You have to have a special Department of Conservation wild life permit to enter the area, and the airspace above it is an aviation no fly zone, so White Heron Tours is the only way to get here. Dion, our guide, skilfully swung the boat around the river bends, tied up at the jetty, and led us along a short boardwalk through native forest to the viewing hide.
The hide has two levels, with viewing areas kitted out with binoculars and information panels. These allowed me to closely inspect the birds and learn more about their story. Although, based on Dion’s informative chats and the pre-recorded commentary during the van ride, I felt like I could already give David Attenborough a run for his money on white heron trivia.
There were two things that I couldn’t believe. 1. The herons develop lacy plumage which makes them look like albino flamenco dancers during mating season. 2. The herons nest building abilities are bordering on useless. High above the Waitangiroto River, the chicks sit precariously on what look like a pile of sticks that blow away if someone sneezed.
In 1865 the famous surveyor Gerhard Mueller ‘discovered’ the ‘Cranery’ and it seems amazing that the area has remained untouched over the last century. Even though bird watching is not really my thing, taking a trip up the river to see the herons and their chicks in an untouched wilderness is definitely a sight worth seeing.