PWT – Zealandia Imagery. Photographer – Jeff McEwan / Capture Studios Date taken 23rd October 2013
Wellington’s Zealandia wildlife & walks paradise is a must-do experience for any nature lover and outdoor enthusiast. Just ten minutes from the city centre, this ground breaking eco-restoration project is the number one not-to-be-missed Wellington attraction. Here, for the first time in living memory rare and highly endangered native species can be viewed in their natural habitats without having to travel to dedicated conservation islands. In one square mile of sanctuary, habitats of forest, stream, wetland and lake, birds, reptiles and insects thrive, thanks to the world’s first fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary. Zealandia is open for visitors to enjoy and catch privileged views of these rare species living wild in their natural environments.
Quite how you go about things is up to you. Why not join one of the four times daily free ‘Walk and Talk’ tours for a ¾ hour meander of wildlife spotting and fascinating facts. Alternatively you can roam at your leisure with everyone getting to join in the fun here – wheelchair users, buggy pushers, old and young, fit and not-so-fit – thanks to a wide choice of routes. A great route to follow if your time is a little limited is the ‘red loop’ which takes about 90 minutes and cleverly includes a little of all the valley’s ‘best-bits’ highlights.
The valley is a particular treat for bird-lovers with a host of rare species to look out for. From the fun forest parrots (kaka) and their noisy, brightly coloured cousins – the kakariki – to the melodic tui with its incredible audio repertoire and another 50 or so species which include kiwi, hihi and saddlebacks. A wonderful addition for the go-it-alone nature lover is the presence of roaming guides who will be able to answer your nature-related questions and, should you have a particular species must-see, they’ll be able to point out the best spots for sightings. If you’re around in the holidays or at a weekend make sure you hop aboard the little boat which runs on the Lower Lake, gaining you access to the Morning Star Mine complete with cave weta viewings.
The perfect place for a night time viewing of the little spotted kiwi bird
In addition to the outdoor nature-lovers’ paradise of the valley there is also an indoor exhibition – a facility designed to take its visitors on a 80 million year conservation journey with state-of-the-art interactive displays and big movie screens intended to engage and inform; while you’re having this much fun the fact that you are learning heaps too tends to go unnoticed.
Should you find yourself a little thirsty, peckish or simply in need of somewhere scenic to catch your breath or take a short break from all this discovery, nature immersion and exciting outdoor and indoor features you might be pleased to learn that Zealandia has its own cafe – the Rata.
It would be tricky to call if asked to name the absolute highlight of this magnificent sanctuary by the city but a very real contender would have to be the kiwi – or the 100 or so little spotted kiwi to be more precise – which flourish here, although these furry-looking flightless birds are not active in the day. Luckily ‘Zealandia by Night’ is a tour run especially for those interested in spotting the elusive and iconic kiwi.
What ever particular aspect of nature delights…………maybe a glimpse of a tuatara – a reptile with a lineage so ancient it has been dubbed the living dinosaur…….listening to native bird song while sitting on a rock in the forest pondering life…….perhaps just being out there surrounded by the beautiful is all you’re after….whichever it is, as long as it has a nature theme, you’ll find it in Zealandia.
In addition to the outdoor nature-lovers’ paradise of the valley there is also an indoor exhibition
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