During Gabrielle's visit in New Zealand, we were determined to keep her short 2-week trip exciting while Joe was at work. With only one car, we could only venture far enough that we could make it back to pick him up from work in the afternoons. In the mornings, we'd drive through the vineyards and orchards to his workplace, grab a coffee, check in with mom and dad via café internet, and do a little adventure research before we settled on an activity for the day. After a second failed attempt at hiking Cape Kidnappers due to the tides, Gabrielle and I settled for an on-land tour of Cape Kidnappers, which turned out to be a pretty fun and informative time. Aside from admiring New Zealand and all its beauty, while I am here, I want to learn more about this country and how it came to be. Before moving here, I really didn’t know much about New Zealand, except that it was supposedly really gorgeous and green.
So Gabrielle and I packed into a little van lead by Gannet Safaris and our tour guide, Adrian and began our journey to the Gannet Colony.
Gannets are a member of the booby family. Yep I said booby, which is the same bird family as the Pelican.
And right here in Hawkes Bay at Cape Kidnappers is the largest, most accessible gannet colony in the world.
Before seeing the birds, the van took us through the forest, while Adrian explained the history of the area and the evolution of wildlife in New Zealand. Before Europeans settled in the New Zealand, bats were the only mammals on the island. Settlers brought dogs and cats, rabbits to hunt and ferrets to help keep the rabbit population down. This eventually posed a threat to New Zealand’s native birds that had never really to fly away from predators on the ground. This threw the food chain off balance. New Zealand now goes through great efforts to manage its animal populations. You can shoot cats without collars! (or so I've been told.) Cape Kidnappers is now a private reserve to protect the gannets, kiwis and other rare animals living in the area. Cape Kidnappers is also home of 5-star luxury resort, The Farm. This place is super private and fancy pants (aka expensive). I wouldn’t be surprised if Oprah’s stayed there. ;)
As we cruised up the hills, we saw lots of farm wildlife, including a little cow porn, which really livened up the tour. Unfortunately our cameras were not fast enough to catch such a special moment.
We also got to see where the Pacific and Australia tectonic plates meet. I had no idea how close they are to Napier, hence why Napier is such a seismically active area. It was incredible that we could actually see them and admire the different colors of the rock on each side of the crack in the earth. Nice little geology lesson, right?
Finally we reached the top of the cliffs and got out of the van. I looked back across the ocean and could see all of Napier and the tall Norfolk Island Pines that line Marine Parade where my apartment sits. With the sun shining, you could see the reefs beneath the clear blue green water. And then there were the gannets. Hundreds of them! (And the smell of bird poop. Lots of bird poop.)
Still, it was unbelievable to see so many birds. Some people hate birds and think they’re weird. I am not one of those people. I’m a bird nerd. My inner weirdo thinks birds are SO cool. My California roommates even bought me a bird feeder for my birthday last year.
Anyway hundreds of gannets were sprawled across the top of the cliff with their babies nesting in the sand. Overhead they swarmed as they took turns making a landing next to their mates with food for the family. The females would call out for their partners in the sky and when the males landed, the couple would do a nice little dance, knocking necks and waving their heads in the air.
I felt like I was watching a show on Animal Planet. After bird watching, for probably longer than Gabrielle would have liked, we piled back into the van and headed back to home base. Regardless of the unpleasant smell, we learned a lot about New Zealand wildlife and geology, and got to take in some amazing views!