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When we went to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Wellington we really, really wanted to go and visit Sir Peter Jackson's Gallipoli Exhibition. We went to Te Papa Museum on Saturday ... the queue was two hours long. We went on Sunday ... the queue was two and a half hours long. We thought ah ha, most of the humans who went to the Tattoo will go home on Monday so we went again on Monday. The queue was three hours long! So, on the spur of the moment, we went to Matiu/Somes Island, and wow, what a treat that was. I'm definitely going to talk to our human about organising us another trip there to do some volunteer work.
Matiu/Somes Island is in the middle of Wellington Harbour ... just a 20-minute ferry ride from Queens Wharf. And, as we said often on this trip, you can't beat Wellington on a good day!
Dover gets creative with the camera as we leave Queens Wharf.
When you arrive on the island, you are met by a DOC (Department of Conservation) Ranger who tells you a bit about the history of the island.
A thousand years ago the island was given its Maori name (Matiu) by Kupe. The European humans who came to New Zealand as settlers renamed it, but thankfully it was given a nice bi-cultural name in 1997. Kiwis are good like that. The island has New Zealand’s first inner harbour lighthouse (1866), and has been used as an internment camp, a military defence position, and as an animal and a human quarantine station.
READ ABOUT THE DEFENCE HISTORY
READ ABOUT THE LIGHTHOUSE
READ ABOUT THE HUMAN QUARANTINE STATION
READ ABOUT THE ANIMAL QUARANTINE STATION
After the welcome talk, everyone has to check their bags for rats, mice, or seeds that they might accidentally transport to the island. We thought that was a bit silly, until Di, the ranger, said one lady found a live mouse in her bag her cat had put there. That is exactly the sort of thing Ashla would do, so Ferhad Junior and I checked every pocket of our bag. Twice.
(L-R) Ferhad Junior and Rebek check they aren't bringing any "hitch-hikers" to the island.
Kaz helps Rebek and Ferhad Junior to check their hooves for seeds that could accidentally get transported to the island.
Kaz gives Rebek a helping hand to "double-dip" his hooves on the insecticide pad before setting hoof on the island.
Ferhad Junior met some island locals who live in the DOC hut and help the rangers out, while I read some of the information about the island.
Once we knew for certain we were rat-mouse-seed free, it was on to the island and up the hill. We didn't have to go far before we were rewarded with stunning views across the Wellington Harbour. It's an easy walk, although quite, errr, uphill, but there were people much older than our human walking up, so anyone can do it.
That is some panorama!
From the ferry we had seen a lighthouse. Needless to say, Ferhad Junior wanted us to hike to that. And what an exciting find we made along the way ... a real live tuatara living in the wild. We never would have known it was there if a kind human hadn't pointed it out to us. Thank you good human! The photos show just how hard it is to spot a tuatara as you walk past. Yes, the tuatara is in all three photos. You'll have to look carefully to see it in the left and middle photos.
Ferhad Junior was very excited when we made it to the lighthouse, but a little disappointed we couldn't go inside. Still, he perked up again when we posed for a phot by the door ... the colour reminded him of our trip to Tunisia many years ago.
After leaving the lighthouse, it was on to the summit of the island. Look what Ferhad Junior found along the way ... a small-giraffe sized DOC hut. Who would have thought the humans could be so considerate of visiting small giraffes? We were quite touched by the gesture.
After making it to the highest point on the island (only 48 metres, but it seemed like thousands of metres on a hot summer's day) we headed back down, and on the way wandered past the old defence forts. Needless to say, a certain young giraffe disappeared down one of the tunnels, and it took us ages to find him. After that, we checked out the old quarantine station. Ferhad Junior was amazed by the old-style phone ... our human said she used one right up till she was a teenager. Ferhad Junior said he didn't know she was that old. Cheeky young giraffe! He was still laughing at her when she calmly pointed to the sign on the office door. ROFL. Ferhad Junior couldn't get out of there fast enough!
In the visitor centre we met up with not one, but two DOC rangers. This was a great moment for me, as I think DOC rangers are among some of the best humans on the planet. Di and Evan were kind enough to show us around the hut, which has lots of interesting stuff, and answered Ferhad Junior's endless questions.
(L-R): DOC rangers Di Batchelor and Evan Ward show Rebek and Ferhad Junior around the visitor centre.
Rebek checks out some bird's nests.
Ferhad Junior measures himself next to a giant weta. Scary stuff!
Outside the Visitor Centre we found a funky mural, and of course we couldn't leave until Ferhad Junior had answered all the questions. There was a donation box by the Visitor's Centre, and we made a small donation ... unfortunately our human almost never carries cash on her, so this was all we had to give. Next time we'll make sure she takes more cash.
Although we saw a tuatara up close, and saw a kakariki fly past, the closest Ferhad Junior could get to having his picture taken with them was with these billboards. Still, he seemed happy enough with that! He was keen on getting up close and personal with real wetas, but our wussy human wasn't so eager.
We arrived back at the wharf about 45 minutes before the ferry was due, so our human went for a paddle, and a certain young giraffe stripped off all his clothes and went swimming naked. Oh to be that young and carefree!
(L-R): Ferhad Junior went skinny dipping, while Little Peppe checked out some of the old-brick ruins on the beach.
(L-R): Ferhad Junior dries off, while Rebek goes off for a final look over the island map.
After a wonderful (but way too short) three hours on the island, it was time to head back to the "mainland". We'll definitely be back, and this notice we saw in the arrival hut has some definite possibilities!
For more information on the island and its history, visit the Matiu/Somes Island DOC website.
For more information on volunteering, visit the DOC Volunteer page for Matiu/Somes Island. If you want to volunteer there over summer, plan well ahead. The Summer volunteer positions for the 2015/16 season are full. Humans can volunteer from October to March each year. You work 8 hours a day Monday to Friday for at least a month. You don't get paid, but you do get free accommodation and food, which is unusual for conservation volunteer work. What a great opportunity for backpackers! I wonder if we can talk our human into doing it for next season?
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