“Experience native New Zealand with New Zealand's Big 5 wildlife - the kiwi, kaka, tuatara. kea and takahe. Kiwi viewing guaranteed. Wander the reserve, feed the animals, take a guided kiwi tour and enjoy a Maori Cultural Experience.”
If you were going to invent an animal you probably wouldn’t do this: give it some mammal features, like two heavily muscled back legs, functioning ovaries, heavy bone marrow and cat like whiskers then plonk on some bird features, such as feathery hair, a very long beak with nostrils perched at the end and the ability to lay an egg – and just for a joke make it the largest egg in proportion to body size than any other species so it’s really hard to look after – and then as a second joke don’t give it any wings so all the poor bugger can do is grub around on the ground. If a creature like that existed you would hope there would be millions of them so they would survive. Fortunately, the kiwi population used to be just that, around five million, now it’s been depleted to 50 to 60,000 birds.
It’s distressing that there are so few around now as the chicks and eggs are very vulnerable to possums, stoats, ferrets, feral cats, pigs and dogs. We all do our bit to protect them and one of the best places in the South Island to witness kiwis first hand is Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. Here the kiwis are housed in two hectares of natural enclosure which gives you incredibly good visibility, especially after dark as you can watch the breeding pairs do the moonlight fandango under the stars – which is, according to Willowbank a world first.
Aside from the inquisitive kiwis at Willowbank, there are the other 'top five' kea, kaka, tukahe, tuatara, plus peacocks, monkeys, chimps, turtles, otters, deer, wallabies, donkeys (and rides), pigs, sheep, chickens, Clydesdale horses, goats, llamas, tractors, gibbons, more pigs, trout, swan, eels, blue whistling ducks (rare), salmon, parakeet, owls, tuataras, loads of birds including the mischievous kea, the world’s only mountain parrot.
Willowbank is not like a zoo, it’s more like a trip through natural New Zealand flora and fauna. Its spacious and the animals are housed in as close to their natural habitat as possible. You can look, touch and feed the native wildlife too – although it’s optional with the eels. There is Maori (Ko Tane) cultural performances on offer every evening with complimentary return transport and an award-winning restaurant to feast in.
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Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
- Sun - Sat: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
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