Tiritiri Matangi means ‘tossed by the wind’. This pace lived up to its promise. The island is a wildlife sanctuary and one of New Zealand’s most exciting conservation projects. Located about 30km from central Auckland accessed only by a boat.
Historic farming practices had stripped this land of its native flora and fauna. Between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees. The Island is now 60% forested with the remaining 40% left as grassland for species preferring open habitat.
Birds and reptile species made instinct with human intervention, were introduced to the island in an effort to understand how to conserve species for our coming generations. This included the flightless takahe, one of the world’s rarest species, and the tuatara. There are few places in world where you can readily see and walk amongst such rare species.
I am at loss for words to describe this prepossessing experience. I can sum it as – Calm crystal clear blue sea; gentle waves coming to a rocky shore. Songs of birds in background like a soothing melody. Far away from hustle bustle of the city. Serene and soulful. Close your eyes and you would actually see happiness; there is a way to see happiness I discovered on this trip.
We walked through the forest peering through the fauna to see birds. I saw ferns; had never seen those before. Ferns were the first plants to develop when earth’s crust had cooled down. Centuries old.
There were Pohutukawa trees, estimated to be 800-1000 years old. I felt as if I had walked back in time. Like I was watching the movie Lost World. I actually expected some dinosaurs to walk in.
This is my attempt to document my trip with pictures and narrations to share the happiness I felt.
The journey started with a boat ride from Auckland harbour. We walked down to the harbour early in the morning, we had bought the tickets online as there is possibility that the tour is sold out. There is only one trip to island daily hence best to book online.
There is nothing on island to eat, I had packed some snacks for the kids. Boat would bring us back in late afternoon. My boys were excited.
As the boat left the harbour, I left behind the beautiful architectural modern city of Auckland with its tall towers and all its liveliness. The city slowly seemed to shrink and fade away as the boat sailed on. I was headed from the known to the unknown. With trepidation and an apprehensive heart I watched the signs of life gradually disappear. I was now surrounded by the deep blue sea. The deep blue sapphire.
The boat docked on a long ramp. Looking down the ramp leading to the island I could see the rocks on the bottom. The water was crystal clear.
We gathered at the end of the ramp, made a quick trip to the bathroom and were assigned a tour guide. Tour guides are volunteers. Our guide was a retired school librarian. She was lively with vivid descriptions of the birds.
My family was grouped with another family of 3. They were from UK and were avid bird watchers, they came with their binoculars and a camera with zoom lens.
Seeing my chatty boys I was absolutely horrified I knew this was going to be a difficult trip.
To watch birds requires silence and my boys especially the little one had a very tough time being silent. He had too many questions to ask. His height didn’t help, many times he couldn’t see things and wanted to be carried up.
The other family looked very serious and actually not happy at being paired with us but we all had no choice. I had a quick word with the boys on being quiet in the forest.
We started out. The guide showed us some of the ancient trees that had survived the farming on the island.
We stopped at a kingfisher’s empty nest which has a tunnel sloped upwards and ends with a chamber. The boys put their hands in the nest. They asked why the best was shaped like this? This helps to keep the rainwater out.
We were now deep in on island and close to bird habitats. As the guide lowered her voice to whisper we were told not to move and wait patiently. We couldn’t see anything. Yahya refused to stand still.
“Mama what are we looking for?” In his loud voice.
I quickly tried to hush him as I got glares from the guide and our not so friendly “other family”.
“A bird. Shhh Yahya wait”
He looked here and there. Walked around climbed the bench on the path way and then said
“I don’t see a bird”.
“Shh” my Daughter said
We all stared at Yahya. But for my 4 year old stares don’t mean much.
Guide told us to move on. She said in a polite and firm voice your Son needs to be quiet otherwise the birds will not come.
How do I explain to my 4 year old? I now seriously regretted coming. We continued our tour saw some birds high up on trees, gladly they weren’t scared by Yahya’s voice.
I am glad that many birds didn’t actually mind the noise I am assuming it must be because of the daily tourists that come. We tried to get some pictures.
The guided tour ended at the light house built in 1865. We purchased a souvenir (souvenirs were nice).
We were now allowed to roam on the island on our own and had to meet at the ramp in about 1 hour. I decided to take the kids back in the forestation to sit and listen to the birds. The chirping was melodious. I closed my eyes and shut out all thoughts. Finally Yahya agreed to sit and listen to the birds. He didn’t sit long and was up looking and pointing at birds.
“Mama see this?” “Is it a plant?”
“Mama what is the bird’s name?” Pointing high up in tree.
Yahya I don’t know dear let me take a picture and we can ask the guide”
“Mama it has flown away”
“Mama where do the birds sleep”
“Mama what do they eat”
And few more mamas.
Mama didn’t have many answers but I was very happy that my boys enjoyed looking at birds and listening to their songs.
I hugged Yahya and put a finger on his lips and said listen. It was a symphony. I closed my eyes and saw happiness.
We headed back to the shore. The boat ride back was quiet. Kids were tired walking all day and slept in my lap as we sat on the floor of the boat.
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