Upper South Island and the West Coast Places

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Westland National Park

Bird Watching

White Heron Sanctuary Tours. The white heron (known to Māori as kotuku) are rare in New Zealand, not helped by the fact they have only one nesting colony in the entire country, which came under attack by introduced stoats and rats. Enter the local Arnold family, who for more than 25 years have been controling these predators. The only way into the remote colony, isolated in wetlands and rain forest near the estuary of the Waitangiroto River, is by boat. The Department of Conservation have given the Arnolds exclusive rights to take visitors to the colony, and what a trip it is! A tranquil cruise along the Waitangiroto River, lined by rain forest and wetlands and teeming with wetland birds, brings you to Waitangiroto Nature Reserve. From here a short but beautiful boardwalk through the forest leads to a hide, just meters from the colony. The big white birds and their nests somehow balance on trees overhanging the river, their numbers slowly increasing as predators are controlled. They're joined by Royal Spoonbills and Little Shags, all crammed in a tiny area as if ready for the inevitable photo shoot. The trips last just 2½ hours and run four times daily. This is quintessential New Zealand, and a great conservation story. State Hwy. 6, Whataroa, 7886. 03/753–4120 or 0800/523–456. . www.whiteherontours.co.nz. NZ$120. Trips leave at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm Sept.–Mar. (when the birds are nesting). Reservations essential.

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