Sunday, 17 April 2016

Boat Trip to Mou Waho


I thought I'd post about our trip to Mou Waho Island before it becomes a distant memory. You'll remember that Mou Waho is the 'famous' island in Lake Wanaka, I posted a quick blog on it the day we visited. 

Mou Waho is 15km up the Lake Wanaka from our camp at Glendhu Bay and we needed calm and settled weather before we attempted the trip in our faithful Takacat inflatable. We'd already seen how quickly the lake could cut up rough and especially when there was a nor'wester blowing. It funnels down the narrow lake straight off the Southern Alps making the waters very choppy. 

We headed out on a sunny, calm and beautiful blue sky morning, launching the boat straight off the beach in front of us- one of the reasons we've been parked up here at Glendhu for nearly three weeks.

There was a slight ripple on the surface and the air a little nippy once we were underway, we're heading for the point of Roys Peninsula on the left.

It's not long before Mt Aspiring comes into view to our left.

We say goodbye to Glendhu Bay... we pass Roys Peak to our right (Roy's a pretty popular guy around here). We can see part of the Te Araroa Trail/Millennium Walk tracking around the the bottom near the water. 

We pass Mou Tapu Island (a DOC scenic reserve) and can see Mou Waho ahead of us. The lake is a mill pond, we couldn't have picked a better day.

Mt Alta Conservation Area and West Wanaka Station are across the lake to our left.

While to our right I can see the isthmus that separates Stevensons Arm from Lake Wanaka proper. Stevensons Arm is a large very narrow waterway that is part of the lake and accessed from near the Clutha River outlet. When we stay at The Outlet Campground we look straight down the arm.

And finally we're approaching Mou Waho Island where we can see  a floating jetty beside the track entrance. 

We give the jetty a miss and head straight for the beach...

Where David checks his ViewRanger app to make sure we're in the right place! :)

The bird song is amazing, I could hear it over the outboard as we approached and once that was switched off it was deafening. Mainly Bellbirds and flocks of Brown Creepers with fantails, warblers, dunnocks and a few others flitting about. 

Bellbird/Korimako- Male 
There's a small DOC campground, with a gas BBQ, table and toilet nearby. And a another beautiful sandy beach with crystal clear water.

What a pity we can't get 'Out There' out here, but I'm sure boaties would stay here in tents over summer. And what a great spot far from the maddening crowd.

We decided to have lunch on our return from the hike up to the lake so set off up the well formed 1km track. This is looking back down the lake, Glendhu Bay is around that far point on the right.

The track climbs steadily upwards, winding back and forth so it's not too steep. And the views are to die for. Across the water are Mt Burke (1417m) to the left with Mt Gold (1286m) appearing to be taller on the right. Down in the clearing you can just see the top of the DOC toilets.

There are seats placed at regular intervals on the walk up- here's a pano looking north up Lake Wanaka towards the Southern Alps.

Thirty minutes after setting out we pass through a bush tunnel and step out onto a rocky platform to find a lake in front of us. This pool sits 150 metres above the surface of lake Wanaka and this is what we'd come to see. Arethusa Pool is a tiny, beautiful, deep blue pool surrounded by rock and gnarly old manuka and there's not a ripple to break the surface.

Maori named the pool Moutimu, then early European settlers named it Paradise Lake, then the lake was renamed Arethusa pool in the 1920s which comes from Greek Mythology. 

Arethusa was the nymph of a sacred spring on an island off the coast of Sicily. And I bet there would have been a few nymphs swimming in here over the years, with and without clothing.

There's another short steep 10 minute climb to the bluff lookout and through a gap in the bush on the way up, I can see the waters of Lake Wanaka behind and the rock islands in the pool that help make this unique place 'famous in New Zealand'.

There's a bit of scary clamber over a large rocky protrusion to reach the the edge of the bluff and look down over the top of the pool. But what a magnificent and spectacular view it is. Absolutely breath-taking and something very special. I've seen a lot of amazing New Zealand landscapes in the last three years but this has got to be up there with the best, in fact I'd put it in the top five.
So now we can see the rock islands- an island in a lake, on an island in a lake, on an island in an ocean! And across the water I can see Stevenson Arm and the isthmus that we passed at water level.

I waited for David to get back down to pool level so I could take a photo, can you see him on the rock platform? While I was waiting for him to get there, a NZ Falcon/Karearea flew in and landed in the overhanging bush beside me. I caught sight of movement as I turned to see if David had arrived and it flew out over the pool and swooped down and off to another bluff further down the island. The one time I didn't have my camera ready! 

This is looking down Lake Wanaka past Mou Tapu Island to Roys Peak behind. Glendhu Bay is around the island (to the left) and off to the far right.

And one last photo- the pano that I posted in the first blog. It was hard to pull myself away from but I reluctantly headed off to rejoin David at the pool. 

At various intervals along the track both on the way up and down we could here rustling and moving about deep in the undergrowth. I waited and watched and spotted the rear-ends of a few wekas scratching about but they always disappeared into the darkness. On the way back down I found this weka's rear end but he was more interested in catching whatever he had found. I decided he wasn't going to disappear too so I turned the flash on( I usually try to take bush birds in natural light) and got David to make a loud noise. It took a couple of loud noises before it decided to see who was making it. 

We got back to our little bay and found a large log to sit on to have lunch out of the hot sun. Once again we're eating lunch surrounded by the most amazing scenery.

The trees around us were busy with bellbirds; singing, jumping from branch to branch and chasing each other back and forward across the bay. This male sat still  long enough to broadcast his song to any who would listen and then fluffed himself up to scare his rivals off....

...or to impress the ladies, I'm not too sure. This little lady didn't look too interested in all the goings on.

Just as we were packing up we heard a boat approaching and around the corner came a Wanaka tour boat with two guests. You should have seen the skippers face when he spotted us packing our gear into the Takacat. He couldn't quite believe what he was seeing and was quick to tell us that it would have been highly unlikely that we'd have got to the island any other day this summer- the lake has been very rough. He told us about rescuing some kayakers a week or so ago when there were 3 metre waves (I think that was a slight exaggeration to push the point).

He left with his guests, heading for the track, carrying a huge pack on his back. In answering David's query he said they were off to have lunch and a swim at the pool. Going by the size I think he must have had table and chairs and a change tent on his back!

Just as we left another smaller boat passed by, fishing rods hanging off the back and then out of nowhere a jet ski with a very determined looking driver roared by.

We headed off towards home, back down the most amazingly calm lake, we couldn't have wished for a better day.

Wanaka town is way down there on the shoreline...

Roys Peak (1581m) reflected in the still water...

This morning's tiny ripples have gone from Glendhu Bay too, as we head back across it...

Within sight of home, a gentle breeze ruffles the surface. We're back, safe and sound after an awesome day visiting a very special island.....well actually, a very special island in a lake, on an island in a lake, on a... ok, you get the picture. 


  1. Excellent.Well written with great photography.We now look forward to reading and seeing your tramp in the Mt. Aspiring national park.Hope your bruises and your dignity have healed. The Browns.

    1. Thankyou, your comments are much appreciated! I'm afraid you'll have to wait a little longer for our Mt Aspiring trip- things to do, places to go :) And yes all bruises gone and dignity restored!

  2. Wow. Super lucky day! Your patience paid off xx

    1. It sure did, we couldn't have got a better day had we tried! Hope all is well down south xx


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