Ferry arriving at Kapiti Island. © US Embassy Creative Commons

Kapiti Island Nature Reserve: one of the few accessible island nature reserves in the country


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‘We’ll pitch our tent/on Kapiti Rock,’ sang one of this country’s finest singing sons, mariner and musician Andrew Fagan.

Well, this being a wildlife and marine sanctuary you’d best leave your guy ropes in the Jeep, but this is one of the few accessible island nature reserves in the country.

Located about 5km off Paraparaumu, that distinctive shape, so visible and identifiable from land, sea or air, is accessible via approved tour operators only. You cannot land on the island without a permit, pup. But you can land, and you can actually stay if the mood and the vibe takes you: there are overnight options worth checking out.

While the island’s population is dominated by protected species, especially birds, it did once house 2000 hardy folk.

This was whale country, people; the antiquated and unfortunate industry forms a part of New Zealand history, and Kapiti Island was key in that. It was of its time, it was survival and it was what it was. You may still see the occasional whale; the whalers, of course, are long gone.

So are most of the other destroyers of all things good and natural! While the island was set aside as a bird sanctuary in 1897 — how’s that for visionary — it’s been the last 30 years that have seen the island returned to as natural a state as possible. Rodents have been eliminated and endangered species reintroduced, many of whom will flit about you as you focus your smartphone and stumble over tree roots.

Yep, a walk on this mecca of all things natural, native and good, is a must-do if ever there were one.

The boat ride there and back is rather pretty, too, the marine reserve around the island home to seals and dolphins. A triumph of sustainability and a rare opportunity to directly experience such a thing.


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