I have always wanted to explore New Zealand the same way Captain Cook did all those years ago. In a land that was completely and utterly green, surrounded by dense bush that is alive with the many different notes of bird song. To actually see a Tuatara, New Zealand’s living fossil, scrambling around your feet as well as catch the giant weta climbing past your face as you dive deeper into the bush.
This is why I planned a trip to Zealandia during my visit to Wellington. Zealandia is a nature reserve completely surrounded by a fence to ensure that it is also a predator free nature reserve. It is home to many native animals including the rare Takahe and Rifleman, two native New Zealand birds.
My Experience in Zealandia
I arrive at Zealandia excited. I was at the place where bird nerds like myself could have the time of their lives. This was my Disneyland. I am here with my family and I cannot think of a better group of people to share this experience with. I arrived at Zealandia also needing to pee, so first stop was the bathroom. I found the toilets on the first floor, and was delighted to discover that they use recycled water for the toilets. Zealandia is already off to a great start.
Tickets for general admission are $21 and these tickets last a total of two days. So, you can explore as much as you want then come back the very next day for exploring part two. That is a great strategy for tickets, you just keep going up in my esteem here Zealandia.
After purchasing our tickets I meet with the doorkeeper of Zealandia. The Gandalf of the realm if I may. This lady was the one to shout you shall not pass, if there’s something a bit dodgy in your bag. I slugged my bag onto a bench and took out everything that I was carrying. Not much really. The lady at the door told us that once someone tried to smuggle a kitten in. Hence this protocol is in place, so no wayward kittens get in.
Once the bags have been searched, we officially enter Zealandia and my bird nerd session can start. I was ready to thoroughly get my bird nerd on. This process involves me spouting off useless bird facts to anyone with ears. Did you know that tui have dual voice boxes? Or that Takahe mate for life? I know. I am a great companion to have.
After just a few short moments in Zealandia we are meet with two very drunk Kereru. They are thoroughly off their faces, I can tell because they are crashing into the canopies and they have a certain drunk glint to their eyes. If you did not know, Kereru often get drunk off the berries they gorge themselves on before flying off and promptly crashing into trees. Here I go again reciting bird facts.
Anyway, after getting their best angles with my camera I maunder off to pay a visit to the Takahe pair. This pair lives in the wetland area of Zealandia and they are an old retired couple who have given bird to a number of chicks and now spend their days munching endlessly on grass. Seriously, that is all they seem to do. Munch, munch, poop. But, by god I could watch them eat and poop all day. They are very fascinating birds. I truly feel as if I have encountered a dinosaur when I see these guys.
North Island Robin
Continuing on I meet some noisy kaka flying overhead, as well as some tui singing their croaky tunes to us, until suddenly a cheeky robin stops us quite literally in our path. The North Island Robin is a gorgeous bird with long stilt like legs, and a puffy ball of a body. They are quite literally one of the cutest birds you will see. They are also surprisingly friendly. On a hike once, a woman suggested to me that to get their attention you get a stick and wipe it across the ground. This disrupts the soil, so all the delicious bugs come to the surface. This in turn gets the Robin’s attention, because this is basically McDonalds for them. Easy food with little effort involved. I do not know how long I was crouched talking to Robin, but enough that I began to lose feeling in my legs.
Bellbird and Feeding Station
There are feeding stations scattered around the nature park. These are great places to spot Kaka, as well as nectar feeding birds as they have a nectar food dispensing thing. When I approached, there was a bellbird feeding as well as a tui. And a few blackbirds and sparrows.
I next tackled a hill. With my energy levels flagging, I was huffing and puffing by the time I reached the top. But, as I reached the top I was amazed by the sight that unfolded. I was on top of an old damn and the whole of Zealandia stretched out before me. It is a great spot to truely take in the vastness of this place. So, I did what every person has the urge to do on a huge place, I proceeded to have a Titanic moment.
The path continued back down into the green wild and eventually I arrived somewhere I nicknamed Tuatara alley. Tuatara alley is called this because well, there are a lot of Tuataras around here. I peeked over a barricade and the underground was alive with many Tuataras sunbathing in the soft sunlight.
Also scattered through Zealandia is something called Weta Hotels. These are basically hotels for wetas. Little wooden structures that are attached to trees, which you can open up and see wetas who have checked in. If you are okay with creepy crawlers, this is very interesting. If you are terrified like myself, then these are best given a wide berth.
A Green Experience in Zealandia
My trip to Zealandia was a magical experience. I spent most of the time simply soaking in the green as I like to call it. There is something peaceful about being completely and utterly surrounded by native fauna and flora. Listening to the native bird tunes on the breeze, feeling the sun dapple on my face and the dirt beneath my toes. Zealandia was a place where I could reconnect with nature as well as get close with many of the native animals that I have grown to admire growing up in New Zealand.
Written by: Athena Rhodes
Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Athena loves to write. While most of her writing is focused on her getting lost, eating vegan food or stalking wildlife, Athena also writes about anything on her mind really. When she is not writing, she can be found guzzling too much coffee or having dog cuddles with her gorgeous three dogs.