An Abel Tasman Eco Adventure!
Abel Tasman, we have been on the edge of you and kayaked at the end of you, but we have still yet to explore that coastal centre of yours. (Ok, this blog post is getting off to a weird start). Today, we finally get to know the Abel Tasman National Park!
We arrive 9am at the Marahau Wharf. The Abel Tasman Eco Tours boat is loaded with people, which in turn is loaded on a trailer, attached to a tractor. We have passed the wharf a few times since staying in the Barn Backpackers and noticed that this is how all the tour operators get their boats in the water.
A sinking situation
The tractor drives down the ramp and across the sand to the ocean, which is a fair distance at low tide. The tractor manages to get us through pool after pool until… Yep, we’re stuck. Teething problems on the first day of the season, we guess.
Our guide Stu assures us that this hasn’t happened in three years, but to be honest, we find it more entertaining than anything else. We take our shoes and socks off, roll up our pants and hop out the boat.
Getting to know the Abel Tasman on a whole new level!
The whole boat-trailer-stuck-in-sand incident is swiftly sorted and we’re back in the boat whizzing away from shore. From the moment Stu stops the boat for the first time, we realise that this tour of the Abel Tasman is going to be much different from other experiences out here in the national park.
Stu, whose background is in marine biology, has a wealth of knowledge about the ecosystem of the Abel Tasman National Park. And right now, he is relating it to the rest of the New Zealand and the surrounding national parks we can see in the distance, like the snowy peaks in the Kahurangi National Park that we saw yesterday.
Wildlife spotting in the Abel Tasman
The Abel Tasman coastline is dotted with offshore islands, covered in forest and holding a vast amount of wildlife, from shags to an island home to 300 New Zealand fur seals! Before, we’ve only appreciated how they are great to look at and watch behave (like the seal pups in Whakariki, n’awwww!), and now Stu is telling us some fascinating facts about them, like how the shags swallow rocks to help them get deeper in the water, how seals can hold their breath for 10 minutes or so… It’s stuff we are definitely going to impress our friends with later…
Split Apple Rock
One of the islands is the unusually shaped Split Apple Rock. If you’re ever getting a water taxi from Marahau or Kaiteriteri, then it’s likely you’ll get to go right up close to the rock. It feels like we get to know every detail of this rock, from the colours, to the marine life calling it home, to the reason why it is shaped like split apple.
Cake on the beach
Moving the boat along, we speed down the coast of the Abel Tasman, passing coastal cliffs teaming with trees in a forest with a canopy notable of the same height. Stu stops the boat at various islands before we land on Te Pukatea Bay.
This golden sand beach with its coarse sand grains is our coffee break stop. Much like the first Abel Tasman Eco Tour we checked out, we have cake! Lemon with a gooey centre or coffee with a chocolate gooey centre… We have both!
Stu is then keen to take us on a 45-minute hike through the forest and to a lookout. Most of our group come for the hike where, yet again, we end up eating plants. This time, Stu hands over the kawakawa, an antioxidant among other benefits. Stu shoves the leaf in his mouth no problem, but we can barely keep a straight face. We are too weak for kawakawa…
The abel Tasman National Park in Virtual Reality!
A hike in the wilderness
All the sounds we hear in the forest from New Zealand’s vocal birds are finally put into context when Stu points out what each one is. We stop plenty of times to look at various vegetation in a forest very different from what we saw on the “Promised Land” tour.
The group gets an amazing vantage point from the top of the hill. We see island, various coves which Stu has a story for each, and behind us, as we saw from between the trees is our boat still on the beach. Pheww. (Although we don’t mind getting stuck here to be honest).
As we get left behind at the lookout taking photos and generally being annoying travel writers, we try to catch up with the rest of the group. But after running all the way down the trail we just climbed up, we say: “Wait, didn’t Stu say we were doing a loop walk…” Sh*t!
We run all the way back up the hill, huffing and puffing, sweating like a pig, until we find our group at a lookout over Te Pukatea Bay. We were the bad tourists here today.
Starfish and shrimp
Back on the boat, we are now heading to our lunch stop on another beautiful beach. This beach feels a lot different to Te Pukatea Bay by being sheltered and covered in a much finer sand. The tide line has a huge variety of sea shells, to which Stu is picking up every single kind and he can say something about each one. He even picks up a star fish and a shrimp!
We leave the shrimp to its lunch while we enjoy our lunch on this paradise beach! A German couple have brought some wine on the trip, which we share around, then we have plenty of time to mingle before moving on. There’s no hussling or “stick-to-the-schedule” mantra on this trip.
Archways and beaches
We saw some pretty crazy granite rock formations on the Golden Bay side of the Abel Tasman, and we are just getting to see some of those formations occurring as we reach two archways. You can only pass through them in a kayak at high tide.
The next beach is a nice long beach everyone gets to experience if they take the Abel Tasman Great Walk. Stu takes the others on a hike up the hill to a lookout of the beach, while we do some filming on the beach. From there, we are getting back on the boat and heading back to Marahau.
About seven hours later, the Marahau Wharf has completely transformed at high tide! Now Stu can drive the boat right up to the boat ramp where that all famous tractor is waiting to pull us up and out of the water.
Dinner with the Germans
It’s been an incredible day out on the Abel Tasman National Park! To top it all off, the German couple have invited us to have dinner at their newly acquired Split Apple Lodge tonight where they are also hosting three WWOOFers. Man, we wouldn’t mind WWOOFing here, on top of a hill with views of the Abel Tasman!
Epic beaches on an epic eco tour!
Epic beaches on an epic eco tour!
Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Epic beaches on an epic eco tour! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
Sweet! Here’s more articles for an awesome gap year in New Zealand:
- Abel Tasman National Park – Guide for Backpackers
- 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand
- How to Create a WWOOF Profile That Hosts Can’t Refuse!
And don’t forget to follow us and all the pretty pictures of New Zealand on Instagram. We also post daily travel tips on Facebook. Finally, find us on HerePin to meet other travellers. Maybe we can do a hike together?
See you tomorrow!