Gannets! Gannets! Gannets!

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Monday, December 6, 2010


Day : 205
Temperature : Getting hotter
Weather : Perfect

The first mistake we made was not really doing our research. The second mistake we made was taking our time travelling up through Hastings and towards Cape Kidnappers. When we arrived at the car park we enquired about the whereabouts of the track that leads to the gannets. We were pointed in the right direction and told we would need to turn back no later than one and a half hours after low tide. The third mistake we made was thinking that this would be easy.

We'd come to Cape Kidnappers to see one of the world's largest, most accessible gannet colonies. During the breeding season (ie now!) there can be up 20,000 Australian Gannets breeding at the colony. Now these are pretty big birdies with wing spans over two metres! Apparently, when the chicks are thirteen weeks old they take to the skies for the very first time by hurling themselves over the edge of the rather high cliff on top of which the colony is located. Incredibly, they then fly all the way to Australia, and then return to breed the following year!

So we set off along the beach with the most enormous cliffs towering above. The walk is tide dependent...hence needing to return no later than two pm. But hey, it was only 11.15am...we had loads of time. After about an hour, it dawned on us that the gannet colony was actually at the very end of the peninsula.....flippin' miles away! So we walked a little faster. And we walked. And we walked some more. I actually thought about running to save time. Eventually, at 12.45pm we arrived at the end of the beach where all the tractors and trailers were waiting for those sensible people, who had paid to be transported to the colony, to return. And they were returning. Everybody was leaving. I checked with one of the guides to confirm the time that we had to turn back, and how long would it take to walk up the very, very steep hill to the colony. He confirmed that 2pm would be the latest time we should leave so as not to be trapped by the tide, and that it would take 25 mins to get up there.

We walked, at olympic walking speed. Then we scrambled. By the time we reached the top we were nearly on our hands and knees and my lungs had had enough. But time was not on our side and we had to hurry. These big birds had better be worth the effort! And then we saw the colony. Wow, wow, wow! Thousands of birds. Big birds. Noisy birds. Squalking and headshaking and wing flapping. Some sitting on their nests, others soaring over the cliffs and then flying in low and landing with amazing precision at their own nests. We could have spent hours up there, it was trully an incredible sight.

Unfortunately, we really had to leave. The tide was on it's way back in and it was nearly 2pm. We literally ran back down the hill, our legs all wobbly and a little sore from the effort of walking so quickly to get there. I had to take my boots off several times and wade around cliff edges where the tide had already come in high. We couldn't have left it any later. Our bodies were shot to had been full on for hours, but the tide unrelenting in it's approach and we still had a long way to go and some tricky areas to negotiate.

I have never been so pleased to see Harold! When we eventually made it back I waded into the sea to cool my feet and my legs down. We were both exhausted. But those gannets were fab and we'd definitely recommend the trip...but be a bit cleverer than we were and get your timings right! It's so worth it!
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Tony on

Love the north as much as the south for different reasons. Enjoy Loads. Go to the Coramandel if you get time and dig a bath on Hot water beach!!! Got to be done, Speak soon T.

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