Overnight, the bridge team of National Geographic Orion navigated from Kaikoura to Abel Tasman National Park on the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. We spent our morning either hiking the green hills or kayaking the blue waters. The forested trails, most of which have been eradicated of invasive flora and fauna, allow the native species to shine. Our kayakers observed a variety of birdlife, including spotted shags, pied shags, terns, fluttering shearwaters, and even a harrier hawk! We also spotted an eagle ray cruising the shoreline, which was a highlight for everyone. After a delicious lunch on board National Geographic Orion, we sailed towards Picton and learned from field staff lectures in the afternoon. What a fantastic and unforgettable day!
National Geographic Orion
Great Barrier Island sits forty-five miles northeast of Aukland, New Zealand. It is a massive island with a long and occasionally troubled history. Birds were the original caretakers of the island but were overthrown when Polynesians arrived around the year 1000. The disturbance to the island then was nothing compared to the near extinction event that followed the arrival of Europeans. Cleared of endemic trees and nearly all the native avifauna, the ecosystem of Great Barrier Island barely held on. More than a century later, the tide began to turn. Through the conservation efforts of mostly private individuals, the island is on its way to becoming a haven for indigenous flora and fauna. From the glorious native kauri tree, almost wiped out in the demand for timber, to the charming and iconic kiwi bird, positive change is taking place. Our visit today was a fantastic opportunity to explore a conservation success story in progress.