Kayaking with Herons

The mist is hugging the hills. The lush green forest flowing out from beneath it. Once again, I feel like I am on the set of Jurassic Park.

There is no rain today. There is even a patch of sun breaking through the clouds, beaming down on a snowy mountain.

Surely I live in the most beautiful place in the world.

A short, 30 minute drive and we are at our next stop.

Okarito.

I have wanted to come here for a long time. Finally we are here. Today, we will be kayaking on the lagoon, which is home to the Kotuku (White Heron)

We are warmly greeted by our hosts. Again, it is just the two of us on the tour. They have kindly allowed Daniel and I to have single kayaks! Whenever we have been on kayak tours we get put in a double kayak, it’s so nice being able to have our own for a change. I have never seen kayaks like this before though. They have a small rudder at the back with pedals in the front that you control with your toes. I’m potentially going to be going round in circles. It might take me a while to get the hang of this!

Before long we are out on the lake, with a million sand flies. They are everywhere and feasting on my ankles for breakfast! Our guide, Gemma, assures us that they only hang out at the lake shore and will leave us fairly soon. Thankfully they do!

Once we are free from the hungry mouths of sandflies, I am able to start enjoying the perfect conditions. There is not a breath of wind. It’s a bit misty and drizzley, but really, this just adds to the atmosphere. The lake is so flat. It’s like a mirror, beautifully reflecting the land.

Absolute magic!

Not far into our expedition, we spot our first heron. It is magnificent standing there on it’s long, slender legs. It launches into the air and flies right past us, so silently, so elegant and graceful, until it open’s it’s beak. The honking, squawking sound it makes does not match the gracefulness of this bird!

The lake is so silent, the stillness is unreal. I am so used to city noise, but here, there is nothing. Peacefulness washes over me.

We continue our journey up river. It’s very green here. The native forest is filled with rimu, kahikatea, vine rata, wild orchids, flax, manuka. Gemma is very knowledgeable, pointing out all the different trees and answering my many questions about native flora and fauna. I love learning about my country, it’s history, wildlife and plants. This is why I often opt for guided tours over self guided. It costs more, but the experience is so enriched with the knowledge of a local guide.

Paddling further up river I spot little fish hanging out among the river plants. There are kereru (wood pigeon) and the gorgeous, cheeky little piwakawaka (fantail) that flitter about in the low tree branches. This is so incredibly peaceful and I delight in just floating along, listening to all the birds. In the distance I can hear the roar of the ocean.

While paddling back, we spot 2 more herons. They aren’t bothered by kayaks so you can get quite close. Gemma takes us on a different route so we can get closer, but warns us that the water here gets pretty shallow and we might get stuck. Worth the risk I say. The water does get shallow and in the end it is far easier to push yourself along using your hands against the mud bed rather than the paddle. We then run aground and have to get out and drag them. It’s kayaking at it’s finest!

We do manage to get pretty close to the herons though. They are not bothered by us so we enjoy watching them for a while. Totally worth getting wet feet!

Okarito is a very small settlement, a place probably not many people have heard of. I imagine so many would just drive straight by and not even know it was there. They are missing out. This kayak trip was all I had hoped it would be; peaceful, magical and so very special. If you are in the area, make sure you check out Okarito Kayaks.

It’s a breathtaking experience.

We have begun making our way back up country now. Tonight we are staying in Hokitika. It’s 2 hours away so we saddle up and carry on, driving through some splendid rainforest.

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Lunch is in a small rural settlement called Harihari at the local cafe. For such a remote place, I am pleasantly surprised to see they have a vegan kumera and cashew pie on the menu. I also couldn’t resist sampling one of their homemade yoyos. I have to say, it was all pretty delicious.

We arrive in Hokitika, check into our accommodation and then I am straight out to explore the town. There are a lot of art and craft shops, particullary ones selling New Zealand Jade which is quite abundant in the area. I then head down to the beach – I want to see the Hokitika Drift Wood Sign.

A stroll along the beach is next on the agenda. Its a long beach, the sand seems to stretch on for ages. The sand is dotted with many fascinating stones. I collect a few to take home. You can even find pounamu (greenstone) right here on the beach. I pass quite a lot of time, fossicking about, looking for anything that might be greenstone.

I make sure I am on the beach for sunset. It’s not as spectacular as images I have seen of this beach, but it is a bit overcast today. Regardless, it is still lovely to sit on the beach and watch the fading sun as I reflect on the awesome day I have had.

2 thoughts on “Kayaking with Herons

  1. Pingback: Planning your West Coast Itinerary – Exploring the Long White Cloud

  2. Pingback: Travel Highlights of 2021 – Exploring the Long White Cloud

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