Leopard seal, a rare and unexpected visitor on our kayak tours.

There is always surprises in our ever changing environment at the Wairau Lagoon. Recently an young leopard seal has taken the Wairau as its home. My daughter Holly was the first to see it. “Hey dad, that log is a seal!”

The leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx) is built for speed. They are easily identified by their long slim body, comparatively large fore-flippers. They grow up to three metres in length and can weight 300kg.

Adult leopard seals are normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice but in winter, young animals move throughout the southern ocean visiting New Zealand. A population estimate in 1977 put the total number at 222,000.

They are the only seals known to regularly hunt and kill warm-blooded prey, including other seals. Large adults have attacked humans so they demand considerable respect.

Click her to read about what to do if you encounter a seal

In an effort to protect our visitor from human harm I contacted Dr Krista Hupman of the Department of Conservation in Auckland who specializes in marine mammal protection and who has been studying a very similar situation in the Westhaven marina, Auckland for the last 18 months. On her suggestion we are proposing signage to raise public awareness of the leopard seal and how it should be treated if encountered and the laws around it’s marine mammal protection status. We have contacted the local Department of Conservation and Rangitane to make them aware of this rarity in their area of stewardship.

Alpine Flora tour through the Rainbow Station

New Zealand alpine flora

With the invaluable help of flora photographer Rebecca Bowater and my daughter Lucy, I had the privilege to lead a wonderful and exciting alpine flora tour through the beautiful Rainbow Valley this week.

The alpine flora was abundant and varied especially in the Island Saddle area.

We specialize in bespoke alpine flora tours and can host groups from one to eighteen. Our next scheduled tour is our popular one day Black Birch tour which is traditionally on the Saturday before Christmas. Contact us for more information.

GARDEN MARLBOROUGH WETLAND WILDLIFE & NATIVE PLANT TOUR

Royal Spoonbill

Join Will and I on a guided walk of our eight hectare wetland and learn about the plants and animals that thrive there. We are delighted to have been invited by Garden Marlborough to offer a workshop on wetlands and native plants that prefer a wet environment. As a bonus we have invited seven community artists to exhibit their nature inspired works in and around the wetland. This is an early morning tour with complimentary breakfast and chilled bubbly. There will be lots of information about native plants as well as some fun.

Click here to read more and reserve your ticket.

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Archaeologists converge at the Wairau Bar

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2016 conference of the New Zealand Archaeological Association.

It was held at the Ukaipo Rangitane Conference Centre near Blenheim from the 22nd to the 25th of June. Our hosts during the conference were the  Rangitane o Wairau.

A highlight of the conference was the special field trip to visit the Wairau Bar, a site of national importance. This is the site of the first human settlers to Aeotearoa and such is tapu and deeply sacred to local Maori.

We were extended the privilege of visiting this site and hearing korero by the tangata whenua and recent scientific research.

We were later extended the traditional hospitality which Maori are so well known for. Driftwood Eco Tours congratulates the Rangitane on hosting  a very successful conference.

International Arbor Day recognised with community tree planting.

Opawa wine
Tree planters enjoy a glass of Opawa wine.

Thank you to the community for supporting our environment on Arbor Day last week. Nine people planted more than 200 trees into the wetland at Driftwood Retreat and Eco-Tours on a perfect and sunny winter’s day.

“It was a wonderful and dedicated group of planters and we are most grateful for the time and energy freely given”. said Will Parsons.

Among the trees planted suitable for the extremes of a wetland environment were Plagianthus Divaricatus and Olearia Solandri.  Thank you to Grant from Morgan’s Road Nursery for recommending suitable species.

Opawa wine kindly donated wine as a reward for volunteers to enjoy over lunch.

Driftwood Eco Tours has a policy of planting one tree for every tour taken to offset their carbon footprint, the balance of the trees were funded by FLOW Marlborough which was raised by community wetland walks last summer. You can like FLOW Marlborough on facebook here.

For the first time this wetland will be part of the Garden Marlborough week. Garden Marlborough brings plant enthusiasts from around New Zealand and the globe to converge on Marlborough’s most beautiful parks and private gardens.

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Marlborough Girls College Students receive a book on New Zealand conservation.

Book presetnation by Will Parsons
Students from Marlborough Girl’s College are presented with a book from FLOW Marlborough by Will Parsons.
Today Will and I were pleased to present a book called ‘Vanishing Nature’ – facing New Zealand’s biodiversity crisis, by the EDS (Environmental Defence Society) to the Marlborough Girl’s College.

