Matiu/Somes is a predator free island located in the Wellington Harbor of New Zealand. My family spent one night on the island for a great adventure.
New Zealand is home to some very unique wildlife. Some of the most well known are the Kiwis, but there are lots of others that are just as cool. Unfortunately, most of those unique animals are endangered and are not easily seen. Some of them do live on predator free islands where they live like they must have before people came to New Zealand. Matiu/Somes Island offers a great opportunity to see some of New Zealand’s unique wildlife.
What Is A Predator Free Island?
A predator free island is exactly what it sounds like – an island that has no predators. Before people came to New Zealand there were no predators. People have introduced many plants and animals, some of which turned out to be problems.
The three big predators in New Zealand are the ship rat, stoat, and possum. Together these predators have had a big part to play in wiping out or causing a serious decline of many native birds, reptiles, and insects.
A predator free island is an island where great care is taken to ensure that no predators exist. This includes removing any predators and then a continuing program to prevent more from coming.
These islands are places where many native birds, reptiles, and insects thrive in the absence of predators.
Our Adventure At New Zealand’s Matiu/Somes Island
We live in Taranaki on the North Island of New Zealand. During the spring school holidays we headed down to Wellington to visit some friends and to check out Matiu/Somes Island.
Our friends had visited the island before and told us all about how cool it was, so we were keen to see it for ourselves. On our first day in Wellington we explored Zealandia, which is another predator free area. However, unlike Matiu/Somes, it is on the mainland and surrounded by a tall fence to keep out predators.
Zealandia was neat and we saw a lot of cool birds, like Kakas, and Shags. We also saw our first Tuataras.
The next day we took a short ferry ride to the island in the middle of the Wellington harbor. After landing we headed to a shed for an orientation talk from the friendly DOC ranger. We also had to dig through all of our gear to make sure we weren’t brining any mice or seeds onto the island.
After being cleared we picked up our gear and made the short uphill walk to our DOC hut on the island. The hut our friends booked was a very nice, 3 bed room, 2 bath place with incredible views.
Matiu/Somes Island Day Walks – Birds, Skinks, and Lovely Views
During the day we took a walk around the trail that cruises around the island. Part of the trail is in bush and some is in open areas with incredible views of the Wellington area.
Our friend is a lizard expert and she quickly found us some of the native skinks and even a gecko. Those were the first lizards I’ve seen in New Zealand in over three years!
A couple of viewpoints along the walk gave us great views down to some gnarled, jagged rocks along the water’s edge. The rocks were home to many different birds, including gulls, and shags.
Matiu/Somes Island Night Walk – Tuataras, Giant Weta, and Little Blue Penguins!
The night walk was when we felt like we really hit the jackpot. We’ve done a lot of night walks where we hoped to see some Kiwis or other wildlife and never had much luck. This night started out to be the same, but that soon changed.
Just off the side of the trail in front of us we saw a good sized tuatara. For those of you that don’t know, a tuatara is a reptile that is unique to New Zealand. It is often described as a living fossil because it actually belongs to a family of reptiles that went extinct everywhere else in the world. It is now the sole member of this family!
After that first tuatara our luck improved dramatically. We saw another three or four tuataras along that stretch of trail.
Then my son, who was in front, stopped because he almost stepped on a Cook Strait Giant Weta. He said it was about 1 cm from his foot. The weta is another animal that can only be found in New Zealand. We’ve seen wetas before, but never a giant one like this!
Our final cool find of the evening was on the other side of the island where we were super lucky to see several Little Blue Penguins, the smallest penguins in the world.
One was sitting outside the nest box and froze when we saw it. It held still and then suddenly bolted into it’s nest box. I had no idea it could move so fast. Even more remarkable was the fact that these little penguins (up to 25 cm tall) walked up the steep hill to their nest boxes. It was not an easy walk.
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