Alpine Flora Tour 2018 Rebecca Bowater

Aciphylla dobsonii

This 4 day tour commenced from Driftwood Eco-tours base in Blenheim on the 7th January. The guides were Will Parson and myself as the alpine flora guide.

We left with our 8 clients and travelled up the Wairau Valley through the Rainbow stopping whenever there were plants of interest to see, namely Helichrysum parvifolium flowering on the rocky cliffs and various Epilobiums flowering on the scree slopes. We had wonderful picnic morning and afternoon teas and lunches each day in the field.

We found the small mauve Veronica [Hebe] pimeleoides subsp.pimeleoides flowering then had a good look for alpine flowers on Island Pass seeing Wahlenbergia cartilaginea and Lobelia roughii just to name a few.

The views from the pass were spectacular. Down to Lake Tennyson where Gentianella corymbifera and Aciphylla aurea were looking beautiful as well as seeing Boulder Copper butterflies on the flowers of Raoulia glabra. After a wonderful day we arrived in Hanmer where we stayed the night.

The next day we left for Flock Hill Lodge near Castle Hill Canterbury stopping off on Porters Pass where I pointed out the pink leafless broom Carmichaelia crassicaulis subsp crassicaulis. Onto Flock Hill Lodge where we stayed in cottages and had dinner at the restaurant. The next morning was wet, so I gave an informative photographic alpine talk in the conference room at this facility.

After lunch we drove to Arthurs Pass and visited the DOC centre and walked around the Dodson nature walkway. By late afternoon the weather had cleared we drove up to Mt Cheeseman skifield and walked along the road between scree slopes just below the top ski lodge, there were views to die for. I pointed out the sweet smelling Lobelia macrodon and Senecio glaucophyllus subsp.discoideus in full flower and other alpines.

The next day we headed back to Blenheim via Hanmer and Molesworth Station. Once again the scenery was stunning and Brachyglottis monroi was in full flower around the Acheron Gorge, we picked gooseberries near the roadside and stopped to look at Molesworth Cottage, and seeing Pachystegia insignis flowering on the cliffs was a great way to finish the tour.

I recommend these alpine tours especially if you are unable to climb to the tops of the mountains. We are driven to the alpine zone and have several hours looking at our wonderful little alpine treasures all native of New-Zealand. The meals and accommodation are fantastic. There is so much to see and enjoy, a small group tour with like-minded people is what I recommend.

Rebecca Bowater FPSNZ  AFIAP

See the new season's alpine flora tours here

Ring Will or Rose Parsons, Driftwood Eco Tours 03 5777 651


Alpine Flora of Molesworth, Amuri & Cheeseman

Gentianella Corymbifera subs. corymbifera
Gentianella Corymbifera subs. corymbifera

Acaena saccaticupula
Bidibid or Acaena saccaticupula

Phyllachne colensoi
Phyllachne colensoi

Guide Will Parsons
Guide Will Parsons

Geranium brevicaule
Geranium brevicaule

Alpine Flora guide Rebecca Bowater
Alpine Flora guide Rebecca Bowater

Over the past two weeks I have had the privilege and joy of guiding sixteen alpine flora enthusiasts to the high country of the top of the South Island in pursuit of alpine flora. On the first tour we all benefitted from working alongside Rebecca Bowater with her fund of alpine flora knowledge


Here are a few of the delightful specimens we found in some of the world’s most stunning scenery.


Since we have been home my wife Rose and I have been sitting at our kitchen table trying to identify the Latin names for the plants we photographed.


I will post more photos as we work our way through our long list of plants.


If you are interested in joining our tour for next season by all means drop us line. We are planning multiday and one day tours in Marlborough and multiday tours in northern Canterbury.


Nature tour to the Wairau Lagoon

Pied stilt
This is an area where pied stilt nest.

Will and Rose Parsons
This is one of our favourite environments.

The White Buffs at the Wairau Lagoons
Taking a stroll beside the White Bluffs.

