October 31, 2017-The big deal for Wellington in the Adventure Caravans tour was Zealandia.This is a nature preserve carved out of an area aroubnd an old reservoir where non-native species were driven out and specied native to New Zealand are preserved in a wild setting. There is a sizable and well-engineered fence designed to keep predators out.
This is where Adventure Caravans had us spending our entire day—the only full day we had in Wellington. I’m sorry—I am just not that dedicated to birds when there were other things to see in the city.
The one that intrigued me the most was Weta Cave, the special effects house that worked on the Lord of the Rings movies. So I organized a group to take an Uber from Zealandia to Weta Cave to take a tour. We managed to get about 6 people to go with us in 2 cars. We drove across Wellington to the warehouse district where Weta Cave had its studio.
They had a very nice gift shop, and the tour delivered on many levels, but we were not allowed to take pictures during the tour. We had a chance to wield some axes and swords and some of the armor that Weta made up for use in the battles. When we finished the tour, we had a chance to see some Weta Cave artists working on a private commission of some tree giants.
Then it was back to the Uber cars (or in our case, a taxi because I couldn’t get Uber to work again) to go back to Zealandia for the evening tour. This began with a movie showing some of the early animals and birds in New Zealand, like the giant Moa—a flightless bird like and ostrich but a lot bigger. Turns out they were slaughtered to extinction by the Maori. New Zealand, because of the way it formed, had very few mammals. It was mostly birds, and they evolved into all sorts of niches that let them thrive. But when men came to the islands, they brought rats and possums and voles that devastated the birds. Zealandia tries to preserve the birds native to the land and keep them safe.
We took a night tour with a guide that was familiar with the nocturnal ramblings of the creatures there. We were looking hard for kiwis. We tried some of their favorite spots with no success. We saw some other birds and found some tuatara in the wild, along with some longfin eels, but we were about to finish the tour when, right before the exit, our guide saw some movement, had us step back, and out came a kiwi. Kiwis have very poor eyesight, so he really couldn’t see us very well, but they have good hearing. One of our party managed to get a good picture, but as the rest of us were trying to take a photo, we made too much noise and drove him off. But it was a big coup to have spotted this guy.