Overnight, the bridge team of National Geographic Orion navigated from Dunedin, New Zealand on the South Island to Stewart Island. We started our day with a hiking excursion on Ulva Island. Invasive species have been eradicated and local native birds are abundant on this small, biodiverse island off the shores of larger Stewart Island. Highlights on our nature walk were the New Zealand kākā and the weka, as well as the country’s smallest bird, the titipounamu! After our lovely forest walk, guests enjoyed a Super Bowl Sunday barbecue on the back deck of National Geographic Orion. In the afternoon, we headed ashore on Stewart Island to the historic town of Oban. We visited an incredible local history museum and meandered the streets to see what life is like in a small New Zealand island town. 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.