Monday 16 October 2017

Out There on the Briny

Real-time (and I haven't forgotten, I've still to do a couple of blogs from Golden Bay)

We're still at the DOC Camp at Totaranui, Abel Tasman National Park and we're having a great time especially with the fine and sunny weather finally. David put the Takacat up not long after we arrived but unfortunately he's had a few problems with his back again and then when it came right, the wind got up (an offshore breeze) and he wasn't keen to disappear over the horizon with the chance of his bad back kicking in again. 

The 'Grand Entrance' as seen from the sea.
Eventually the stars aligned one afternoon so we headed off to explore a little of the coastline north of Totaranui.

We were bobbing about on the ocean waves while David pulled up the beach wheels when three Blue Cod (my fav fish) landed in the boat, literally. Lets just say there are some generous people about.

With dinner sorted we spent the next few hours exploring the tiny coves and rocky coastline.

In places the exposed bush has been sculptured by the elements.

Can you spot the Spotted Shag nests in the photo below?  Nearly dead centre, these ones were pretty stable on their small ledges, others we could see, were in some very precariously places. I wonder if there some sort of hierarchy amongst the colony or if it's first in, best site (a bit like motorhoming). 

The first bay north of Totaranui is Anapai Bay, it's accessed via the Abel Tasman Walk and there's a small camp site for tenters near the centre of the beach. Most walkers head on to the Whariwharangi Hut, a day's tramp from Totaranui but those that are taking their time on the walk and have tents, can stay here before moving on. We thought we might have lunch on the beach...

...but decided it was far too busy; with a loved up couple canoodling on a log at one end, someone having a swim and others just arriving on the beach in the middle and still more setting up camp or drying gear near the camp site.

We headed back towards Totaranui where we'd seen a couple of small coves...

...and pulled up onto our very own beach for lunch.  

Not only did we have our very own cove we also had our own miniature version of the Tonga Arches, granite rock formations sculptured by the sea. These were hidden from view as we approached from the sea and as there's no other access to the cove I doubt many would have seen them unless they landed here at low tide. The actual Tonga Arches are further south along the coast and part of Abel Tasman Park; many kayakers visit them, we saw them on our last visit when we took a boat tour up the coast. 

With the incoming tide quickly shrinking our beach we pushed off and headed back towards Totaranui, checking on a seal pup we'd seen on the way up and looking for more shags. 

It was a great surprise when David spotted a Reef Heron/Matuku Moana peeping out from behind some rocks. It's dark grey colour the perfect camouflage for its coastal habitat.

While there are only an estimated 300-500 Reef Herons in New Zealand they are regularly seen at sites they occur and have had a steady population for the last 40 years, although they are still on the 'Nationally Endangered' conservation list. 

There are two boat ramps at Totaranui, one you can see on the left, the other one is inside the estuary and can only be accessed at high tide. The entrance to the estuary is on the far right against the rocky cliff (don't forget to click the photos to enlarge) 

It's not quite high tide but being the little boat that we are, we ride the waves over the bar...

...and into the estuary...

...chasing hundreds of tiny whitebait ahead of us (although this is just a small school)!

The narrow channel sweeps around the edge of the sand and straight past the second ramp. As calm as it looks, we get caught in a small whirlpool just as the wind picks up and as I'm climbing out ahead of the ramp to go get the ute. The wind whips up a mini tornado of stinging sand and leaf litter and dumps it over us and the boat!

There are a number of whitebaiters fishing the incoming tide including a group of noisy Variable Oystercatchers who stand on the edge and chatter while David waits for me to bring the ute down to the water's edge. 

And while these photos show how calm it can be, here's a video I took of the water taxi picking up trampers during the wild weather we had when we first arrived at Totaranui. The usual pick-up is in the middle of the beach at the 'Grand Entrance', but this day the skipper sent the walkers down to the boat ramp to board where I happen to be out getting some fresh air; watch for the woman in the jandals! 


  1. Wow blue cod! My favourite too. Haven't got a chance to cook any as fresh as these yet. Like the mini Tonga Arches too. So private.

    1. Thanks Offstone, I would have liked some more blue cod but David wasn't feeling too well so didn't go fishing in the end. We were lucky someone else wanted to share their catch.

  2. Awesome blog and one that truely reflects the very changable conditions that always need to be respected. There is nothing ymuuier than freshly caught blue cod cooked on the open bbq fuelled with bush wood. cooked in nothing but a bit of butter on the hot plate then some freshlemon juice and a bit of pepper -my mouth is drooling now just thinking of it. This was the best i have ever tasted Blue Cod, which we caught out at Whakatahuri in the outer sounds. I love reading your blogs. May the weather be a little kinder to you from now.

    1. Many thanks for your lovely comments and I'm thrilled you enjoy the blogs. You have my mouth watering now too! That's the way we used to cook piper up north, and while the fish is certainly tasty I think a lot of it has to do with making memories too. And my mouth shouldn't be drooling, we've just had had fresh smoked trout for dinner!

  3. Wow, amazing photos, love your stories! Scary stuff trying to get into that boat in the end! Skipper did a fantastic job.

    1. Thanks for your comments Kathleen, much appreciated. I guess it becomes second nature to these skippers, it's their daily job and I suppose they have to take each day's weather as it comes- he and his 1st mate still did an awesome job of getting everyone on board though.

  4. Quite an adventure getting on that boat......on the estuary sand bank I've seen animal tracks a couple of times, not sure if they were deer or pig.......videos on your blog...a rare event...somethings simply can't be portrayed in photos.

    1. Interesting that you've seen tracks too; I was talking to a pest trap setter and he said he sees lots of deer in the area during the early morning. I wonder if he's seen pigs too. Glad you enjoyed the video, I keep forgetting I have that option available too!


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