New Zealanders seem to be a determined lot. They have no problem setting ambitious goals and plunging headlong into attaining those goals. When they make a plan, they mean business. We first encountered their tenacious nature when coming into the country for the first time at the Auckland airport. In order to keep their flora and fauna pure and indigenous, they will fine you $400 on the spot for bringing in any seeds, fruit, or other food items. There are “amnesty bins” all through the airport on the path to customs giving you one more chance to discard any contraband. There are dogs sniffing every bag and everyone entering must face questions from a customs employee who looks like he’d love nothing more than to bust you for smuggling in a turkey sandwich.
Today we saw more evidence of the New Zealand determination to stop damage by non-native predators and return their island paradise to its original pristine state. Over the years, settlers to the country brought animals such as stoats, possums, and rats. These creatures have nearly decimated some of the indigenous species of plants and animals. (Many of New Zealand’s native birds are flightless.) To put an end to this destruction, the government set a goal of being predator free by 2050. This means that if you are foreign, furry, and four-legged, you would be wise to self-deport as soon as possible. The Kiwis have a bullseye on your back and are coming for you. Several islands in the Marlborough Sound are already predator free. The town of Picton has embraced the challenge and is determined to be the first predator free town in New Zealand. In fact, every third home in this town has traps as the residents are determined to do their part.
The day was spectacular as we boarded a catamaran for the ten minute boat ride to the Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is managed by a group of approximately 100 volunteers. The hills of this island are clad in lush vegetation our guide called “the bush.” I’d call it a jungle. We climbed to the top of the hill for an incredible view of the sound. Along the way, she pointed out various indigenous plants and showed us the traps used to capture the predators. There are also many nesting boxes for birds such as the little blue penguin. The sanctuary is a creche site for the Rowi Kiwi, the rarest of the kiwi. The bush was alive with the noise of birds and insects making sounds unfamiliar to us. It was a joy to hear this unique birdsong.
We returned to our catamaran and our captain piloted us around the sound pointing out some of the unique features of this beautiful body of water which is totally off limits to any commercial use. It is reserved solely for recreational purposes.
Just as we were beginning to head back to the dock, we were joined by a pod of probably fifty to sixty bottlenose dolphins. I have to say that it was truly a delight to watch, even for the two of us who see dolphins pass by our dock regularly. They darted in and out of the water and swam alongside our boat and it was awesome to see, especially since some of them were easily twelve feet in length. Seeing this wildlife sanctuary and pristine sound surely makes conservationists out of everyone who visits. My words cannot convey the beauty of the Marborough Sound, so I hope my pictures will.