Waterfall season in Okarito

By | Category: Travel destinations

Okarito lagoon

Okarito lagoon

Spring in New Zealand is known as ‘waterfall season’ on the south island because the spring is melting the winter snows. New Zealand’s spring is, of course, our autumn.

For the adventurous, this is the time for white water rafting in crystal clear but cold and icy water, For the rest of us it means that you can enjoy the walks as the leaves emerge on the tress, the flowers bloom and the scenery changes from winter white to spring swathes of colour.

One place that should be visited in spring is Okarito on the west coast of the South Island. It’s a remote place  – only about 30 people live there  – with shallow, open lagoons and tidal flats. This month, the twon – once a centre for gold mining – celebrates its 150th birthday.

The region is surrounded by native rainforests and overlooks the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps. Now is the time for kayak exploration in the lagoons and spotting one of the seventy species of bird to be found here including the Kotuku, a bird sacred to Maoris and white spoonbills.The kōtuku is sacred to Māori and its only New Zealand breeding colony is north of the Okarito lagoon on the bank of the Waitangiroto River. The breeding site is a nature reserve, open from late October to the end of February and requires an entry permit.

The other bird to look out for is the Rowi – one of the rarest forms of the kiwi. It was only 21 years ago that they were found to be a new species. Today there are probably less than 400 so a special sanctuary exists for them.

Getting to Okarito isn’t easy, driving is the usual way although there is a heliport in the nearby Franz Josef Township which is where you’ll find accommodation.

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