird book and then spotting my son’s half-finished apple in his hand, flew towards him. My son immediately fell to the ground and dropped his apple which is exactly what the kaka wanted 🙂 My daughter and I moved as far as we could from the boys and the kaka (so much for the protective motherly instinct in me!)
The Kaka then spotted Ashique’s camera harness strap and mistaking it for a bag pack flew onto his shoulder and was trying to open it hoping to get more food. I only stopped to take a few pictures and then ran as the kaka lost interest in Ashique and flew over our heads and landed on the tree in front of us, cocking its head and eyeing to see if we had anything of interest. It was quite the experience and we now enjoy a good laugh when we tell people the story of how ridiculously we acted (except for Ashique who kept his cool as the kaka perched around on his shoulder.)
Some general useful information to know before you go:
Cost for a day trip is $75 per adult on the ferry. Facilities there are very basic. There are a few toilets and a water fountain to fill up on drinking water. You have to bring your own food. The boat drops you off at 930 and picks you up again around 3pm.
We enjoyed our lunch at the visitor centre and then went for a swim on the beach. Whilst waiting for our boat to pick us up from near the visitor centre, we saw few more birds – the Keruru and the Weta. This place is really a birding paradise and even if you are not into birdwatching, you can still have a great day out in nature, enjoy coastal walks, swim at the beach, and have a great family day out.
Samiya Selim is a marine scientist by profession and also the main writer of Selims Raasta. You can read about the Selim family adventures at Selims Raasta, and connect with her on Facebook and Pinterest.