Tiritiri Matangi is an island in case anyone was wondering. The name leaves much to the imagination. However, Tiritiri Matangi island is another Hauraki Gulf gem that often gets bypassed by visitors to Auckland. The other thing to mention is that Tiritiri Matangi is not just an island, it's a scientific reserve, also known as an open sanctuary for many a rare and New Zealand endemic bird. So in short it is an island perfect for bird lovers.
The reason I visited is because I am a firm believer in karma and that when you do a good deed, good things will happen to you. I have also chosen to share my life with a keen, sorry very keen, bird lover and supporting one another's interests is apparently the route towards happiness. Therefore tickets to bird island were purchased and I continued the art of faking it (excitement at going to the bird island, just to clarify).
It takes just over an hour on the ferry from downtown Auckland to get to Tiritiri Matangi island and the ferry is shared by visitors to the island as well as the volunteers who work on there, it's their commute. If you get really unlucky you also share the ferry with a giant group of 8 year old school children. To this day I still don't quite get the combination of peaceful bird watchers paradise and small children on a day trip.
Approaching the Tiritiri Matangi island is quite something; unlike many other islands in the Hauraki gulf Tiritiri Matangi has more of a presence. It's a bit more rugged and has a distinct lack of other visitors (visitor numbers are monitored) which gives off this feeling of isolation but also importance.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) are clearly very proud of their bird island. Many rare and endangered species have been reintroduced and pretty much the entire island has been re-planted to become a haven for New Zealand birds. Completely free from predators there are birds, and the odd reptile, that you cannot see anywhere else in the world.
If you go then do the guided tour. It's only $5 more and it is essentially just a donation to the island and very refreshingly it does all go back to the island. In return for your cash you get an expert to answer all your questions and help spot the birds. There are a number a walks but I would recommend the full island walk called the coastal track. They say it takes about 4-5 hours which sounds a lot but this takes into account a lot of time for bird lovers to take pictures and just observe. However, this is the best way to really see the island and turns Tititiri Matangi into much more than just a boring bird walk.
Our guided walk took us along the Wattle Track & Kawerau Track primarily to avoid the school children. The Wattle track is home to a couple of nesting boxes which changes even the most sceptical of people when you peer in to see two blue penquins nesting. A once in a lifetime moment right there within minutes of stepping foot on the island. No fake excitement there. Reluctantly moving on we hit Hobbs Beach which surprised me again as the beach is gorgeous. Isolated and with the most stunning turquoise blue waters you could mistake yourself for being in Abel Tasman National Park if it weren't for random rare parakeets and North Island Saddlebacks tottering along the beach.
"...we heard the 'most beautiful bird song in the world."
Walking in you step from beach to rainforest where the quiet is something to experience to be believed. Birds fly about everywhere and it has to be said that there is something very infectious about other peoples excitement especially when we heard the 'most beautiful bird song in the world'. The super rare North Island Kokako which was reintroduced to the island is apparently the proud owner of the most beautiful bird song in the world and is only found on this island. Now I must be honest I don't really get where the bird song praise is coming from, it's nice but you wouldn't want to hear it all day but when we spotted the Kokako you couldn't help but be a little but in awe. Everyone in our group, including our guide went gaga for this bird so it's quite cool to be in the presence of something very special.
For me there was something other than birds in this part of the forest that was impressive and that was the Pohutakawa Trees which at 800-1000 years old are quite incredible. They look a little bit like something out of a fantasy story but are clearly the backbone of this island as the first inhabitants.
As you emerge from the rainforest this is where we left the guided tour and carried on the coastal track which led us to the East Coast of the Island. The scenery changes to dry heathland and we share the track with the awesome Pukakos and watch as their skinny legs run away from you. It's the East Coast of the Tiritiri Matangi that sold this island to me. Forever looking for a place on my travels with that x-factor, somewhere that just feels special because not many other people have seen it, this island gave it to me. Standing out over Pohutukawa Cove, also a great place for lunch, I felt like nobody else inhabited the planet let alone the island. Behind me was forest and heathland and in front of me was the Hauraki Gulf and both Little Barrier Island and Great Barrier Island. Not a boat or person in sight. That moment is what travelling is all about, those little surprises when you least expect them.
The walk along the rugged East Coast is spectacular and we have a clear destination in sight, the mighty lighthouse and gift shop where the Takahe can be found. Another rarity the Takahe are similar to a fat greedy Pukako but are equal in personality and will apparantly eat your food if you aren't careful.
5 hours on a bird island seemed like a lifetime for me but I would actually go back. If you want a real New Zealand experience and to really sample something a little secret but very special then Tiritiri Matangi island in Aucklands Hauraki Gulf is the place for you.