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Kia Ora is how New Zealanders welcome you to their country for your dream family vacation. Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand is home to the largest and most accessible mainland nesting place of gannets in the world and a fun activity for families in New Zealand.
Going to the Birds: Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, Gannet Colony
In November, I was fortunate to visit New Zealand and witness the Gannet colony first hand, courtesy of the Gannet Safaris Overland Tour. I admit that I’m not a huge fan of birds. When hundreds of these winged creatures are together, I get a creepy déjà vu of Alfred Hitchcock’s Bird movie. But I admit that the Gannet Colony in Cape Kidnappers was a highlight of my visit to Hawke’s Bay.
We departed for our luxurious accommodations at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers, via the Gannet Safaris. It’s a bird safari, transportation overland in a coach, passing through riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, stands of native bush, steep gullies, and breathtaking inclines, to the ultimate goal of the Gannet colony.
Gannet Bird Safari — Oh and the View!
The first stop is on a spectacular clifftop with panoramic views of Hawke’s Bay right to Mahia Peninsula (pictured below).
Our guide Michael Neilson also gave us a running commentary on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers and an introduction to the gannets. The finale was our last stop to see the Gannet Colony. Within a minute, I stood next to the roped off area for an up close view of the gannet colony. I also enjoyed panoramic views of Cape Kidnappers and the sea below from the elevated headland.
Visitors to the gannet colony will see adults and young nesting in serried rows carrying out their daily routine. In the air above your heads, these amazing birds with their six foot wing span swoop and dive as they bring back fish. On the ground, just a few feet away, the pairs preen and perform the dance of the gannets’ recognition ritual (courting couples) with their necks intertwining like they are hugging. You’ll also see squabbling gannets protecting their nesting area and aerial skills of birds bringing in nesting material. It truly is an awesome sight.
The 20,000 gannets at the Cape are members of the Booby family, with distinctive black eye markings and a pale gold crown. The gannets can be seen from September to early May. In September they return and build their nests ready for the arrival of the chicks during December and January. The chicks are then fattened up ready for their first and departing flight in late April/early May when they go off on their annual ritual to warmer climates.
New Zealand’s diverse and dramatic landscape draws many visitors to its shores, and Cape Kidnappers is amongst some of the most dramatic.
Click here to learn more about Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand.