You make the world keep spinning.
You make the world a better place for all of us.
Welcome Tours is hugely appreciative of the various roles that volunteers play in sustaining our environment, nurturing wildlife, contributing to the arts and making them accessible, providing hospitality to visitors, researching heritage and sharing these discoveries.
We benefit from your efforts on our tours. What's more, personal encounters with volunteers can make an experience particularly memorable. A fine example of this was a recent visit to the delightful Shannon Railway Station Museum. Our Discovery Day Trip guests were enthusiastically welcomed by volunteers Judith, Pat and Tony who provided us with a talk and a cuppa - their hospitality and passion for local history made the visit extra special.
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!
Quarrying at Owhiro Bay is thankfully well behind us and now days this spectacular piece of coastline is even graced with a landscaped visitor entrance and a designer information centre. If you are keen for a hike around the coast, it's a good idea to come here on a Sunday when the area is closed to vehicles. And if you visit between May and August you will be treated to the sight (and smell!) of a colony of fur seals hauled up on the rocks at Sinclair Head. They are definitely worth investigating - from a safe distance!
Speaking of marine life, Taputeranga marine reserve was introduced in 2008 and stretches from the old quarry at Owhiro Bay around to Princess Bay. The resurgence of sea life within this 854 hectare protected area is stunning. It's definitely worth getting amongst it with a mask and snorkel (and preferably a wet-suit - the water here is NEVER warm!). They say the sea floor around the island is now teeming with crayfish and that the crays are so at ease, they don't even bother hiding in the crevices anymore.
In my view the moods and spirit of the South Coast are captured well in artist Michael McCormack's paintings. Good on Michael for gifting the mural on the side of his studio gallery (pictured) to the people of Island Bay. It's a lovely feature.
Discover some of Sue's favourite spots with her on the Wellington South Coast Discovery Day Trip. Thursday 19 April 2018.
There are plenty of buzzwords to describe this sentiment such as 'responsible tourism', 'corporate social responsibility', 'having a social license to operate'...
But words alone won't cut it.
Here are some of the ways that Welcome Tours is walking that talk:
Keeping it local: Welcome Tours prefers to have authentic local experiences and to put our dollars into the local economy.
Protecting the environment:
- We keep paper usage to a minimum (no large glossy brochures for us).
- We optimise fuel efficiency to limit our CO2 emissions.
- We ensure that our tours leave no litter behind.
To the left: Here's our future - a recharging station at Masterton's Queen Elizabeth Park.
Being informed: We facilitate opportunities for guests to learn what the planet needs from humans and we keep learning about responsible ways to run our business.
Fostering social connections: We believe that genuine engagement and sharing experiences is where the magic happens on tour. Living in a high-tech age makes it all the more important to ensure that we take those moments to bond over a cuppa.
Paying attention to pronunciation: Out of respect for people and places we expect to get place names and guest names right.
Come and join us on our adventures to experience first hand how we respect and enjoy our environment and its people.
Sue is the Director and Chief Explorer at Welcome Tours. Sue blogs about new discoveries and the things that matter to Welcome Tours.