Kayaking in the Wairau Lagoon

Black fronted tern
Black fronted tern

We have had some lovely kayak trips into the Wairau Lagoon. Here I had alot of fun photographing a rare black fronted tern as it washed at the edge of the sand spit. It is encourageing to hear that the Department of Conservation has had success improving the breeding numbers of this rare endemic bird at the Clarence River. This is after a pest trapping project they carried out at this remote high country braided river.

White heron

There is a kotuku visiting from South Westland residing at the Opawa River at the moment. These young birds are almost always solitary and visit places like Marlborough until the breeding season starts at Okarito. There are thought to be only around 150- 200 birds in New Zealand. Because of their rarity Maori held them in high regard and it was considered an honour to be compaired to one.

Black swan
An unusual hybrid swan

Rose and I love the black swans of our river even though they are considered by some to be a pest. This junvenile hybrid swan is a sight I have never seen before. Just as mysteriously it has disappeared.

Black fronted tern
Juvenile black fronted tern
White fronted tern
White fronted tern

Taking photos of birds in flight holds an endless challenge and fascination for me. Here I had some measure of success with a young black fronted tern and a white fronted tern. Notice the shadow on the sand below.

Returning home







If you are interested in bird watching or photography and would like to chat or come on a tour feel free to contact me at zn.oc.sruotocedoowtfirdnull@lliw


Happy nature watching – Will

Our bird watching winter watching holiday

Will and I have recently returned from our winter holiday at Motueka and Kahurangi National Park at the top of the South Island, New Zealand. We were over the moon to see whio (blue duck) and matatata (fernbird) and ‎mioweka (banded rail) all within a few days.

The whio and mioweka were a first for us!

Here are a few photos we would like to share with you. Photos are by Will Parsons.

Banded rail
Banded rail


Whio, blue duck
Matata, fernbird

French Pass and d’Urville Island tours 2017-18

Te Towaka, Marlborough Sounds
View of the Pelorus Sound on the way to French Pass. The farm in the distance is Te Towaka owned by the Leov family.

Photos by Tamzin Henderson





Walking at Patuki farm at the northern reach of d’Urville Island
Fishing at d'Urville Island
Blue cod are easy to catch and cooked for us at the lodge








Charter boat trip at d'Urville Island
Relaxing on the way back to the lodge after a tour











Tour guides Will and Rose Parsons







You can join us on a trip to d’Urville island! Twice a year we pack up for the island with a small group of no more than eight for a guided five day tour. You will see the rugged beauty, meet the lovely locals and of course catch the legendary and delicious blue cod. Each night you can return to the comfort of a local lodge and local hospitality.

You will hear the stories of the Island and French Pass from Will Parsons who loves to read the history of the area and his wife Rose who grew up at the French Pass and knows the area intimately.

Read more about our tours and dates of departure here

D’Urville Island Wildlife Tour


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.


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.



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.




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!



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.