Zealandia Park: Wellington’s jewel of life.
January 1, 1970
by Sandgi Sariani
How did we get there in the first place?
Coming from Vanuatu and the Pacific.
I am a professional ship’s engineer, and when I am not elbows deep in a cargo’s engine, I have months of free time in between contracts. I used to travel by myself every once in a while when I got out of a nice mission at sea, but this time around I invited my girlfriend Ariane to New Zealand so that we could enjoy some time together after 6 months apart.
When we arrived in Wellington, the city had already earned to our eyes its infamous nickname: Windy Wellington. Indeed, when my girlfriend was on her last leg from Auckland to Wellington her plane couldn’t land because of a heavy storm developing over our holiday’s skies. For my part, I had sneaked in through the gales as I had come in a day early from the wonderful archipelago of Vanuatu via Suva airport in Fiji (a 24 hour trip for some actual 6 hours of flight due to poor planning on my part).
Coming from France.
On the other hand Ariane had booked from France through a travel agency and had gotten great value for her money with a cheap trip with especially appreciable conditions such as: completely changeable dates, and the ability to postpone her return for a year without any extra fee.
So my take on that: book your tickets ahead of time when voyaging in between the island nations of the Pacific. It’s a bit tedious but can really be worth the trouble. I was impressed by her way of doing it. She had researched on various websites (Kayak and others) and once she had all the information she wanted, she went to booking professionals and looked at what they proposed and was able to bargain for a great deal.
Finally when the next morning they managed to land, we moved in my cousin’s house and straight away we were swept in the famous buzzing life of Cuba Street!
And beware of that! There is so much to do in Wellington that you could easily come in for a week and find a month later that you haven’t left and keep on extending your stay. It’s more or less what happened to us and we are greatly pleased it did as it enabled us to discover the wondrous Zealandia Park. But it may not be something that you are able or willing to do and you could be leaving with a taste of missed chances.
The Beautiful park of Zealandia.
So what is this place?
If you only needed one reason to visit Zealandia, think that you have something really unique on earth and it’s not a figure of speech! The reason why it’s so paradise like is really simple, it’s all about geology. New Zealand’s wildlife has developed after its main landmasses drifted away from the greater continent and left behind all the usual mammals and pests. Thanks to that it has come up with a completely different approach to evolution where birds are ruling the place.
Whereas the simplest living thing in Australia is either deadly from the slightest touch or actively trying to kill you, New Zealand’s denizens are the friendliest bunch of feathers you can come to meet. The Park is thus filled to burst with flying or walking beaked cuties of all shapes, sizes, and colors, most of them endemic to the country and completely trusting and easy to spot.
So what you have in Zealandia is a huge range of preserved forest right in Wellington where a great team of professionals and enthusiasts strive to recreate the original conditions as they were before any human, whether Maori or European, set foot on the islands. They work hard on protecting and nurturing native and endangered bird species as well as studying their behavior so that they can restore the balance between fauna and flora. The park is set with a variety of path, walkways, hanging bridges and trails that you can literally explore for days! No kidding without passing twice on the same spot we came back three days in a row and couldn’t get enough of it. And, nice to know, when you book directly at the entrance you get a special deal for several days of visiting.
And how to enjoy it to the fullest?
In order not to miss some of the highlights (my personal favorites being: the Cormorants’ nesting tree, the floating bridge bringing you in contact with the colorful ducks, the Kàkà tree, and the lizards’ dwellings), you can either book one of the professional tours organized at regular times or you could hop on one of the free ones, performed by volunteers that are happening along the path. It’s as if you entered a theme park ride where the attractions are free ranging and happy wildlife and the setting is a luxurious collection of trees.
Ready to go? Prepare a backpack and keep your trash!
As I told you, it is a pristine environment and it needs to be protected: upon entering the park you will go through a double set of doors that act as an entry lock and your backpacks and purses will be quickly inspected to prevent any pest contamination. Next up, in order to feel free to roam the park to your heart’s content, you should pack some lunch and other sorts of snacks as well as water. And you must remember that this is a preserved area, so plan for a pouch to put your garbage after you’ve used them. Anyways, that’s a very appreciable mindset to have throughout New Zealand (and the rest of the world), where people are extra respectful of nature and are used to handle their own thrash until a bin can be found. Which in this case, will be back at the entry. The site has a small Café / Restaurant that you can go to before or after your visit, even though, since you may spend a significant part of your day inside better be prepared.
How to get there from town?
So the easiest is still to take the free shuttle departing from Wellington’s I-Site located right downtown every hour starting at 9:30 am, but you can also ride the Metlink buses 21 or 22 that will take you from the main train station or from Courtney place which is central to all bus services and you can go anywhere from there.
You could also drive.
We got there with our own car that we borrowed from my cousin, but if you’re not used to narrow roads and left-hand driving style that’s not the best idea ever. We had a few frights when suddenly coming face to face with someone else on the wrong side of the road! That’s what happened to us on top of a car battery that went dead while we visited the park. Luckily we only waited by the side of the road for less than 15 minutes before a driver had spotted us, waved at us, rounded the whole block so that he could come, assist us with his electric cables and left with a smile and many wishes of great further travels.
That’s a good description of much of our time in New Zealand: Whenever you have a problem you will find that the Kiwis are always very helpful and that some people will even make detours and spend a lot of time with you to be sure that you are sorted out.