Marlborough Sounds and Motuara Island
I hopped on a 12m boat with Dolphin Ecotours for an afternoon cruise through the sounds and a visit to Motuara island, a predator-free bird sanctuary. The boat would also go into neutral whenever we approach wildlife such as herons (rather skittish, photo 1), oystercatchers (photo 5), bottle nose dolphins (normally we might see Hector’s dolphins in the sound but these had been unsettled by a large pod of about 70 bottlenose swimming through), pied and king shags (photos 6-8, the king is in the tux and flanked by two henchmen), and gannets. We didn’t see any blue penguins but there were several nest boxes on Motuara island with feathers showing that penguins had been there recently. The biggest surprise was seeing a brown kiwi in one of these boxes! It was quite large, covered in bristly feathers and appeared to fill the box. Our guide said she hadn’t seen any this season until now. They are rare and also nocturnal making them tricky to spot. We saw plenty of robins on the island- these would hop up to our group inquisitively. The guide would rake the gravel path with a stick and the robin would hop between people and peck at tiny bugs that had been unearthed.