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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Stewart and Ulva Islands‏

March 15th, 2010 · 2 Comments

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At 47 degrees south of the equator, Steward Island is the furthest south of the New Zealand islands that has a permanent population. About 390 people live here, almost all of them in one town, Oban. So we really can’t compare it with the North Island, where most Kiwis live, or even the scenic South Island, which I have been visiting for the past three weeks.

But Steward Island and nearby Ulva Island strongly attracted me. Their isolation makes them a paradise for both birds and for those of us who love nature.

The usual way to get to Stewart Island is to take the ferry from Bluff, a few miles south of Invercargill, where I stayed in a campground. The heavy winds of the past three days, which cancelled yesterday’s ferry service, have died down. So more people wanted to go to and from Stewart Island than the ferry could carry. Anyway, the campground is just a couple of miles down the road from the Invercargill Airport. I also decided to fly across Foveaux Straight to Stewart Island so that I would have more time for my day trip.

The flight takes just a quarter of an hour. In so many ways this is the way to fly! No long lines, no Transportation Safety Administration, no formalities at all. Half an hour after arriving at the airport without a reservation I was airborne.

I even had the seat next to the pilot, Gerald. Eight other passengers sat in the back of the two-engine Normand Islander aircraft. I wanted to have the co-pilot’s seat to take pictures, but the morning drizzle made most of them impossible and actually made it a bit difficult to see the Stewart Island landing strip.

I did get this shot of some homes near Oban:

Some Stewart Island Homes

Some Stewart Island Homes

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Down on the ground and quickly into town I walked along the waterfront.

The Stewart Island Harbor at Oban

The Stewart Island Harbor at Oban

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Then I walked over to the visitor center, which is the long red building below. Most helpful people there helped me make the arrangements I needed.

The Beach at Oban on Stewart Island

The Beach at Oban on Stewart Island

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While I waited for my trip arrangements, I enjoyed a big American-style breakfast at the South Sea Hotel, which is also on the waterfront. To me this hotel looks just like a hotel in the South Pacific should. In fact, this is the southernmost hotel in the world.

Oban's Only Hotel

Oban's Only Hotel

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The arrangements that I wanted to make were to visit Ulva Island, which is a few miles from Stewart Island. Ulva Island is little over one square mile in size, almost all of which is part of Rakiura National Park. Only about 19 acres are privately owned.

The only way to get to Ulva Island is by boat. I took a so-called “water taxi” with Amy and Julian, who are moving back to New Zealand from Seattle, and the skipper, Pete.

Pete's Water Taxi, Amy, and Julian

Pete's Water Taxi, Amy, and Julian

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I had about three and one-half hours to experience Ulva Island and made the most of it. I walked every bit of the island’s trails, which are excellently maintained.

A Trail Through the Ulva Island Rainforest

A Trail Through the Ulva Island Rainforest

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Ferns Grow in All Rainforests, But This One is Especially Symmetrical

Ferns Grow in All Rainforests, But This One is Especially Symmetrical

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I saw several birds that I wanted to see, including a tui, which has a beautiful song. And I got these four bird photos.

Ulva Island is truly a paradise for birds. Not only is the island isolated and uninhabited but it is also completely free of predators.

Many of New Zealand’s bird are illusive. But not the toutouwai, which is an inquisitive bird that followed me, eating insects that I disturbed with my feet.

This Toutouwai Followed in My Footsteps

This Toutouwai Followed in My Footsteps

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The Steward Island Weka (on Ulva Island) is a Flightless Bird

The Steward Island Weka (on Ulva Island) is a Flightless Bird

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This Fantail Tried to Grab the Insects that I Disturbed as I Walked

This Fantail Tried to Grab the Insects that I Disturbed as I Walked

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Back on the beach I ran into a group of gulls and oystercatchers. This oystercatcher got the closest to me.

An Oystercatcher

An Oystercatcher

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Back in Invercargill on Monday evening I had oysters mornay for dinner at a classy restaurant next to the campground. Unlike the bird, I didn’t have to catch the oysters myself.

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Posted in: New Zealand

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gail // Mar 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Hi David, so pleased that you enjoyed your time in NZ…you certainly chose the right Island (South) to explore as that is where the opportunity to explore is. Your photography and description of what you got up to while here have made me appreciate what we have here at the bottom of the world. Don’t leave it too long before you return!

  • 2 David Mendosa // Mar 26, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Dear Gail,

    I will return to your beautiful country!

    Best regards,

    David

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