The advantage of using a small tour company like White Heron Tours is that you’ll probably gain closer access to the subject – in this case, White Herons – Waitangi Roto Nature Reserve – New Zealand. This is the actual nesting colony of the beautiful White Herons. All up, the tour takes about 2-3 ours and begins from the small settlement of Whataroa. Whataroa is on the route leading to Franz Josef Glacier, so you a can easily slot this your itinerary. The tour is divided into 3 parts.
Visitors are taken in a minibus bus to the boat ramp. This doesn’t take very long, so no need for stops on the way. The bus connects to jet boat for a great ride up the river. Now along the way and if you’re really lucky, you may get to be escorted by one of these beautiful boats. They seem to have this uncanny understanding of the boat’s purpose. These guys are very used to being protected by humans.
…and then sometimes you’ll actually be escorted right into the Sanctuary itself. In flight, these birds are majestic sight and their wingspan will have you in awe.
The jetboat ride to the next jetty takes about 20 mins. From there, you’ll take a very short, boardwalk through native bush to the viewing platform. This is your chance to enjoy the beautiful surrounding native bush and stretch the legs after the boat ride. You might want to take this chance for a toilet stop.
The viewing platform is on the opposite side of the nesting site – its actually been planned that way to prevent these angelic creatures from being unduly disturbed, But don’t worry, the view is still very close and because the birds are calm, your photos will be awesome! You get to stay in this location for 30-40 mins to view the birds. Dion, our guide, has been doing this tour for years. The protection of the White Herons (Kotuku) and their pristine environment, is his passion. This is a peaceful site and we found that everyone falls into a respectful silence. Its so easy become mesmorised by the angel-like wing forms wings of the adults Herons – its fascinating to watch them swoop down and around their nests.
They’re very attentive parents and seem to around their chicks a lot. Although they may appear to be oblivious to human presence, I suspect they’re probably used to visitors by now.
It’s not just the White Herons you’ll see here either. This area is very popular with the stunning and unusual Spoonbills (yes, their black beaks are actually shaped like a spoon).
The pristine rainforest environment refreshens the spirit and I can pretty much guarantee the memory of this tour will stay with you forever. It did for me.