Where: Kāpiti Island, Kāpiti Coast
Distance & Time: 20 minute boat trip to Island, walks can be any distance as long as you’re back in time to catch the boat back to the mainland!
Take: Sunscreen, togs if you’re feeling brave for a post-walk dip, snacks, warm clothes as the wind can be chilly, water – there is also water available at the shelter.
Amenities on route: Bathroom at the start of the track, picnic tables at the summit! A hut on the island where you start your day on the island provides shelter and information.
Cost of the walk: Free, although the boat and permit cost – check out Kapiti Island Nature Tours for further details
A walk on a predator free island (well, apart from humans), less than a hour’s drive from New Zealand’s capital city? A walk that starts and ends with a boat trip? The opportunity to see birdlife up close and personal? If all of the above appeals to you, then you need to get yourself to Kāpiti Island, ASAP.
I had been fortunate enough to visit Kāpiti Island before through my work, and knew that I wanted to get back there again to explore further. It’s an absolutely stunning island, with an epic Māori and Pakeha history. If you have the time, I highly recommend doing an overnight tour where you can have the opportunity to engage with locals on the island to learn more about the fascinating history of the island, as well as seeing kiwi!
The only way you can get to the island is by boat with one of the tourism operators on the island. On a less-than-ideal-weather Thursday, our boat was surprisingly full, with a mix of people heading over for the day like us, and others who were staying there overnight.
Because Kāpiti Island is predator-free, there are strict bio security checks that have to be undertaken, including checking bags and pockets for any nasty stowaways, and cleaning your footwear before getting on the boat. Which is towed into the sea by this awesome tractor!
While the sea can look deceptively calm, once you’re out a wee way the waves can start to get up! While our guide told us that they have been lucky enough to see whales, dolphins and seals on previous crossings, unfortunately they didn’t come to see us on our journey.
On arrival at the island we first dropped some guests and supplies for the lodge at the north end before heading down to Rangatira to begin our day on the island. Once everyone is off the boat, it’s a short walk up to the shelter where there is a brief talk on the island, what we could expect to see, and where to go. Most importantly though, was to make sure we were back at the boat by 2.15pm!
After our introduction, we were all let free! Well, within reason. The half dozen of us that had booked the hour guided walk headed off down the track as we were taught about the native trees and plants that surrounded us, and to recognise bird calls. The one bird that I really wanted to see on the island was the Kokako and after mentioning this to our guidehe taught me what their call sounded like though and where I would be best to spot one during my time on the island.
Amy’s Advice – when booking through Kapiti Island Nature Tours, add on the one hour guided walk. This will give you a history of the island, point out interesting flora and fauna, and give you some insider tips about the island!
Our guide told us there were two options for reaching the Summit – we could either head up the Trig track which was more difficult, especially after the weather the island had just had, or head up the easier route which had well formed tracks and lots of spots to stop and take a break. Paul made the decision for us – up the Trig we went! We were the only ones that went this way and it was soon easy enough to figure out why.
The trig track started the way ALL trig tracks I’ve ever done do – by heading straight up. None of this easing you into it, it was just go up and keep on going!
It was rather mystical, having this track all to ourselves. The weather was still and misty, with a wee bit of drizzle. It was very easy to imagine this island as it was before humans arrived. One of the interesting facts we learned from our guide was that very few of this forest/bush is old – most of this island was cleared for farmland. It’s growing back with a vengeance now though, and it’s incredible to think what it will be like in another 100 years.
We heard numerous birds on our hike, including my elusive kokako! Even though we stopped and searched in the direction of their voice, I could never quite spot her. Next time!
Near the top of the trig track (although we didn’t know that at the time) were some hihi feeders. Hihi are teeny birds and these feeders allow them access to some supplementary food, while keeping out the bigger birds that would be tempted to steal all the kai for themselves. It was actually really nice to sit here for a while in silence, listening to the hihi who were swooping in for their feed before swooping on out again! It was really odd as when Paul and I would talk to each other while here, we whispered to each other – it was one of those places where it felt wrong to speak above a whisper!
We then joined up with the main track for the last slog until the Summit. The path widened out and became much less steeper (thank goodness!) until we emerged into a world of white. And no, it wasn’t snowing, it was just incredibly misty! We couldn’t even see the ocean in front of us, but it was still pretty stunning all the same, especially as we had the Summit all to ourselves – well us, and some inquisitive weka!
The weka followed us around to see what we were up to. We had been warned that they would try to take any food from us that we had, they would even go so far as to take it from our hands, so we decided to keep the food in our packs for now. I reckon there’s probably a few tourists who accidentally end up feeding them though, going by how quickly they move when they can sense food is at stake!
On our way back down to the boat, we came across a kaka just hanging out on a branch above our heads. On my previous visit to the island I’d learnt how clever these birds are and today was no exception. Just watch the video below to see why:
The kaka on the island have learned that backpacks = food, and they have no issue with flying onto a backpack (while it’s being worn) to try and get into the food they know is inside. Even though that food isn’t good for them, they still want it! It’s actually quite neat getting this close to one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s coolest native birds, even if having their sharp beak close to my head was a little bit too close for comfort!
We were back down to wait for the boat with time to spare, so we found a wee spot out of the wind and sat down to have our lunch with no cheeky weka or kaka around to steal it out of our hands! The guide asked if I had managed to find my sought after kokako, and after replying in the negative, said that just means I’ll have to come back. Well, of course I will but next time I’m staying overnight to give myself even more of an opportunity to find one!