Tiritiri Matangi Island

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Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland Overview

An island where the sweet chirping of birds never stops echoing, Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the most active and significant wildlife sanctuaries in New Zealand. The wildlife conservation island is a predator-free environment that provides for a suitable habitat for about 87 varieties of species of birds, among which 12 are said to be endemic. The island is truly a wildlife wonderland and attracts around 32,000 tourists every year. A 75-minute ferry ride is all it takes to get to the bird’s paradise from the Auckland mainland.

Before this island became the bird’s haven that it is today, it was used as a farmland and was subjected to heavy deforestation. This caused several species of birds and animals to be endangered and the need to save the island from completely dying became more and more evident. It was then when the project to rejuvenate the island was initiated by a group of volunteers (supporters) and many native species of birds were translocated here.

As a part of rejuvenating the island, around 240,000 native shrubs and trees were planted here. Many steps were taken to ensure that the environment was protective enough for the wildlife to thrive and one of them included making the island pest-free. The island is open for all and hosts different groups of people ranging from school kids to photographers to researchers. Apart from native and exotic species of birds and reptiles, the island is home to a historic lighthouse, a gift shop and a visitor centre.

Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the most successful conservation projects taken up by a non-profit conservation volunteer group and was saved from deforestation. It is located in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand in the North Island, just 30 km north-east from Auckland. If you’re a bird watcher, a bird lover or simply a lover of nature, this island is a day-trip that you don’t want to miss.

The ferry wharf on the Tiritiri Matangi Island
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Things to Do in Tiritiri Matangi

  • Bird watching - The Island is somewhat of heaven for avid bird-watchers since there are around 87 species of birds observed there. Some of these species are endemic and are thriving well on the island whereas some of these species are native species from the indigenous Māori times. These birds have not seen in the Auckland mainland anymore due to civilization and the island is the only habitat they have. Make sure to pack your binoculars and ferry down to the island to witness some of the rarest species of birds.
  • Wildlife photography- If photography is what interests you, then Tiritiri Matangi offers some great opportunities for wildlife and nature photography. Camera gear is allowed on the island and people come here often to click pictures and film the wildlife. Private walks with fewer people are recommended if you’re looking to shoot or capture the diverse birdlife.  It is said that the sunset on the island makes for a spectacular view but it can only be witnessed if you are staying overnight.
  • Guided tours and private walks- The rangers provide guided tours (optional) of the whole island filled with exciting information and facts about the island and its wildlife. If you’re a first-time visitor to the island, then these guided tours could be beneficial. However, these are optional and you have the freedom to take your own private walks along the island. Maps are sold on the ferry and at the wharf. There are boards and signs everywhere on the island giving enough information about the type of wildlife that can be observed there. Two tracks are famous among private walks, i.e. the ‘wattle track’ which takes 1 hour to finish and the ‘Kawerau track’ which takes around 2 hours.
  • Historic lighthouse- Back in the mid-1800s, when Tiritiri Matangi Island used to be a signal station, a lighthouse was built by the British to serve the purpose well. This lighthouse was one of the very few lighthouses to have been emitting such a powerful light at the time. It is 21 meters tall and is accessible to the public. Everything runs on solar power and is entirely automated.
  • Beaches- There are several small beaches on the island like the fisherman bay which provide for a good swim in the ocean. Backpackers pack their swim-suits and take a little dip into the sea whenever they feel like it or are tired by all the walking and the bird-watching.
  • Gift shop and visitor centre- These are close to the lighthouse. The gift shop sells souvenirs related to Māori culture and wildlife. The visitor centre sells hot beverages but does not sell any food. It is a great spot to eat your packed lunch. The money collected by selling these items is used to support the conservation project.
  • Bunkhouse- If you’re looking to spend a night on the island there is a bunkhouse where you can do so by sharing the same house with other visitors and volunteers. Usually this space is used by many researchers and volunteers and if any tourists want to stay here, they have to make bookings months in advance. The bunkhouse has a shared kitchen where you can warm your packed food. In the night time, the volunteers will take you around the island, and you can see birds like the blue penguin.
  • Historical lighthouse and the visitor centre on the Tiritiri Matangi Island bird sanctuarysource

Tips and Cautions to Be Taken on the Island

  • There is no food sold on the island since it is pest-free, and it is advised that tourists pack their own lunch in sealed boxes.
  • Littering is not allowed on the island, and at the same time there are no dustbins, and any waste you have with you should be carried by you out of the island.
  • Camping is not allowed on the island so don’t bother packing your camping gear.
  • Smoking is only allowed on the wharf and at the visitor centre. No BBQs are permitted.

How To Reach Tiritiri Matangi Island

The island is accessible through ferry services by the Fullers360 ferry from the Auckland mainland via gulf harbor. The ferry costs can vary depending on whether you go for individual tickets or family packages which include the guided tours on the island. An individual ticket for an average adult costs $78.  The ferry leaves the Auckland mainland at 9 am and is scheduled back to the mainland at 3:30 pm. For more details on the prices and timetable of the ferry, refer to the official site of Fullers360 where a booking is essential. Private boats and kayaks can also be taken to the island, but these are not allowed to be beached on the island. They are to be anchored on the sea, away from the ferry wharf.

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