Kapiti Island, New Zealand – January 18, 2016
If nothing else, the town’s name, Paraparaumu, is fun to say. Try saying that three times fast…Paraparaumu…Paraparaumu…Paraparaumu!
We drove to Paraparaumu to catch a boat to Kapiti Island. The boat departs from the Kapiti Boat Club. We had a little difficulty finding it due to some TomTom issues, but we finally made it to the right place.About 19 of our closest friends and we met the Kapiti Island tour operator, Kapiti Explorer, and Marine Charter, at the Kapiti Boat Club in Paraparaumu. Kapiti Island is a nature reserve, and as such, it is highly protected. One can only visit the island if one first obtains a permit. There are only three tour operators that can carry people to and from the island. As part of the tour package, the permission is included.
Before boarding, we listened to a biosecurity talk. We all self-inspected our daypacks and other items to ensure they did not include any pests or seeds of any kind. Lastly, we each brushed debris off of our shoes and walked through a disinfectant solution. The Kiwis take their nature reserves very serious, rightfully so.
The boat was on a trailer hitched to a large tractor. One of the tour operators climbed on board and lowered the ramp from the stern. Once we were all on board, the tractor drove out of the parking lot and onto the beach. The tractor turned around and backed the boat directly into the surf. The waves were only twelve to eighteen inches, pretty calm by Tasman Bay standards. Once we floated off the trailer, the skipper started the motor, turned the boat toward Kapiti Island, and we were off. The Tasman Sea was not quite smooth-as-glass, but it was darned close.
In about 25 minutes, we arrived at the island. The beach on which we were to be deposited was reasonably steep, the skipper was able to turn the boat around and back up toward the beach. When he was within a couple of meters of the shore, he lowered the ramp from the stairs, resting the far end on the beach of small stones. The stones looked like smooth river rock, about three or four inches in diameter. Stepping on the beach, Leslie and I found it difficult to walk. It would have been easier if the beach had been a sandy beach. Regardless, we made it to the top of the beach with the others in our group.
We all followed the guides to the shelter on the island. There, the man and woman shared stories and insights with us about the island. When they finished, we all went our separate ways on the many groomed trails. Leslie and I stayed on the reasonably flat Rangatira Loop. It is about a one-mile loop.
During the walk, we saw several species of birds as well as some spectacular sights. One of the first birds we saw was the ubiquitous seagull, nothing that spectacular. However, it was neat to see several seagulls and young gulls in a nursery on the beach. Another plentiful bird on the island is the Tui. The Tui is common throughout New Zealand. A popular beer brewed in New Zealand is called Tui. They feed on flower nectar, which is why we saw them feeding on the flax plants along our walk. The Kakariki is another bird that liked the flax plants. The Kakariki is a sizeable brownish parrot. The bird is vulnerable, but thankfully not endangered. We also saw one Kereru, a large New Zealand pigeon. They can measure nearly two feet from tail to beak. The Kereru because of their large beaks are the only birds to disperse some of the larger fruits in New Zealand. I thought the Variable Oystercatcher/Torea was one of the most striking birds we saw. I am sure that is due to the contrast of their orange eye and beak against the black feathers. They nested on the beach, very near the seagulls. Lastly, we saw at least two Wekas. The Weka looks somewhat like a chicken. That may be why European settlers called it a Woodhen. They reminded me of a Kiwi with a short beak.
After about two hours of walking, we found ourselves back at the shelter’s picnic tables. We dug into our daypack to retrieve our lunch. Leslie made her world-famous mountain sandwiches. The guides had warned that some species of birds might be a pest during lunch. Luckily, none of the birds bothered us.
When we finished lunch, we loaded up our rubbish and walked to the beach. It was amazing how many shells we saw, especially the paua shells. Unfortunately, since the island is a nature reserve, nothing can be taken from the island. We sat on a log and just watched the sea.
We truly felt fortunate to be on Kapiti Island. The only permanent residents on the island are the two rangers and some people that live on the far north end of the island. Other than that, it is just the handful of authorized persons that come to the island daily. It was a unique feeling to be on such a pristine island that used to be a Maori stronghold.
About an hour later, we moved to some logs near where we landed. We sat there to wait for the return boat. The seating was on the edge of a seagull rookery, so it was noisy. Ultimately, two rangers joined us. We talked with them about their experiences on the island. It was interesting.
The boat for our return arrived at about 15:00.
Our trip back to Paraparaumu was a little more exciting than the morning trip to Kapiti Island. The sea was considerably choppier. I estimate the swells were as high as four feet at times. The swells tossed the boat around.
It took nearly twice the time to return to Paraparaumu than it had to get to the island. One poor woman looked terrible when we finally made it back. If we had stayed on the sea another 15 minutes or so, I am sure she would have been seasick.
The waves at the shore were more significant now. Up ahead, we could see the tractor sitting in the surf with the trailer. The skipper worked the rudder and the power like a symphony conductor, trying to get everything lined up just right to get the boat back on the trailer. With one final push of the throttle, the boat made it safely onto the trailer. As soon as we were on, the tractor began pulling us out of the surf. Once we were safely out, we disembarked.
We walked back to the car and pointed ourselves toward home. Just south of Paraparaumu, we turned off onto Paekakariki Hill Road. It is not Leslie’s favorite road. It is very narrow, twisting, and it has steep drop-offs. The steep drop-offs allowed for a spectacular overlook of the Tasman Sea. We stopped and got a perfect look at Kapiti Island sitting at the edge of the Tasman Sea right at the Cook Straight.