We arrived in Christchurch at the end of February and hopped on a bus for a 5 hour ride up to Picton. Picton lies near the head of Queen Charlotte Sound, the easternmost sound of Marlborough Sounds. Here we hired a double sea kayak and embarked on a 90 km (56 mi), 5 day journey through the sound out to Motuara Island (on the outer Queen Charlotte Sound) and back.
The first day we set out for Ruakaka Bay and discovered that we had the campsite all to ourselves. The color of the water was incredible, ranging from bright turquoise to deep green. The beach was littered with bright pink scallops shells and purple clams and we were entertained by a lone stingray gliding back and forth across the bay.
The next day we set out for Blumine Island. Blumine Island is the largest wildlife reserve island in the Marlborough Sounds. Eradicated of predators since the 1990s, the island is home to a variety of native birds which serenaded us at sunrise and sunset. There are also several rare species that inhabit the island. Dan saw a pair of orange fronted parakeets of which there are only 200-400 in the wild. Along the way we also spotted rare and endangered Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest (about 7,000 left in the wild) dolphin species in the world.
One of the resident bird species is the weka. Wekas are flightless birds about the size of a chicken. When we landed on the island, a couple told us to be wary of the wekas since they like to steal shiny items and food and are surprisingly fast. We unfortunately did not heed this advice and a weka made off with a package of noodles we were about to cook for dinner. I chased the weka but it darted into the bush with its prize. Dan, however, was more determined and ventured into the bush. Dan stalked the bird for about 15 minutes as he heard it pecking at the plastic wrapping of the noodle bag. He surprised the bird and got our dinner back! My hero! The video below is of a weka searching for grubs on the beach.
Blumine Island has several walking tracks including to historic WWII gun emplacements and bunkers. The guns were never used and the site was decommissioned as the threat of enemy action gradually declined after the Battle of Midway in June 1942.
On the third day of our trip, we set out for the outer sounds. As we left the calm waters around Blumine Island, the wind picked up and the waves grew larger. After a long crossing, we stopped for a break on Long Island before setting out for Motuara Island.
Motuara Island is one of four reserve islands not inhabited by humans and is home to rare and endangered bird species such as kiwis. We landed on the beach and hiked to the top of the island to get a view of the sounds.
From Motuara Island, we crossed the sound to Ship Cove. The Cove was named by Captain James Cook in 1770 and has a large monument in his honor.
The long trip back to Blumine Island was quite a harrowing experience. The strong afternoon wind and waves were at times a bit scary but we eventually made it safely back to camp.
On the fourth day, we started our trip back to Picton. We camped another night in a small cove by ourselves.
Throughout our five day trip, we spotted tons of New Zealand fur seals. These seals did not mind our presence and one did a sort of ‘seal ballet’ around our boat.
Our 5 day sea kayaking trip was incredible! The beautiful weather and amazing wildlife experience was a great way to start our South Island travels.
More South Island posts to follow soon!