View over the Awatere Valley
View from Jamie's knob over the Awatere Valley.

I love the Wairau Lagoons. I brought a property over-looking the 2,400 hectare tidal lagoon in the lower Wairau Valley, Marlborough in 1995. Something about it drew me.


Little did I know I would one day be guiding local and international visitors by kayak and four wheel drive vehicle. After consultation the land owners for the Vernon Station granted us permission to access their beautiful property to see the lagoon from a very special perspective. We have the privilege of passing through locked gates to explore an ecological and geological wonderland.


I always marvel and the view from Jamie's knob named after the late Jamie Balfour. The view offers views of the historically significant Awatere Valley, the Wairau Valley famous for its wine production and on a fine day the North Island.


The White Bluffs, Te Parinui o Whiti are were we stop for morning tea of home baked apple cake and bacon and egg pie. This is where the bullock trail was before roads were made. I love to paint a picture for visitors of the men and animals who used this beach as the only 'highway'.


Views over the Wairau Lagoon can be rewarding for photographers and bird watchers. White fronted tern, Australasian harrier, Black fronted tern, Black swan, Caspian Royal spoonbill & White faced heron are a few of over ninety species of bird that maybe seen in this area. You can see more of the birds which you might see here


The Wairau Lagoon was the first known site of human occupation, home to the Polynesian tribe often called the Moa Hunters. Moa is a large ostrich sized extinct bird. It was hunted for food by the Moa Hunter as there were no sizeable land mammals in New Zealand prior to human arrival. The only mammals were the bat and seal.


You can read more about the natural history of the Wairau here


If you would like to visit the Wairau Lagoon with me when you are visiting Marlborough or even if you are a local who would like the opportunity to get to know the area better you can read about the tour we offer here

Our wildlife paradise

Canoeing on the river

Marlborough marsh lands

Waste water treatment ponds

Waste water treatment ponds

Gentle canoeing on the Opawa River

River at dusk

What a paradise we live in, Rose and I decided to take a short walk before dinner across the river. We live in the edge of the Opawa (Opaoa) river in the Lower Wairau Valley catchment, where we run, on demand kayak tours and have a small eco lodge.

Summer has just arrived in Marlborough and it's great to have the longer days to relax outdoors after work.

We are most fortunate that we have a four hour, loop walking track across the river which boarders the waste water treatment ponds and the Waiau Lagoons. Great places to see birds.

Some of the birds we saw were pied stilts, canadian geese, Australisan shovelers, black swans, spur winged plovers, grey teal, royal spoonbill, kotuku, swallows and curl bunting.

We where over the moon to see a fernbird flutter across our path and spend several minutes peeking out at us from the long grass.

The night was topped off with the call of a shining cuckoo, over from the Solomon Islands to predate the nest of the grey warbler.

Your can find out more about what we offer visitors here

Matata, Fernbird

TNZ1103 Qualmark Gold Logo_Stack

Accommodation options

Peaceful, relaxing and natural

Choose to stay at one of our private apartments on our beautiful 14 hectare property. Click on one of the options below to find out about facilities and prices.







Seperate accommodation with floor to ceiling windows

An architecturally designed two bedroom eco suite with lovely views of trees and the nearby wetland. Great for a couple or families.

Tree house accommodation






Independant entrance, overlooking wetland and host's deck

A sunny apartment with two balcony and spacious lounge. It is part of the host's home, with a private entrance. Sleeps two but can accommodate three.

Video of our close encounter with a leopard seal

Kayaking this week with our lovely guests from the U.K. Jill and Alan in the Wairau Lagoon, a typically shallow tidal wetland, we suddenly realised that we were not alone! No more than ten metres away, up pops the head of a young male leopard seal. This rarely seen marine mammal has recently taken up residence in the lagoon.

We stayed very still so as not to frighten or challenge the seal, waiting for him to retreat as he has done in the past on earlier encounters.

