Day 42 Stewart Island
Today I’m planning on heading over the Foveaux Strait to New Zealand’s third biggest island, Stewart Island. After a nice little sleep in for a change, I pack up and make my way down to Bluff, 20 minutes south down SH1. Bluff is the most southern town in the South Island, some say of New Zealand but there is Oban, on the sometimes-forgotten Stewart Island. Bluff is famous for its oysters, dredged up out of the Foveaux Strait, they are supposed to be some of the biggest, juiciest and tastiest oysters in the world.
I check in at the ferry terminal nice and early for the 11am ferry across the Strait. The ferry takes an hour to reach Oban on Stewart Island, but if you suffer from motion sickness you better take a few Sealegs tablets before you board, as the Foveaux strait is normally quite rough, having the Tasman, Pacific and the Southern Ocean bring their dirty weather and swells though the gap between the islands. The door opened and the captain invites us on-board, so we head out. Leaving the harbour, the swell starts to pick up, not too much, but enough to get the large catamaran to start moving around. 20mins across there’s a few people starting to get sea sick and move out the back of the boat for fresh air, the captain tells us this is quite calm crossing. Don’t really want to find out what a bad day is.
Three Quarters of the way over, the sea starts to calm down as we get closer to the Island. The captain spots an Oyster boat and heads over so we can have a quick look. The guys on-board are hard at work, the dredge lifting the oysters onto deck and the guys sorting them, checking them for size and throwing the undersize ones back. We carry on the last little bit, followed by some of the local Albatross, I have never seen one but they have soon become my favourite bird, with massive wingspans up 2.5m the guys just glide around with minimal effort.
We finally reach Oban, no one threw up so the crew call it a good trip. We all pile off the boat and I head straight for my accommodation for the next few days. Only a few hundred meters from the wharf is the South Sea Hotel, great views overlooking Halfmoon bay and close to everything in the little town. I dropped off my bags and went for a walk around town, at the information centre I booked in a couple of activity’s for tomorrow and get a few maps of tracks I can walk the day after. The walk around town didn’t take long so I head back to the hotel and have a nice relaxing afternoon waiting for my next exciting adventure later on tonight.
7pm rolls around and I head back down to the wharf for a Kiwi safari. 10 of us meet up in the Real Journeys ferry terminal, where Maia, one of our guides for tonight, does a little presentation. Telling us about the different species, history, habitat of the kiwi and how devastating the introduced pests are to our native birds. It’s starting to get dark now, so Maia takes us downstairs, we jump on-board their ferry and head out of the bay, across Paterson Inlet to Little Glory Cove. Our other guide for tonight Josephine, gives us a quick brief on what to do on the walk and when she spots a kiwi. We all get given a torch and off we go.
Torches pointed at our feet, marching in single file we head along the track, trying to be as quiet as possible so not to scare the kiwis away. Listening as we go for the kiwis call as well as pausing for a while to see if we can hear any kiwi rustling in the bushes. We carry on to the other side of the peninsula known as the neck, to Ocean beach. Josephine then stops the group, as she heads down the beach to check for sealions and kiwi. We are in luck, she was so excited, no sealions and there’s a kiwi right there. We all turn our torches off as Josephine leads us down the beach to the feeding kiwi. The guide shines a red light at the kiwi, there it is 10 or so meters in front of us, what an amazing experience seeing a kiwi in the wild.
The Southern Brown Kiwi is a lot larger than I had thought, getting up to 40cm in height. Feeding on little bugs on the beach it didn’t seem to mind us to much, running off at one stage, straight into a clump of grass, bouncing of it and rolling down the beach like a beach ball before getting back onto its feet and carrying on. I only had my phone with me to take pictures as I couldn’t work out how to turn a little bright light off on my normal camera, so the quality of the pictures was pretty poor but at least I have proof. We follow the kiwi for 10-15 mins on and off before heading back along the track to the waiting ferry. Unfortunately, no more kiwi sightings on the way back. The ferry takes us straight back to Oban and the end of the trip. Now 11pm its time to head for bed. Can’t think of many better ways to end a day.