Kai Iwi Lakes by Day; Kiwi Spotting by Night

Three more days to go! Out final stretch of travelling for these 365 Days: 365 Activities is taking us down the Kauri Coast on our way back to Auckland for one last epic day. We are so keen to make the most of it that we are squeezing two activities in one today, starting with a trip to the Kai Iwi Lakes!

A stunning drive though the Waipoua Forest

Our day starts in Omapere on the coast of the Hokianga Harbour. We’ve had an awesome time here over the last three days filled with cultural and natural wonders. It only seems fitting to leave the area through one of the most mesmerising tracts of forest we have ever drive through in the New Zealand. The road through the Waipoua Forest is lined with giant kauri trees that are hundreds and even thousands of years old. It’s a long winding road but one we definitely don’t mind being stuck on.

Are you sure this is the right way?

Robin is on GPS duty, so once we are out of the forest to see the light of day again, he directs us off the main highway and down a gravel road… and then a 4×4 track, pretty much.

“This road doesn’t really seem like access to a popular attraction,” Laura sasses at Robin. Indeed, a friendly local stops us from being led 19km to a dead end and points us in the right direction. In conclusion, don’t use Google Maps to take you to the Kai Iwi Lakes!

The Kai Iwi Lakes

As we find ourselves back on the main highway then following the perfectly clear signs, we finally find our way to the Kai Iwi Lakes, a recreational park for walking, biking, fishing and camping. Did someone say walking? Walking is always a good go-to for something to do in New Zealand.

Shadow selfie in the lake Shadow selfie in the lake
What a romantic place! What a romantic place!
Walking through the manuka and kanuka forest Walking through the manuka and kanuka forest
Beautifully clear lake! Beautifully clear lake!

A walk around lake Kai Iwi

Kai Iwi Lakes or the Taharoa Domain is made up of three main lakes. After checking out a crazy-looking swamp with dead twigs sticking out of it, we continue to Lake Kai Iwi for a walk around the lake. We park up and start walking.

We arrive at the shallow waters of the lake where we can see its sandy bottom as clear as day! It’s so clear that even the tiny fish have shadows! With the white sand gradually getting deeper, this casts some beautiful colours across the lake.

The further around the lake we go, the more the track is engulfed in manuka and kanuka forest, mixed with pine forest. We spot the odd bird, see the odd duck on the water, and a whole bunch of bees lapping up those manuka flowers. The track conveniently loops all the way around the lake, taking 30-45 minutes to complete.

Pristine beaches on Lake Taharoa

Back at the car, we have walked ourselves into a ice cream-hungry state. We see there is a holiday park at the end of Lake Taharoa behind a set of beautiful sandy beaches, so surely we are in for a winner!

“What sort of holiday park doesn’t sell ice cream?!” Robin whines as we stomp onto down the boardwalk onto the beach with an apple each in hand. Nevertheless, we still have that summer feeling with the sun beaming down on us as we relax on a pristine white sand beach. No wonder they call this the “Winterless North”. But then, reality hits when we see a fast-moving dark cloud heading our way. They may call it the Winterless North, but New Zealand is also renowned for having four seasons in a day! This is our cue to leave and check into our accommodation.

Starting our walk around the tranquil Lake Kai Iwi

The Kauri Coast Holiday park Guided Night Walk

After being shown around the Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park by a couple of cute dogs, we meet the owners who tell us about their Guided Night Walk into the Trounson Kauri Park. Not only is this a chance to see the many noctural forest creatures, but also the ever elusive brown kiwi! We’re in!

Later that night, we meet Chris at the holiday park entrance with a few others. After a quick briefing, we get into a van and head to the Trouson Kauri Park.

A night walk in the Trouson Kauri Park

Before setting off on our night walk, we are equipped with a torch each to point at our feet to see where we are standing. Chris has a red-filtered hunting lamp of 500 watts to shine into the forest and reveal any nocturnal creatures without dazzling them. We follow Chris to a huge information shelter at the entrance of the Trouson Kauri Park, which is the perfect setting for Chris to tell us more about what makes this forest great, from the ancient kauri trees – the largest type of tree in New Zealand – to the native creatures that live here. He also explains about the threats to these species, like the introduced pests of dogs, cats, stoats and possums, as well as the kauri dieback disease which can be spread on hikers’ footwear. With that, we brush and spray our shoes at a cleaning station before entering the deep dark forest.

Time to spot some kiwi! Time to spot some kiwi!
This little guy stood still for a photo! This little guy stood still for a photo!
Chris tells us about the life cycle of the magnificent kauri Chris tells us about the life cycle of the magnificent kauri

Walking among the forest giants

Now, the seven of us walk as quietly as possible on a mix of gravel and boardwalk, which Chris is upfront scanning the forest with his powerful red torch for kiwi. We’ll stop every so often at places of interest, for example at good examples of epic kauri trees through different stages of their life cycle.

Kiwi spotting #1!

All of a sudden, we hear a loud high-pitched call into the night followed by what sounds like a constipated monkey. That is the call of a male and female kiwi (and the female was the latter) and they’re right behind us! We quickly and quietly backtrack. With a bit of patience, we see one! A kiwi is feeding, probing its long bill into the ground. We get this encounter for about 20 seconds before it realises we are there and quickly scurries into the forest. Wow! We can’t believe we have seen a kiwi bird in the wild! Not many New Zealanders themselves can say the same thing (only about 3%).

Encounters with creatures of the night

We have much more of the walk to go, so we carry on where we start to see some more creatures of the night. Chris shines his light into a beautifully clear pool to reveal a freshwater crayfish! Next, we find a long-finned eel. Chris lights us large native insects called weta that hang on the bottom of trees, then switches his torch off to reveal a small grotto of glowworms. With each wildlife sighting, Chris shares a wealth of knowledge about the creature, each with their own fascinating facts, like the large kauri snail which is one of the very few carnivorous snails in the world!

Kiwi Spotting #2!!

Once we complete the 1.7km loop track, everyone is keen to try their luck at seeing another kiwi at the beginning of the track again. Sure enough, by listening out to rummaging on the forest floor and being patient, we get a quick glimpse of a juvenile kiwi! Two kiwi birds in one night!

We can definitely go to bed back at the Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park feeling satisfied that we have managed to see so many types of native wildlife all in one night, thanks to our knowledgeable guide! The tour is extremely affordable and definitely worth it for wildlife nuts like us!

Laura and Robin

The whole beach to ourselves
The whole beach to ourselves Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

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Until tomorrow’s blog post, get yourself on HerePin and follow our local recommendations. We also like to hang out on Facebook and post pretty pictures on Instagram.

See you tomorrow!

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