Making a Date with a Kiwi

The nightlife on Stewart Island is a bit different from that on the mainland, and one of the strangest fellows you'll meet on your starlit adventures will be Apteryx australis lawryi, the Stewart Island brown kiwi. This bristly, brown flightless critter is a distinct subspecies of the brown kiwi found throughout New Zealand. It has larger legs and a longer beak, and females are generally bigger than males.

Everything you hear about this being the only place in New Zealand where you're likely to see a kiwi in the wild is true. They're often seen, day and night, foraging for sand hoppers among the kelp on the Stewart Island beaches. Just ask Phillip and Diane Smith - they're the experts at this kiwi-spotting game. Every second night, they gather up a bunch of curious, and hopefully fit, tourists and take them to the remote sandy beaches to find kiwis.

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A shy creature at heart, the kiwi attracts a lot of attention, and in the interests of conservation, the Smiths limit their night tours to just 15 passengers (book ahead). The evening starts with a twilight cruise on the 16m (52-ft.) MV Wildfire, leaving from Half Moon Bay Wharf. After a 35-minute boat trip to Glory Bay, you'll make your way to the jetty (with a ladder, not steps!) and, after a short bush walk, you'll spend the evening (or 3-4 hr. of it) prowling the length of Ocean Beach, looking for the ungainly bird that has won the hearts of so many. If you're lucky, you'll see its plump, feathered backside plodding along the sand as it absent-mindedly looks for its evening meal.

You can expect some rare nights out in New Zealand, but this one is sure to surpass the lot. You may never have envisioned yourself as a bird-spotter, crouching in the darkness on some strange southern coastline, but when you see this rare bird playing hard to get -- plodding, darting, hiding, reappearing - you'll know you have experienced something unique. It could well be the best date you have in New Zealand -- and you'll pay NZ$110 for the pleasure.

So gather your sturdy footwear, warm clothing, and torch (flashlight) and contact Bravo Adventure Cruises, P.O. Box 104, Stewart Island (tel./fax 03/219-1144). The trip is subject to weather conditions; not recommended for kids under 15.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.