Another excerpt from my down-underings in New Zealand:

Being the avid birders that we are, my mum and I decided to take a pilgrimage to Stewart Island, off the southern most tip of the south island of New Zealand, to get our best chance of seeing the rare Kiwi bird in the wild.  Remember, “south” in New Zealand means colder… closer to Antarctica than the equator. And, well, we ran into some “weather” shall we say.


High seas, not rain! Ferry to Stewart Island

Our ferry for the way out was a large catamaran. In the picture shown, it is actually NOT raining…the captain has the wipers on “furious fast” (it’s a setting in NZ) to swish away the spray of the waves…which also made their way up and over the 2nd story and dashed down onto the rear deck.  See the photo below of rear of boat.  My mom and I were some of the only foolish souls who were not only standing, but out in the back of the boat in the rip-roaring swells!  It was swell.  Not for everyone on board, mind you.  My mom obviously passed her iron-clad constitution on to me.  At a certain point, Captain Paul had to turn the boat into the swells and it was a wild ride!  I asked if we would have to pay extra for the thrills, this being New Zealand and all.


Rough crossing, Stewart Island Ferry, far south New Zealand


Stewart Island rainy forest canopy, New Zealand

We had planned to stay the night on Stewart Island so as to take a much-touted, guided

tour of the Kiwis precious protected habitat by a licensed expert..but the only guide called it off due to inclement weather…. :( uh oh…
Well, we still stayed over, and at least we chatted with some human Kiwis about New Zealand, and Dunedin and trekking, etc. as all were pretty much staying indoors, avoiding the wind-swept rains.  In the morning, though, my mom and I donned our best rain gear and set off for several treks in the dense rain forests.

The Tui: R2D2 of the Bird World

The Tuis (one of my favorite local birds) were calling and singing, if you can call it that.  The Tui has such a repertoire of chirps, squawks and whistles, I liken him to R2D2… including the little pissed off rrrrppppp sound!  We retreated back to the backpackers only for some hot soup, and to warm and dry up a bit before the next foray out.  We loved the wild jungle feeling, and being virtually alone, thanks to the constant misting rain.


Tui displaying his cotton ball throat, New Zealand

We didn’t spot the elusive and nocturnal kiwi bird in his wild habitat, but we did get to view him close up in a captive enclosure exhibit.  They keep the lights low and ask that you not take photos, but I can show you this “taxidermified” specimen so you can see his fascinating details, including actual hair, and size.


Kiwi bird specimen and egg


A side jaunt by boat to the wildlife sanctuary of nearby Ulva Island afforded us beautiful exploring walks over beaches and rainforest trails, and some spottings of several other birds species.


A Weka, or woodhen, on nearby Ulva Island, New Zealand


Oystercatchers, catching lunch


My mom, happy to seek out more birding on Ulva Island


A lone tree claims a rock island to call home, Stewart Island


Empty strands of beach on Ulva Island allow for pristine bird-watching, including penguins swimming just offshore

The return trip back to the mainland of South Island, via small plane this time, was equally harrowing, owing to the continued extremes of the storms in this region.  My favorite part was the airport “terminal”, which consisted of the very van we were riding in to be deposited on a rough dirt airstrip.  We watched our little 8-person plane land in wind-driven rain from the shelter of our 4-wheeled terminal, then drove up to meet it as it taxied, and we hopped in.


Our small plane flying back from Stewart Island over choppy seas and air, NZ

Sidewinding through the not-so-friendly Skies

Our pilot greeted us and advised us to expect some bumps. “Bumps”? You KNOW when the jaded Kiwi pilot of a small plane advises that there will be some “bumps”, it will be a harrowing experience.  Again… I could only laugh at my flimsy mortality as the little plane lurched, skipped and crabbed sideways in the rough skies.  See the giant whitecaps on the ocean below.  I don’t mind up and down turbulence…it’s the sidewinder slipping stuff that gets me.  So, yet another New Zealand adventure. Unfortunately….we didn’t “bag” our bird, but we had fun in the seeking.


Birding & beach walking, Stewart Island, New Zealand

All Photos by G. Stark (unless I’m in them!)

If you enjoyed this foray into New Zealand, ready your umbrella for ‘New Zealand: Weather…or Not’

or cinch up your saddle for ‘New Zealand: Cantering Near Canterbury’

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt March 27, 2011 at 8:35 am

Makes me wish i had been there (except for the crabbing sideways airplane section)! Beautifully written – love the detail and perspective (always) :)


Gina "SuuperG" Stark March 27, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thank you so much Mateo! Yes, some “adventures” are thrust unwillingly upon us :}} You and the family must plan to go there in the future, when the littles are less so and can really absorb New Zealand and appreciate it’s abundant offerings! Sista G


@ellies58 March 27, 2011 at 11:16 pm

You really are just a little daredevil! What a Wonderful retelling of Your Harrowing Journey! :)))


Gina SuuperG Stark March 28, 2011 at 11:59 am

Thanks so much for reading of my Kiwi seeking! :) It was an amazing trip, sharing all that time with my mom – who's a dareANGEL! :) xoxo G


Jean March 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Lovely photos! I would not have cared to be on that "rough crossing"! Can't decide which would have been worse (I know my stomach would not have liked either!) — the ferry or the airplane. I guess I'm not a very adventurous traveler.


Gina SuuperG Stark March 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Welcome back Jean! I'm sure the conditions are much more forgiving in summer…we were there in early spring and so risked running into tenuous weather. But happily for us, it didn't ruffle our "feathers" harhar ;) I really DID write down your Bananamisu recipe…well, I plan to make it with shortcuts, because that's how I cook and bake mostly now. I used to spend hours lovingly creating in the kitchen. Life chapters. xo G


Savannah April 21, 2011 at 8:03 am

Awesome post! New Zealand is a place very near and dear to my heart! I'm glad you found great adventure there!

Just thought I'd let you know that if you're ever looking for local accommodation, check us out!



Stephen December 23, 2015 at 3:20 am

New Zealand is my favorite place and especially for birding as well. You know I want to go there again for birding. Thanks for this post and keep it sharing like this.


Gina SuuperG Stark February 7, 2016 at 1:27 pm

NZ is an amazing place for birding…and shooting with CAMERAS. ;)


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