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Family holiday on Tiritiri Matangi 2017 pt 1

I have just spent an amazing 6 days on the scientific reserve of Tiritiri Maitangi with the entire family. I have fond memories as a kid going with my parents to Piha for our summer holidays, with only the beach and a couple of games for entertainment – and I loved it. So I wanted to recreate the same thing but with rare and endangered birds thrown into the mix.

As a volunteer guide I get to stay on Tiri for free, but I have to guide for 3 hours everyday so payment in labour – and the rest of the family stay at half price discounted supporter of Tiri rates. Guides have access to the bunkhouse over January and working volunteers are the priority and they choose their dates during November.  Because I was bringing the rest of the family I had to wait to see if there was any space for four people – as we would use 4 beds, So at the end of November the message arrived with the dates which had 4 bunks free, and this included 5 nights in a row or 6 days. Both Julianne and I quickly arranged time off work, and luckily the 6 days included a weekend so only 4 work days off work were required.

A week before we were to leave, just before New Years Eve I realised I wanted to get my hands on a really powerful torch using a red light and not a standard white light. Red light is what is used to hunt at night for Kiwi & Tuatara. Red light does not destroy  night vision like white light does and the kiwi do not seem to mind it. So I went into quick overdrive to see what I could buy at short notice during the holiday period and it was not easy. It took a lot of work and research but I found a great torch but the red filter was only in stock in Hamilton, this was dispatched to Auckland and arrived just in time which was a great relief.

After New Year’s Eve Julianne and I went into overdrive to get things sorted for our family holiday. One of the challenges of being on the island of Tiri is that there is no shop (except for a gift shop) – so all our food and supplies had to worked out in advance, and a single box of toys selected and packed by for the boys. If we ran out of food for example that was it, and 6 days food with the boys is a lot of food.

On Friday the 6th of January 2017 the car was totally packed, and I mean totally packed – you couldn’t have got an extra box of matches inside it, with feet up by people’s heads to get in all our stuff and we headed off at 8am and arrived at Gulf Harbour just after 9. After picking up our tickets Nadia arrived which was great. Nadia came and spent that first day with us, which was brilliant and I enjoyed sharing the joy of Tiri with her plus she got to spend time with the family – the boys go completely nuts for her. Nadia was also an extra pair of hands was very helpful when loading all our stuff onto the ferry – which took a fair number of trips back and forth – and the ferry staff didn’t seem to mind so there was no great pressure which was nice.

From Gulf Harbour the trip was short and we arrived shortly at Tiri, with all our stuff again having to be unloaded and put into the Ute to be taken up to the bunkhouse.

Luke saying goodbye to the mainland. 

Luke saying goodbye to the mainland. 

Our ferry. 

Our ferry. 

 Julianne and the boys headed up to the bunkhouse while I led my guiding group of a single family plus Nadia. The number of birds we saw was average, I was hoping to show Nadia more and near the end the family just disappeared which was very rude – not impressed.

Julianne had put together a lovely vegetarian Narcho’s for lunch and then I had to find beds in the bunkhouse for us all. We ended up in a 6 bed room for ourselves for most of the holiday expect to the last couple of nights which was helpful. Then it was time to of course visit the gift shop – and the Tiri gift shop is one of the best, which is surprising considering how small it is.  

Heading off to the gift shop from the bunkhouse we are staying at. 

Heading off to the gift shop from the bunkhouse we are staying at. 

This is why NZ birds are endangered - up close to a rare  takahe taking a bath and it simply does not care. 

This is why NZ birds are endangered - up close to a rare takahe taking a bath and it simply does not care. 

A takahe taking a bath spotted after the gift shop. 

A takahe taking a bath spotted after the gift shop. 

I have brought a number of birthday presents for people from here and Nadia who has worked in gift shops for a number of years was impressed I believe. We then head down to Hobbs Beach via the longer kawerau track to show Nadia more birds plus an extension out to the historic pa site. At the beach there were there was 10 – 15 boats moored so it was indeed busy. Time was spent relaxing at the beach before saying goodbye to Nadia as she boarded the ferry to head home, and we started the walk back to the bunkhouse which is about 15 to 45 minutes walk depending on the route and the numbers of birds seen.

The evening was spent relaxing by playing board games with the kids and reading.

Julanne playing frisbiee with Robin & Luke

Julanne playing frisbiee with Robin & Luke

That night I headed off into the dark with young Robin to see if a Kiwi could be seen. My new torch proved to be well worth the hassle and expense to get, I could easily see ten times greater than a standard torch with red Cellophane which is what I have used in the past and what everyone else uses. With the new torch staring into the undergrowth was so much easier. We spent several hours walking around and 2 Tuatara were spotted which was exciting but no Kiwi – and we didn’t get back until 10-45pm, very late for a seven year old.

Adam Weller