The Sunrise and Sunset Tours...
Our guided tours to the Westland Petrel colony provides a unique wildlife experience and insights into the environmental and conservation issues that all petrel species around the world face.
Situated in the midst of an isolated sub-colony within earshot of the wild Tasman Sea, the viewing shelter is positioned close to breeding burrows and sites that the petrels use for landing and taking off. Excellent viewing of a variety of the petrels activities is possible. Close views are normal so binoculars are not necessary.
Access to the viewing shelter is via a mixture of unformed track, walkway and boardwalk. The shelter is within easy walking distance, but a level of fitness that can cope with the presence of stairways is required.
Our two tour options, the sunset tour and the sunrise tour, enable viewing of peak activity when the petrels can be seen flying in to the breeding grounds during the first hour after sunset, or departing back out to sea during the last hour before sunrise.
Adult Westland Petrels are seen less often during the November/December fledgling stage, though the fledglings nocturnal habits are similar. Therefore, regardless of whether you choose a sunrise or sunset tour, departure times will vary depending on sunset and sunrise times at the time of your visit. When you book a visiting date we will let you know your tour departure time.
A typical sunset tour in late July, for example, will involve a walk of about 500 metres up the walkway to the viewing shelter.
On the way, and during viewing of the petrels, your guide will explain all the activities seen, provide background information and ensure that visitors are aware of proper conduct in order to minimise any harmful impacts their presence may have on the petrels.
By the time everyone is seated at the viewing shelter the petrels will soon be seen circling in the darkening sky as they locate their landing site.
They then may be seen, or at least heard, crashing through the forest canopy as they come in to land. Some use a canopy gap directly in front of the viewing shelter as a landing site, occasionally landing at visitors feet. When a petrel lands within easy viewing, or any other activity is occurring within viewing range, your guide will use a subdued light to enable everyone to obtain a view.
During sunrise tours, whilst the petrels rarely come in to land, the launch site in front of the viewing shelter provides a spectacular visual and audio scene as many petrels jostle to get airborne, accompanied by a departing cacophony of cackling and squawking. Whilst the viewing shelter has been designed to allow the petrels easy access to the launch site, some prefer to use the seating for a launch site. Be prepared to move aside and make room.
Additional to viewing petrels, visitors may see other night life such as the native owl, the Morepork, or hear Great Spotted Kiwi and Weka calling.