This outstanding geological feature was named by Captain James Cook after local Māori tried to kidnap the servant of Cook's Tahitian interpreter. The cape is the site of a large gannet colony. The gannet is a large white seabird with black-tipped flight feathers, a golden crown, and a wingspan that can reach 6 feet. When the birds find a shoal of fish, they fold their wings and plunge straight into the sea at tremendous speed. Their migratory pattern ranges from
western Australia to the Chatham Islands, about 800 km (500 mi) east of Christchurch, but they generally nest only on remote islands. The colony at Cape Kidnappers is believed to be the only mainland gannet sanctuary in existence. Between October and March, about 15,000 gannets build their nests here, hatch their young, and prepare them for their long migratory flight.
You can walk to the sanctuary along the beach from Clifton, which is about 24 km (15 mi) south of Napier, but not at high tide. The 8-km (5-mi) walk must begin no earlier than three hours after the high-tide mark, and the return journey must begin no later than four hours before the next high tide. Tidal information is available at Clifton and at Napier Visitor Information Centre. A rest hut with refreshments is near the colony.
Gannet Safaris. If tides prevent the trip along the beach the only other access is across private farmland. A four-wheel-drive bus runs to Cape Kidnappers from Summerlee Station, just past Te Awanga. A four-person minimum is required for this three-hour tour (NZ$80 each children $36). Advance booking is essential for all gannet colony tours. Both pick up by shuttle at an additional cost. Tours operate September to April