All alone with a forest full of birds... that was my amazing experience a couple of weeks ago.
We hear a lot about the mental health benefits of getting outdoors. Well, I've always known that being close to nature does me good, whether it's sitting on the coast gazing out to sea or undertaking an expedition like hiking the Queen Charlotte Track.
I hit the jackpot recently by staying overnight with family members in a little cottage in Nga Manu Nature Reserve on the Kapiti Coast. I hadn't visited the reserve before but I learned a lot about it. Nga Manu is administered by a Charitable Trust, with a primary focus on New Zealand native bird conservation. The reserve has been open to the public since 1981 and covers approximately 15 hectares of predominantly coastal lowland swamp forest.
The watch tower, a viewing position by the lake, Nga Manu and adjoining blocks from above.
The best thing for me about staying over in the reserve was very early on Sunday morning when I crept out of the cottage on my own. Just me and nga manu (the birds). Magical.
In the still of early morning I was surrounded by the sights and sounds of different birds. Sitting quietly in several different spots in the forest paid dividends. I was visited by a busy quail family and a majestic white-aproned kereru. Tui and piwakawaka (fantails) were plentiful. Pukeko were very curious about my presence and a pair of paradise ducks honked to each other to reunite on the lake. The colours of a chaffinch up close were stunning and my bird identification skills were put to the test by a cute round robin (best guess!).
Paradise ducks reunited, a kereru on high, the endangered Whio
Apart from the birds that come and go as they please in the reserve, Nga Manu also has a number of aviaries and a nocturnal bird house. Birds in enclosures make me feel a little sad but it was very special to see the beautiful endangered whio (blue duck) which is part of a captive breeding programme at Nga Manu - the aim being to boost their population in the wild. It was a privilege to watch two curious kiwi going about their business in the dim light of the nocturnal enclosure.
Finding and sharing these experiences is what Welcome Tours is all about. Nga Manu is good for getting up close and personal with nature without having to bust a gut in the process, in fact most of the area is flat enough to be accessible by wheelchair or buggy. In addition to feeling zen from being at one with nature, there's an opportunity to learn about and support wildlife conservation. How good is that? For a particularly unique and memorable experience, I do recommend staying overnight in the cottage.
Welcome Tours has a gentle nature escape lined up that you are welcome to join. In November we're heading over the hill for the Wairarapa Spring Garden tour, which incorporates the annual Wairarapa Gardens Weekend. We'll have the opportunity to visit private gardens that open to the public exclusively for this Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre fundraiser - an excellent cause. Hop on board!
Sue is the Director and Chief Explorer at Welcome Tours. Sue blogs about new discoveries and the things that matter to Welcome Tours.