An early start, quick stopover in Auckland and a short ferry ride later, Sophie and myself found ourselves on the wharf at Rangitoto Island. Surrounded by a decent pile of pest-free luggage, and what we hoped was enough food, we were met by Hazel Speed, the DOC biodiversity ranger for Motatapu and Rangitoto Islands and our guide/mother/boss for the next two and a half weeks.
Typical Motutapu Island vista.
After a quick stop at our accommodation, we were off on a whirlwind tour of our new island home and accompanied by a quick history lesson from Hazel. Rangitoto Island is New Zealand’s youngest landmass, having been spewed up from the ocean floor only 600 years ago. Although nearly every inch of the ground is covered in sun baked volcanic scoria, the island is cloaked in lush vegetation and is home to the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world. Joined to Rangitoto by a small man-made causeway, Motutapu Island provides a stark contrast. A working sheep and beef farm, much of Motutapu Island is pasture, although there are numerous pockets of regenerating native bush. Both islands take in incredible views of the Hauraki Gulf, Coromandel and Auckland.
Hazel informed us that in 2011 after a mammoth effort by DOC and the Motatapu Restoration Trust, the islands were declared pest free, and are now classified as offshore island sanctuaries. As a result the islands now support a thriving amounts of birdlife, including some of New Zealand’s rarest. Although some bird species have settled on the islands naturally, many of the rarer birdlife have been relocated from other parts of the New Zealand. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of our first day was watching a Takahe pair and their chick casually stroll past us on the lawn in front of us, a surreal experience considering their usual habitat lies deep in the Fiordland Mountains.
The first few days on Motutapu Island have been packed with experiences that would be extremely difficult to come by anywhere else in New Zealand, a strange thought considering that we are living on a working farm only 30 minutes from downtown Auckland. Both Sophie and I are loving our time on the island so far, and are looking forward to the next few weeks.
Sunset over Rangitoto Island.
BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2016