Caitlin's Kids Night Walk
11 year old Caitlin writes about her experience
Twelve of us were on the tour with one main guide Linda, Bev, who kept an eye on us at the back, and we were also lucky to have Ash as an extra spotter - he went ahead to helped to find kiwi and more. Some of us had been to ZEALANDIA before but not for a night tour. I was 8 last time I went, but it was great to go again. The group coming after us were there as part of a birthday party - such a cool idea!
When asked what wanted to see – we all shouted KIWIS!
The tour started with instructions about the need to be quiet (so we can hear the birds and not frighten them, it also helps you hear the guide too). We all got red flash lights - these were to helps us see in the dark. All of us with phones turned them off or put them on silent and all camera flashes were turned off - we didn’t want to scare the wildlife - especially if we were lucky enough to see some of the shy kiwi. The bright lights would also ruin our night vision. The guides also had red torches, but their ones were bigger to help spot the ZEALANDIA night time wildlife.
Those with bags checked them before we went through the double gate - we didn’t want any pest predators getting through.
We heard lots of kākā scrawking and in the twilight we could see some flying. Though most of the day birds quietened down at night - the kākā didn’t stop. We heard how in 2002 fourteen kākā were first introduced to ZEALANDIA - last summer the 900th chick was banded and they have spread beyond the fence. WOW!
We could see also lots of shags roosting, having returned from their day time feeding at sea. They breed all year around here and we could just see a nest and hear the high pitched chirping of some young shags.
Once we got across the pontoon we were so lucky to see up close two takahē (Nio and Orbell a retired breeding pair) - Linda had some food for them and they were very eager to get their treat. Takahē are the largest flightless bird left in New Zealand.
Just past the takahē lawn we saw a young longfin eel in the pond - Linda said it was the first time she’d seen them there. Hearing about their amazing looong lifecycle was cool!
We walked through the valley area - it was very dark as it was only a crescent moon now and the trees also blocked out any remaining light - this made for excellent glow worm viewing - though it was a bit muddy. It was along this stretch that we also saw a variety of fungi growing on trees, spiders, the very rare velvet worm, the gherkin slug and we checked out the wētā hotels.
Back to the main path and we were amazed to see in the Tuatara enclosure - an adult tuatara and then a juvenile - sitting outside their burrows. That day had been very sunny, so they were still out, but when it gets colder we heard they hibernate and that their heart rate and breathing can be slowed to just once an hour!
As we walked along we heard both male and female kiwi’s calling to each other across the valley. ZEALANDIA has about 130 little spotted kiwis and Linda told us lots about them - then we heard over the walkie talkies that Ash had found one. We quickly - and quietly - hurried forward and WOW! there was a kiwi snuffling noisily in the undergrowth looking for food – so close to us. As we continued walking back along the top of the Lake path to the start we saw two more kiwi!
It was a great experience and soon I’ll be old enough to go on the longer adult tour – but this time I think I’ll take dad!