Birds, Kidnappers And Hiking In New Zealand

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Guest Post: Hiking in New Zealand

Birds, kidnappers and hiking. Now, what do these three have in common? Let Jim McIntosh tell you all about it.  

New Zealand’s Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony Walk

New Zealand hosts the world’s largest mainland based gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay. The Australasian Gannets have been nesting at this site since 1870, and now number around 6,500 pairs.

"Plateau gannet nesting colony in to be seen when hiking in New Zealand next"

Up close to the Plateau gannet nesting colony

The young chicks at 16 weeks old take to their inexperienced wings and commence a 2,800 kms flight across the Tasman Sea, returning when around 2 – 3 years later, but nest in earnest in their 5th year. The birds live an average life of 30 to 35 years.

Hike it!

The whole route to the colonies can be walked if you leave Clifton Beach soon after the high tide has turned. Check the tide tables available at Napier Info Centre.

It’s a 16 kilometres round trip of easy walking along a beach of sand or shingle below towering cliffs of sediment, sandstone or ancient volcanic pumice.

As you gaze up on the cliffs, take in the changing composition of the geological layers and the forces of movements in the earth’s crust illustrated by the fault lines in the exposed faces.

Ebbing is another reason to take the walk after the tide, when there is ample room on the beach for walkers. There is an overland route back should you get caught out by the tides.

Here is a  Cape Kidnappers map for walkers.

"View of the beach when hiking in New Zealand trail leading to gannet colony in New Zealand"

The view from the trail leading up to the gannet colony

You’ll be overtaken by tractor trailer units, which stop at various points while the drivers hold their guests spellbound with descriptions of the area and geology of the terrain. Eavesdrop – the drivers are great friendly guys! They love a bit of good-hearted banter.

"View of the Saddle gannet colony  when hiking in New Zealand"

View of the Saddle colony

Ride It!

"Tractors transporting tourists in New Zealand"

Departure point for the hike and tractor safaris is at Clifton Reserve Camp

Another way to get to the colonies: take a tractor trailer ride with Gannet Beach Adventures. It is so much fun and excitement. There is a short hike at the end to the nesting colonies, where there is wonderful close viewing of gannets. We have done this three time and each time it gets better!

"Tourists witnessing a collapse of a volcanic pumice cliffs"

A collapse of weathered volcanic pumice cliffs!

"Tourists in Black Reef colony in New Zealand"

At the Black Reef colony, you’ll be metres away from gannet nests. While some parts of the walk will be on shingle, most is on firm packed sand as you see.

"a gannet just landed seen while hiking in New Zealand"

Elegance and distinctive markings make gannets a superb photo subject

"A gannet rides the thermals in New Zealand"

Gannets ride the thermals like albatrosses, hardly beating their wings, giving great photo opportunities

This hike is a great way of getting up really close to these beautiful and graceful birds. Respect them and stay behind the rope barrier.

Don’t try to disturb them or scare them into flight just for a photo opportunity – there is plenty of activity going on in the colonies within metres of you. The adults will be constantly leaving or returning from their offshore feeding grounds, and the reuniting couples are raucous and energetic with their welcomes.

Take your swimming gear for a cooling dip in the surf. Don’t forget sunscreen and hat.

Best months to go are November through to February. While the beach walk can be done all year, the colonies are closed July through October.

Explore the rest of Hawke’s Bay

The Hawke’s Bay area is known for long, hot dry summers and cool winters, and with rich, alluvial-gravel soils, it is one of NZ’s premier wine growing areas. After a great day of sea, surf and sun, what better than wine sampling and good food at any of the vineyards back at Clifton, or throughout the Hawke’s Bay region?
All photos by Jim McIntosh

"Jim McIntosh"

Jim McIntosh, married, with 3 world traveller children, custom shoemaker, loves gardening, music, travel, the odd elephant orphan, and walking their mongrel dog Lilly.

11 comments to Birds, Kidnappers And Hiking In New Zealand

  • Hi Amy, you may quote but please be sure to provide credit and source back to our website. Otherwise, you could be reported for content scraping and risk your site being put down.

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  • It was an awesome hike. I’m happy to read it and to see it through your eyes. I love birds, too. I have a pigeon page and if you are interested about them you can visit it.

  • Here’s a place in New Zealand I didn’t know about! Thanks for sharing. Glad you loved your visit in our beautiful country at the bottom of the world!

  • Keenly awaiting the posts about Galapagos, Jim!

  • Let me know when you’re coming and you can pick up a bed at our place! We have some of the world’s best hiking trails.
    Just back from Ecuador/Galapagos so been out of touch.

  • You’ve just made my desire to visit this country all the stronger, Andrew.

  • Andrew Graeme Gould

    I’ve visited New Zealand twice, and covered almost everything from north to south. A pity, though, that I didn’t see this place, as it looks like such a good experience from your coverage of it in this post.

    I must add that I highly recommend New Zealand to everyone for the great tourist experiences it offers. You well never find friendlier people than the New Zealanders anywhere. All public facilities are just so clean, the food’s excellent, and tourism infrastructure is fully developed. My only complaint is the lack of free wifi points.

  • I totally agree, Jeremy. This does sound like a very interesting day hike. And New Zealand is definitely in my list of places I want to visit.

  • Thanks Jeremy. Get a great sunny day and there’s nothing like it. Awesome scenery, cool off in the sea if you need, and the photography opportunities are endless. Just love those gannets, the way they soar without flapping their wings mean you get good sharp pics.

  • Jeremy Branham

    Wow, what an awesome hike Jim!! I absolutely love the hike from the beach – if you can avoid the tractors! Amazing scenery and love the photos of the birds.

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