Although we were wearing our Driftwood Eco Tours jackets, we were actually representing FLOW Marlborough (Friends of the Lower Opawa and Wairau). FLOW is an informal group dedicated to the conservation of the waterways of the lower Wairau Valley. Many of you will have seen our face book page with regular posts of Will’s beautiful photos of the birds and other wildlife of the area. FLOW’s goal is to raise awareness of the unique ecological features of the area, while including as many people as possible in dialog about how we can manage it better.

We were thrilled and encouraged to meet the students behind the environment group at the local college. These are girls willing to make positive change. Such as their recent ‘walk or bike to school week’. We have invited the group to visit our wetland next term which they have eagerly accepted. So good to have youthful energy and vision in Marlborough!

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Four day eco tour to D’Urville Island

What a great time we had at d’Urville Island, located in New Zealand’s stunning Marlborough Sounds. What made this tour unique was the opportunity to meet local families and get a peek into their lifestyle on this isolated and beautiful island.

The tour included catching blue cod and having it cooked for us that night, this was definitely a highlight.

My wife Rose who is a fourth Generation local to the area shared with us insights into her families close ties with the area.

Thank you to Ashley and Virginia at D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort for providing the excellent food and accommodation at the island.

If you would like to join one of our future tours  please click here to read more.

Cheers Will.

Driftwood Retreat and Eco-Tours wins at Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

Will and Rose love New Zealand nature.
Will and Rose thank their many supporters who helped make this achievement possible.

Will and Rose Parsons have long known that good environmental practice is good business practice too.

Their tourism operation Driftwood Retreat and Eco-Tours won the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce Business Awards’ Adding Value to Marlborough trophy last weekend, in a commendation that’s given them even more confidence in a business plan that looks for environmental and financial sustainability.

“We want to run a business that trades on Marlborough’s stunning ecology and history, without damaging the very thing we want to celebrate,” says Rose. “We hope that every person that comes on our tours leaves knowing a little bit more about the fascinating nature and heritage here, as well as how it can be protected.”

Driftwood Retreat and Eco-Tours has had a focus on kayak tours in the Wairau Lagoons, but has recently expanded to offer tours throughout the top of the South Island, including d’Urville Island and North Canterbury. In each area, they want to give something back to the community and environment they share.

Rose says the trophy, which was presented at an awards dinner at the Marlborough Convention Centre, is thanks to the support of people they work with to make Driftwood Eco-Tours a success. “This is really an award for the community that has driven our business. In a way we made a personal commitment to enhance and support the wetlands of the Wairau Lagoons and Lower Opawa, then the people we work with made a personal commitment to help us succeed. It’s pretty overwhelming really.”

Such collaboration was one of the factors the judges picked up on, with Katherine Hume-Pike of Marlborough Lines highlighting the local talent used to assist the company in developing their business, including “striking branding featuring the iconic royal spoonbill”.

She says the operation is a “real standout” with “a 100-year plan and a genuine focus on growing a sustainable business”.

The judges were impressed by the expansion of Driftwood’s product offering and distribution channels, demonstrating an awareness of the value from both domestic and international tourists.

They also supported the work done to incorporate environmental and cultural elements in Driftwood’s tours, ensuring “a truly unique visitor experience”, as well as their initiatives to encourage visitors to extend their stay in Marlborough.

Katherine says the couple are clearly passionate about the area they operate in. “They are active in local environmental work, education, consult with local Maori and other groups and are involved in weed control, pest control and revegetation.”

Will says the accolade is heartening, but there’s still much for them to do. “Our challenge is to see more people visit the birth place of New Zealand. It is what we love to share.”

What are the best things to do in New Zealand? – A classic kiwi experience.

White baiting
White baiting at the Opawa River

Whitebait, if you have not tried them before, are a tiny, wriggling, juvenile form of five different species of freshwater fish. They may not sound that exciting, but they are in fact a kiwi icon! Every year as the whitebait season approaches, the whitebaiters start talking about where and how they are going to catch the elusive schools of tiny bait.

 

Will, Vix and Gussy went to visit two veteran whitebaiters Geoff and Clint, a father and son duo, who have been fishing on this part of the Opawa river for 15 years. For three years they have been feeding a pair of rare black fronted tern with spare whitebait, throwing the bait in the air for the terns to catch in flight. Clint and Geoff catch bait sustainably, always observing the regulation set by the Ministry of Fisheries and catching only what they can eat and share with friends.

“The best way to eat whitebait is fried in butter in a little egg, salt and pepper and eaten hot between two slices of buttered bread” says Geoff.

 

Be part of this classic kiwi experience, meet Geoff on a whitebait tour by kayak. These tours are scheduled for the best tide for catching whitebait on weekdays and weekend “Except on Wednesdays” says Geoff, “because that is the day I plays bowls”. Will can cook you up a taste of the whitebait experience on a gas cooker on the riverside.

Read more about our new tour here.

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