Motuara Island - not just for the birds!

A family friendly outing to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary in the Marlborough Sounds.

I’d been promising the girls all through the summer holidays that we would take a trip out with Beachcomber Cruises to Motuara Island. Somehow the summer got away from us but it was with much anticipation on a gorgeously sunny and blue sky autumn day that at 8am we boarded our boat, “Tracker”. Nui, our friendly skipper ran through the safety features of the boat and provided us with a commentary about the surrounds, wildlife and history of the area that both, informed and entertained without being intrusive or dare, I say it - boring! This is no mean feat as even the best behaved child (or adult!) can become whiny. But the combination of being out on the water, beautiful scenery, watching out for wildlife and the company of our fellow travelling companions (walkers heading out on the Queen Charlotte Track) meant the 60 minute cruise flew by.

Situated at the entrance of the Queen Charlotte Sound and only accessible by boat, Motuara Island attracts bird lovers from all over the world. Since introduced pests such as possums and ferrets were eradicated in 1991 it has become a wildlife refuge and a haven for some of New Zealand’s most endangered native species including the South Island Saddleback, Maud Island Frog and the Marlborough Green Geko. Today our main focus was on the feathered variety and armed with a handy, wildlife fact sheet provided by Beachcomber Cruises, we stepped off the boat and ventured onto the island with a promise to be back in an hour.

The sound of birdsong was amazing and we were lucky enough to come across a pair of Little Blue Penguins in one of the strategically placed nesting boxes. As we made our way up the track at a steady but manageable climb we came across fantails, bellbirds, tuis, a New Zealand pigeon and robin to name just a few. Alas the Saddleback was elusive but the views across the Marlborough Sounds from the lookout were truly stunning. Motuara Island also plays an important role historically and it was here that Captain James Cook first raised the British flag and claimed sovereignty over the South Island in 1771.

The hour flew by and Beachcomber Cruises were waiting as promised to take us on the next part of our journey. This time we were greeted by skipper Julian as we boarded “Tiricat”, which operates the Ship Cove Cruise in the morning and the Mail Run in the afternoon. We headed across to Ship Cove and enjoyed some time ashore exploring this sheltered bay before cruising back to Picton. Skipper Julian was an excellent host and while pointing out points of interest also told some very entertaining tales along the way. I’m not quite sure how much of it was 100% true but you know what they say about never letting the truth get in the way of a great story! Arriving back in Picton at the perfect time for lunch, we were already planning our next Beachcomber Cruises Marlborough Sounds adventure.

Motuara Island can be enjoyed daily from 01 Oct to 30 April on our 8am departure or as part of the Sunday Afternoon Cruise at 1.30pm which operates throughout the year.

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