This time he seemed very interested in us and watched us for several minutes, we were blocked from backing away by the shallow lagoon floor.

Click here to see the video on our facebook page

Be sure to like out page to get more nature photos and videos.

Kayaking with our new guide Glenn Lambeth


Wither hills
The Opawa River looking South to the Wither Hills

Royal spoonbill
Royal spoonbill relax after frantic feeding on the high tide.

Black swan takes flight
A black swan literally runs on the water before taking flight

Leopard seal
I can see you!

We are very happy to have Glenn Lambeth join us as senior kayak guide this season. Glenn's considerable experience guiding kayaking groups includes working at Outward Bound, New Zealand's outdoor training and team building specialists.


Glenn joined me on the water to familiarise himself with the unique wildlife and historical features of the Wairau Lagoon.


There was plenty of birds to see including the pied and little cormorants at their nesting colony on Hardings Point, opposite the Wairau Bar. Also flocks of royal spoonbill who seem to be starting to circulate again after their nesting on the islands further south.


We were also very surprised to see the leopard seal which made itself at home at the Lagoon. We thought it was a log but on closer inspection it looked at us!


Glenn suggested we offer a beach cooked meal including cockles gathered from the sand, washed down with a glass of local wine. I am certainly up for trying that!


If you would like to know more about the Lagoon and the fascinating history of this area click here to read more.




Royal Spoonbill, Kings and Queens of the river

Royal spoonbill

Royal Spoonbill


The spring is here and the warmer weather is enticing us out onto the little river which runs past our home, the Opaoa River. Whitebaiters are out on the riverside trying their luck at catching the Kiwi delicacy whitebait. A tiny fish the size of grass blades, that causes a lot of fuss at this time of year. We met Geoff down river, he had just caught a cup full and his son caught a kilo yesterday.

But what we are really excited to see are the royal spoonbill. They know it is spring too and are wearing their distinctive breeding headdress to attract a mate. They also have a ruby red dot between their eyes and a soft rust colour on their chest. They are out to strut their stuff and we take photos of them as we drift by. We never tire of seeing these remarkable birds close up.

They are the bird on our logo for good reason, they are the most popular bird on our kayaking tours. If you want to see the royal spoonbill you can read more about our kayak tours here. Read more.

If you want to go in the draw to win a free tour share this post on social media at the links below and email us to tell us why you want to meet the spoonbill. Cheers Will and Rose zn.oc.sruotocedoowtfirdnull@ofni 021 62 0030

Royal spoonbill

Meet our animals at the retreat

Will and I LOVE animals of all kinds and our retreat is a busy place with our farm animals and pets. Our visitors love feeding our small herd of alpacas. We have five girls and three boys. They are due to have cria or baby alpaca in the summer.

Feeding alpaca
Family time feeding our alpaca







Baby alpaca
Our alpaca will be having babies in the summer







Our new arrivals are Ginger and Grunter our friendly and greedy Kune Kune pigs. They love people and will wander over to our neighbours if they feel they are not getting enough attention.

Pig asleep in trough
Ginger asleep in his trough







We have our own free range hens, they free range around our property eating bugs and cultivating the garden. The eggs are delicious in our baking.

Our free range hens provide eggs fro our cakes and muffins







Eggs in a hen house
Children love to collect the eggs from the hen house







Both Will and I are from sheep farms so we like to run a few sheep for old times sake. Our ewes are due to have lambs in October.

Our sheep will he having lambs soon!







We have four very tame cows who were bucket reared as calves. They keep the long grass down around the wetland. They are sort of walking lawn mowers

Our quiet cattle will also be having calves in the Spring.







If you want to stay at our farm stay retreat and meet our animals you can click here to find out more

You can also book a demonstration by an award winning dog trailist. Trevor will show you how he trains his dogs to work sheep and how he breeds the best working dogs in the province. To find out more about this click here to read about the activites you can do when you stay with us.

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