Visit to Bird Sanctuary in Te Anau
Interesting facts about nearly extinct birds

After two fantastic sunny days in Fjordlands, the day started cloudy with a little drizzle. Not really surprising, as this area is known for the huge amount of rain! That we had so much blue sky so far is the more surprising part. And a great place to start a drizzly day is a visit to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary.

Takahe bird feeding its young

In the photo above you can see a special bird called the Takahe, where the parent is feeding its young. The Takahe bird was thought to be extinct in 1898, but was rediscovered in this area in 1948. This nearly extinct species is still very much endangered, nowadays there only about 300 Takehe birds alive in the world. And seeing three of them together was quite special!

This young is actually not the young of the parent, but comes from an egg from another Takahe couple (that are a pair for live). In the attempt to increase the number of Takahe, birds they put the eggs of breeding Takahe couples with foster parents (that are not breeding). The breeding pair will lay new eggs, and with that increase the number of eggs and Takahe birds per year. Although the foster parents are not breeding, they do have great parental instincts and take care of the new young as it would have been their own.

We made sure we were at the bird sanctuary before 9:30 as this is the feeding time for the birds, and you can join the guide on the feeding tour and enter the aviary where the Takahe birds are (which normally is closed for visitors). We were able to get really close to the birds, and admire their special colours; mainly purple-blue with a greenish back and inner wings. The birds do look a bit clumsy and at the same time prehistoric in their movements. They do have wings, but are unable to fly.

Seeing the difference between the male and the female bird is quite difficult. The way to spot that is to look at the size of their beaks, otherwise they look quite identical. The difference between the parent and young is much clearer, as you can see in the photo above. The colours of the beak are much less bright, and also the colours of the feathers differ slightly. 

A Takahe birds gets about 50 cm in size and in the wild lives about 15 years, although in captivity this can be longer. 


Morepork / Ruru

Besides the Takahe birds, there are several other birds in the sanctuary. Above you can see the Morepork; New Zealand’s only surviving native owl. If you are lucky enough you might be able to spot this little owl in the wild. Unfortunately so far we have seen one in the wild, and I actually I don‘t expect to do so during the remainder of our trip. So able to seeing one at the sanctuary was a great alternative. 
  Aside from the Takahe, all other birds are here as they have been hurt or need support in some other way. As soon as they have recovered from their injuries they are released back into the wild.

Our guide

 In the photo above you can see our guide in the aviary with the native parakeets. She was so patient with the birds, feeding them, while being bit in the ears of a parakeet (Ouch!), and still be able to smile and explain so much of the native birds that are being taken care of at the sanctuary 🙂 It was a really great tour of 45 minutes, and during this time I got great respect of the challenges these birds face in the wild and for the work the people do at the sanctuary. The entry is free of charge, and sanctuary is completely financed by donations, not an easy thing to do!

On the way to Wanaka town
Road is named  Devils Staircase

The Devils Staircase

From the birds sanctuary in Te Anau we had a 3 hour drive towards the north ahead of us, to the town of Wanaka. The day started of cloudy with some rain, but by the time we got around half way through our drive, we started to see some clear blue sky and we had great views from the curvy road, also known as the ”Devils Staircase”.

The contrast of the colours, of the clear blue colour of Lake Wakatipu against the golden yellow of the grasses, all framed by low hanging clouds that are clinging to the mountain tops was quite amazing.

The light around the lake was strange and mesmerizing at the same time, no matter in which direction we looked. Needless to say that we took many stops on this stretch of road to take in the beautiful views and ever changing and fascinating skies.

 The further we drove along this stretch of road, the clearer the sky seem to become.

Arrowtown with old Gold Rush Chinese settlement

2 hours north of Te Anau, and rather close to the city of Queenstown, is the village of Arrowtown. This used to be a former gold rush city, and the old village centre looks still much like how it was in the olden days. But all the old houses have now been occupied by shops and restaurants, making it quite a bit of a tourist trap.

In New Zealand they seem to have a good sense of humour when it comes to giving names to things and places 😉  

While driving and hiking we quite regularly laugh at the creativity of the names given to river, creeks, beaches and streets. Not very ‘romantic’ names though, making you very eager to want to visit a place! Would you for example dream of going to ”Pea soup Creek”, ”Stinking River” or ”Dead Man Beach”? But to put any of your fears to rest: these were all actually very beautiful places 🙂

 Police Station

Just off the old town centre you can walk to the Chinese settlement, where read the history of the Chinese settlers that arrived here at the end of the gold rush era and get an impression of their living conditions. 

 Old Tom House

Typical house of Gold Rush era
Height 190 , area 6 square meter with fireplace/chimney

The houses are so incredibly small, some were even build inside the rocks, merely consisting of three crooked walls, covered by a tin roof. And to get inside you have to duck a lot, to avoid hitting your head…. which of course I did! (Simone) Ouch Ouch!
But it didn‘t get a bump on the head, so it wasn‘t too bad. Easily fixed with a nice cup a tea on a cosy terrace to end our walk  🙂
We ended the day with the last bit of driving towards town of Wanaka where we enjoyed a great bowl of Chowder in a local restaurant. Yummy!

12 March

Hike around Diamond Lake
Up 350 meter, length 5 km

The original plan was to hike the Rob Roy Trail, a hike of about 4 hours towards Rob Roy Glacier. A hike I was really looking forward to, as I read about how beautiful it is. But the rain and low cloud cover unfortunately set stop to that plan :-(  

The lady at our accommodation confirmed it wouldn‘t be a good idea: 30 km’s over an unpaved bumpy road to get here, and probably zero view during the hike. Not a good idea! Instead she advised doing a shorter walk at Diamond Lake, which was only a short drive away, and could be done later during the afternoon, when the weather hopefully would clear up a bit. And as it always good to listen to the advice of the locals, that is exactly what we did!

Diamond Lake

After having enjoyed a lazy afternoon and waiting for the worst of the rain to pass, we were off to Diamond Lake around 13:00, where we were greeted by quite a lot of autumn colours and a lingering drizzle of rain.

The trail was quite easy to hike in the beginning, with rather crazy trees bowing over the trail.

Another of the endless varities of ferns we have seen in New Zealand. This was a new one though, with a nice reddish stem as a contrast to the green leaves.


The hike continued, and it went up, and a bit more up, and yes, more up and up and up. Stairs and steps seeming endless. In total 350 meters up, in an otherwise easy trail, before we arrived at the top at Wanaka Lake Lookout Point.

On the way to Lake Wanaka Lookout


Diamond Lake

Halfway to the top we got a great view over Diamond Lake

View over lake Wanaka

At Wanaka Lake Lookout Point

Lake Wanaka

After having enjoyed the views from the lookout it was time to turn around and make our way back down the hill. All in all a great little hike! Even with the occasional drizzle of rain!

13 March

A small waterfall; Thunder Creek Falls:

A short walk to Blue Pools, small creek with amazing colors

Fantail Falls


Orchidaceae xxx endemic to New Zealand

At Franz Josef lodge


14 March

Lake Matheson (Mirrow Lake)

Red Pine tree


Hike to Stig Point atbxxx 

Beautiful West Cost of New Zealand


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