Nestled deep in the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve near the village of Whataroa is a bird watcher’s paradise and home of a breeding White Heron colony.
Whataroa is a small rural town in South Westland and the start point for the White Heron Sanctuary Tours. The Waitangiroto Nature Reserve is the only nesting site of White Herons in NZ and Stephen recently had the opportunity to head down for a photography shoot.
You can only access the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve by boat, and with the reserve being administered by the Department of Conservation to protect the birds, entry is by permit only. Most people go into the Reserve with the White Heron Sanctuary Tours based out of Whataroa.
The trip starts with a 14km drive to reach the river and during this drive there is an audio playing giving you all the information you need regarding the day ahead. After a short quick jet-boat trip up the river into the reserve there is then a 500 metre long boardwalk through dense Kahikatea rainforest to reach the purpose-built hides for viewing the Herons in their natural environment.
There are also often Royal spoonbills and Shags nesting but for this trip they had already moved on and it was all about the White Herons (Kotuku in Maori).
Once at the hide your guide will answer any questions you may still have but it is more about just watching and enjoying the bird show.
and what a show they put on.
This is a fantastic experience – a photographer’s dream. It is wonderful watching these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Highly recommend to anyone coming to the West Coast to check out the White Heron Sanctuary Tours.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders that make up the Coast – West Coast of the Southern Alps.