Best Travel Experiences in the South Island - Day 4

Stewart Island is one of the most beautiful, pristine, remote, peaceful and natural places in the world. The statistics speak for themselves; the total area of the island is 650 square miles. The total population is just 400 and most of them live in the main (and only) town of Oban. 80% of the island is indigenous forests, all of it protected as part of the Rakiura National Park. Adventures await!

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Our plan for the day was a simple one. We will visit nearby Ulva Island during the day and at night we will take part in an organized Kiwi spotting expedition back on Stewart Island. But like many well prepared plans, ours took an unexpected turn!

Ulva Island is a 600 acre predator-free, forest covered island, just a 10 minute boat ride from Stewart Island. There's a huge number of native New Zealand birds to be seen here - the inquisitive weka, the South Island Kaka (parrot), parakeets, wood-pigeons, bellbirds, tomtits, fantails, and tui. Also South Island Saddlebacks, Stewart Island Robins, yellowheads, fernbirds and rifleman.

We took an 8:00 AM water taxi over to Ulva Island (return airfare NZ$25.00) so we were one of the first to land on the island that day. We set off on the well marked track and around 15 minutes into the forest, there it is, just 6 ft away - a Kiwi and looking right back at us!!!! 

Susan swung into photographer mode and although the Kiwi appears indifferent to our presence, it starts to move away quite quickly, foraging for food. 

Here's the best shot Susan could get in the seconds available to her. It's something most New Zealander's don't get the chance to see, especially in daylight hours - a Kiwi in the wild. A hugely exciting and surprisingly emotional moment for this New Zealander and his American wife.

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Here's a more detailed photo of how the Stewart Island Kiwi looks. 

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After the excitement has died down and our Kiwi has disappeared into the undergrowth, we continued walking around the island for over an hour, on well formed tracks, at one stage enjoying the company of a little Stewart Island Robin who decided to land right next to us. 

The loud bird-song on Ulva is wonderful to hear. Here's a nice plump wood-pigeon (Kereru) that sat looking at us from a short distance and just a few of the other beautiful birds we saw on Ulva that day.

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Then it was back to Stewart Island, two proud Kiwi finders, with big smiles on our faces!

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Nov 15, 2016