Written by Raegan Tipping – Guest Blogger
Raegan tells us about her experience on our Wanaka Nature Encounter.
In the middle of Lake Wanaka lies an island with a hidden lake at the top of it. A lake on an island, on a lake on an island. It’s a bit of a tongue twister, but nonetheless, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Chris from Eco Wanaka has been leading tours out to Mou Waho Island for 12 years. Within minutes of stepping onto his boat, you get the idea that Chris is about as genuine as you can possibly get. His local knowledge and stories have us entertained all the way across the lake. Pulling up at the jetty, our group is all sparkling eyes and huge smiles, excited for the adventure ahead.
The island is a nature reserve and home to the rare Buff Weka. A native, flightless, bird which looks like a lot like the kiwi. Throughout his 12 years visiting Mou Waho, Chris has built a solid friendship with two of the resident wekas, even naming them, Wally and Sally. Cheeky and curious the two inquisitive birds join us for morning tea! Also, home to wetas, geckos, wood pigeons and bellbirds that sing as we walk through the native bush, the island is a predator free paradise. It is magical, serene and you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped back millions of years in time.
One of the best things about this trip is the fact that you are contributing to the preservation and conservation of this magical place for generations to come. Every trip Chris brings a native tree along and as a group, you find a spot and you plant that tree. It is a beautiful way of giving back and thanking the island for sharing its secrets with you for a few hours.
And as for the actual lake at the top of the island… WOW. It will blow your mind. There are not enough words to describe the magic of it all. This is a trip that will leave an impression on your mind long after you step back on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
Feeling like kids that had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Chris drove us into town to grab some lunch at one of the many cafes along the lakefront. We needed to refuel before our afternoon adventure -the second part of the Wanaka Nature Encounter began.
High up in the hills of West Wanaka, you will find a view so majestic in its beauty you will have to blink a few times to be sure you’re not dreaming.
Ridgeline is a locally owned and operated company. At the helm is owner/operator Mark, who has built his company on a solid base of local knowledge and a genuine passion to share the beauty of his backyard with guests from near and far.
Marks love for the outdoors is obvious from the moment we meet. “Wanaka has turned it on for us today, she’s a beauty!” Beauty is something this tour has in spades.
We were picked up from outside the Lake Wanaka i-SITE, right in the centre of town which was perfect –no rushing about after our leisurely lunch lakeside. We met our fellow adventurers, jumped in Marks trusty Landcruiser and drove 20 minutes around the picturesque lake to West Wanaka Station.
This is a working farm that has been handed down through generations and is still family run today, some 100 years later. Access to this private land is via a Ridgeline tour only and it didn’t take long to realise that we were some of the lucky few to bask in its breathtaking beauty.
In the four or so hours we are with Mark, we see striking differences in the landscape. Lush green farmland with sheep and cute fluffy lambs that quickly become stars of the show. Red deer, cows and their baby calves. We stop high up on a ridge overlooking a huge braided river that is turquoise and muddy grey. Standing tall and proud straight ahead of us is the mighty Mount Aspiring, snow capped and ruggedly beautiful. From there we head across to the other side of the land where the green gives way to burnished golden. Tussock country.
It is here that the real hidden gem of this tour lies. Our next stopping point is jaw droppingly stunning. A view looking out across Lake Wanaka to the islands of Mou Waho and Mou Tapu, Wanaka town laid out in the distance. The golden hills are awash with freshly sprung dandelions and the lake glistens brilliant blue in the sun. It is a view that is simply magical.
This is a trip so raw in its beauty it has to be seen to be believed. If you are travelling to Wanaka put Ultimate Wanaka’s “Wanaka Nature Encounter” on your list. Live the dream for yourself.
More about Author Raegan Tipping