Celebrate Wildlife Day in the Waitaki

When you chat with outdoorsy people, animal lovers, adventurers, swapping stories of hikes and creatures in the wild, you might discover there’s beauty in your backyard you just took for granted. In honour of World Wildlife Day, now is the perfect time to explore the far reaches of the Waitaki District and learn what you can do to protect our little part of the world.

Here’s the top 5 ways you can experience and support the wildlife in the Waitaki:

Cycle Through the Waitaki

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail offers you the chance to cycle through different scenes of New Zealand nature, from forests to rivers, as if you were biking from postcard to postcard. Through North Otago Sustainable Land Management (NOSLaM), sponsored tree planting days along the Trail, have provided a way to preserve natural habitats for local critters.

Around Lake Ōhau you may spot a cheeky kea in the dappled sunlight of the beech forests. Your soundtrack here will be the melodious song of the bellbird. Close to the Waitaki River, if you are lucky, you might see red deer. Sometimes the possibility of a real wildlife encounter on a bike is all you need to sustain yourself for another day.

The Otematata and Duntroon Wetlands

The tracks and trails that make up the Otematata and Duntroon Wetlands were restored to their natural beauty thanks to thousands of hours of volunteer work. Now home to diverse wildlife, bird lovers might be able to spot the ever-so-queenly Crested Grebe or the Coot swimming along in open water. Making use of reserves like this helps to keep them running, so what are you waiting for?

All along the Awamoko stream that weaves through the lush country land here, the bones and remains of ancient marine creatures, including sea urchins, dolphins, and rare whales can be found.

You’re likely to see more than you expected at this underrated site.

A Couple of Points

Make it a point to visit both Katiki and Shag Points. You can’t access the beach at Katiki Point as it’s a breeding ground for seals and sea birds (and we want to keep them safe!), but here on the southern coast at Moeraki, you can enjoy a stop in your tracks kind of view where yellow eyed penguins, fur seals, spotted shags, and red-billed gulls come out to play.

The lighthouse keepers house has been transformed into a private rehabilitation centre for sick and injured penguins. If you want to lend a helping hand you can volunteer at Penguin Rescue NZ.

Close to the historic village of Palmerston, Shag Point is another locale to spy on the lazy day habits of the fur seal. There are two short walks here where you can find the best vantage point of a seal trying to push another seal back into the water. If you head more inland to the tussock covered high country tablelands of Nenthorn, you can explore the DOC Reserve and view old relics of stone buildings long since abandoned from the gold digging days.

Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve

You’ll want to time your visits to the breath-taking Bushy Beach. Before 3pm you can stroll along and sink your bare feet into the sand, but after you must make haste to the cliff-top viewing hide as the endangered penguins come ashore to settle into their nests for the night.

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Meet the faces of wildlife in the Waitaki and visit the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Situated a five-minute drive from the township of Ōamaru, the colony operates evening viewings, every night of the week, year-round, with peak season (August-February) welcoming over 200 penguins coming back to their protected habitats from a hard days fishing.

This is an opportunity to experience a facility that gives back to nature and wildlife—also operating as a research and monitoring station for penguins. The on staff environmental scientist is feeding vital information into a world-wide science community, dedicated to protecting penguin species.

An exceptionally cute way to support the colony is to adopt a penguin. Adopting a little one will go along way to funding conservation and research projects, plus you’ll receive a photo, actual adoption certificate, and information pack about your new favourite family member (stand aside grandchild!).  

Let’s not take our wildlife for granted! However, you choose to support the wildlife in the Waitaki, give yourself a little pat on the back, because we want to keep all forms of biodiversity safe and we want to keep calling the Waitaki “their home”.

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