Last weekend we went both to the Marine Education Centre and Zealandia on the same day, really making the most of the last day of golden weather before a nasty summer storm blew through and Grandma & Grandad headed off up country for a week to visit with some of my family.
The Marine Education Centre is a great spot to get up close and personal with some of our local marine wildlife. It is wonderful to see it thriving again after a nasty spate of vandalism over Christmas, when someone poisoned the water supply and the centre lost half its wildlife. That someone would even think to do such a thing makes me so mad!
The boys enjoyed touching all kinds of starfish, sea anemones and sea slugs in the touch pools.
And we watched with grotesque fascination as the centre's octopus got fed a crab and sat with it in its mouth sucking all the goodness out for the next 20 minutes!
I think my favourite creatures are the seahorses though - I especially love how they twirl their fins so quickly as they glide through the water.
Just as much fun for the boys was the opportunity to play in the rock pools outside, Noah confidently hopping from rock to rock, encouraging Mylo to follow along behind him and showing him the way. They played happily until it was time to go, when Mylo got a bit of stage fright as the waves were coming in over a few of the rocks on the way back. So off I went in my sturdy jandals (not!) to perform a quick rescue.
One thing I couldn't quite believe was the number of giant mosquitoes on the wall behind the centre which were giving anything that moved a good suck of the blood if they could find it. I must have slapped at least half a dozen off me while we were there, and even managed to bring one in the car that had been hiding in our rucksack.
So here I was driving along the main street of Island Bay feeling a mozzie biting my toes and trying to slap it away without having a car accident - not an easy task! In the end, I gave up and had to park up and wait for it to reappear so we could deal to it. In the meantime, I managed to get bitten a few times which I was still feeling with a vengeance 2 days later!
After a spot of lunch at home, we headed out to Zealandia for the afternoon. It still blows my mind that we have this little bit of natural Kiwi paradise right on our doorstep, literally as the crow flies it is less than 1km away from our house. This year we've decided to buy an annual pass, so that we can go whenever we want, whether to see the exhibition centre, or just enjoy one of the many walking tracks in the sanctuary. I have no doubt we will get our money's worth!
I love our little native owl - the morepork (ruru) named for the 'morepork' sound their call makes. We also often spot the native wood pigeon (kereru) sitting on telephone wires or in trees around our area. The little parrots are called kakariki (literally means green) and have been brought from Kapiti Island up the coast.
The exhibition centre alone is worth a visit. I love how it tells the story of NZ in yesteryear, sadly so many species are now extinct due to the ignorance of NZ's early peoples, both the Maori and Europeans when they settled the country.
Thank goodness that places like Zealandia exist now though to help bring other species back from the brink of extinction, and to thrive again. When the 9km long predator fence was installed in 2000, it took 8 months to build. In the meantime, over 1,000 possums were trapped and many other predators removed before they released kiwi and other protected birds and animals.
We have certainly noticed a huge increase in the number of tui and kaka flying around our neighbourhood these past few years due to the success of the sanctuary at encouraging the wildlife to return. Just the same night as we had visited the sanctuary we had a kaka perched on a lamp post across the road making quite a racket as he was calling to his mates.
Despite how close to civilisation the sanctuary actually is, once you are inside you can easily forget you are in the middle of the capital city. You could easily be in a bush paradise miles from anywhere.
The takahe - similar to a pukeko but with shorter legs and a bigger beak. They are are a flightless bird so thrive in this protected environment.
Last time we came here back in spring, it was a crisp and still afternoon and we enjoyed a long walk on some of the tracks, but didn't get to see half as much wildlife as we did today. It was quite spectacular.
There was an amazing variety of birdlife in the bush, and we even got accustomed to recognising some of the different calls including the saddleback which has quite the distinctive tune.
But the star of the show today was the tuatara, NZ's own prehistoric lizard.
Walking here along tuatara alley, there are various orange markers placed beside the fence where the tuatara's nests are so you can try and spot them.
With the warm sun beating down, just about every tuatara was out basking in the warmth of the day.
This guy was particularly fascinating with his long white spikes. You can see coloured beads on his neck which is their unique identifier.
We ended a lovely couple of hours with icecreams overlooking the lower dam at Rata Cafe.
It was so special to have shared this wonderful spot on the planet with our dear mum and dad. Even when they have returned to the other side of the world, they will be able to imagine us here when we come again which we will!