Where in the world can you find a “pest free” island, officially declared in 2011, where you need to clean your shoes and are reminded to check your bags for rats, ants and skinks before boarding the ferry? Where there are no garbage cans or cafes or even places to buy water? Where you need to pack in your lunch and out your trash? Where pest traps are scattered along the hiking trails as you climb to the caldera of the volcano that created the island. You guessed it…Rangitoto Island off the coast of New Zealand.
We have discovered that the Kiwis are serious about conservation and are working to restore the native plant and wildlife to large areas of their country. Until dogs, stoats, rats, possums and the like were introduced by Europeans, Australians and Polynesians in the relatively recent past, the only mammals in NZ were 3 subspecies of bats. The introduction of these pests decimated the local bird population, a number of which were flightless or nearly so because of the lack of predators. It has been fascinating for us to learn about the rapid extinction of much of New Zealand’s indigenous wildlife and their current efforts at restoration. A visit to this island reinforced this story for us.
We have become quite a group of hikers and explorers of nature. Today was 15km up and down the volcano and around the island on the lava paths.
The scenery was unlike anything we have seen to date, beautiful views across the sea to the Auckland skyline, stark landscape with mangroves growing in lava fields, lush sub-tropical pohutukawa (the largest in the world) forest, ferns, orchids and lilies. This amazing place captured our imagination…an amazing day trip for Global High School.