Trip Report: Stewart & Ulva Islands in New Zealand
I recently spent several weeks in New Zealand – the perfect location for a work/play trip. I am still reviewing my notes from the trip, but am now finally ready to sit down and write my first blog about the trip.
Though we spent the majority of our time on the South Island, we were able to make a short trip to Stewart and Ulva Islands.
It was more than I had hoped for. Ulva Island is covered in native bush, wetlands, and sand dunes. Deserted, its sole inhabitants are rare and endangered species. New Zealand’s national bird, the Kiwi, are flightless and nocturnal. They are also notoriously elusive. I hoped to catch a glimpse of one, but had no luck on either Ulva or Stewart Island. We did, however, see parakeets, bellbirds, kaka, and wood pigeons. At one point, we saw an albatross arrive on the islands for feeding, as well as cormorants and Stewart Island shags.
One day while kayaking, an old sea lion approached our kayak. He followed us for quite a long time...sweet, curious and so damn cute. (The kayak outfitter is Phil's Kayak, if you happen to wing your way to Stewart Island.)
Captain Cook first sailed around Stewart Island in 1770. After that early settlers showed up whaling and sealing.
The population of Stewart Island is 400 year-round residents. The Maori presence dates back as far back as the 13th Century and there is still evidence around the coastline of settlements. The annual harvesting of specific underwater life remains the exclusive right of the Maori and their decedents still living on the Island.
We found our way around the Island quite easily and experienced some fantastic hikes through ruins on the coastline and inland. Most were about 2-4 hours, but we always ended our loops hikes in town for a local New Zealand brew and fish.
Stewart Island and Ulva Island are noted for their sunrises and sunsets; some of the best in the world and we were NOT disappointed.
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