Why the coast of Kāpiti is one for birds
The train derailed off the coast of Kāpiti on Thursday evening, according to a commuter.
If you had asked me if he was a bird nerd, my first instinct would be to say no. I don’t know my saddle back from my silver eye and I mean swear words about the sparrows that take care of my outdoor furniture and sanity on a daily basis.
And don’t get me started on the hugely popular Bird of the Year contest: when friends start to wonder if a bat can be considered a bird or not, I bite my tongue and wait for that. the conversation is exhausted.
So I’m as surprised as anyone to find myself on Kāpiti Island, admiring the fat kererū and laughing like a drain of overly friendly kākā trying to steal food from my plate. But then Kāpiti Island will do it to you.
It’s impossible to describe this place without sounding like an overly enthusiastic tour guide: thanks to over a century of protection – including completely pest-free over the past 20 years – of native birds such as kākā, kiwi, kōkako, takahē and hihi happily roam the lush, predator-free hills of the island.
Don’t just take my word for it: Last year, Kāpiti Island was ranked among the top 50 places in the world to visit by the US website Big 7 Travel.
I’m ashamed to admit that despite the fact that I’ve spent a large part of my life living a 50-minute drive away, and in the past three years even closer, this is my first time taking the boat to cross the marine reserve of Kāpiti to the island. .
* Where the NZ House & Garden team dreams of visiting this summer
* A place to stay: The Royal Hotel, Featherston
* Expat Kiwi’s technicolor Amsterdam loft apartment is a sorbet surprise
In order to keep the island pristine, there are a few rules to follow: stay on track, take your rubbish with you and keep your bags closed because my new best friends, the weka and the kākā, will try to get in.
It is possible to stay overnight on the island, with a maximum of 20 visitors staying in rustic tarps, cabins and glamping tents. But I’m only here for the day, so after a presentation at the Department of Conservation Center, where our guide shares stories about the history and ecology of the island, we’re free to stroll along the trails that crisscross the dense forest.
The Kāpiti coast begins at Paekākāriki and ends about 35 km at Ōtaki. Towns such as Raumati, Paraparaumu, and Waikanae are strung like gems along the coast, each with their own unique character.
Paekākāriki is where you access the Paekākāriki Escarpment Trail, a 10km path that stretches through the hills 200m above the Tasman Sea. Part of the Te Araroa National Trail, the trail runs from Paekākāriki to Pukerua Bay. On a sunny day, you can enjoy a view of the South Island in one direction and Mount Taranaki in the other.
Most visitors to Ngā Manu Nature Reserve have only one idea in mind: to get as close as possible to the kiwi without any glass or barrier in the way. This reserve in Waikanae comprises 14 ha of swamp forest and wetlands and is home to approximately 40 species of birds and over 200 species of native flora. If it hadn’t been for a childhood trauma involving eels (my brothers chased me around the garden with one), I could have fed the long eels in the endangered reserve. Instead, I sign up for the guided bird feeding tour where my budding love affair with the winged creatures gets another boost.
He shifts into high gear later during the nighttime kiwi encounter. Just before 9 p.m., a group of us walk into Ngā Manu’s nocturnal house to watch a pair of brown kiwis creep into the enclosure, holding our breath so as not to disturb them. They’re cuter than I expected, but surprisingly loud and comically awkward in their movements. I am more than impressed at how close we can get.
Where to stay
Atahuri is nestled in the sand dunes of Peka Peka, like a luxuriously comfortable breech hole which, rightly so, means ‘beautiful quiet place’. There are four suites, private courtyards, huge bathrooms, and the beach is a short walk away.
The Lodge on Kāpiti Island accommodates up to 20 people per night in its rustic cabins, tarpaulins and glamping tents. Common kai is eaten at the lodge where you will be so impressed with the view that you might forget to eat.
Where to eat
Chef Kamal Rathore trained in classic French cuisine, but gave up that to open this cafe on the main street of Ōtaki. The delicious chocolate mousse alone is worth the trip.
This modern Kiwi restaurant, one block from the water on Paraparaumu Beach, is one of the best restaurants in the area. Working for Gordon Ramsay in Tokyo and the UK, in Queenstown and on superyachts, helped refine Chef Helen Turnbull’s inventive twist on food. She takes admirable risks with an ever-changing menu made up of ingredients picked nearby.