The Marlborough Sounds – Motuara Bird Life Sanctuary

Picton and more specifically the Marlborough Sounds have so much going on. Whether you are an avid birder, seeking dolphins and marine life, or just want to get outside, there is so much to do. Our first day in town we spent mountain biking some of the local trails. We took a wrong turn somewhere and happened upon the Waikawa Dive Centre that had a sale on wetsuits. We have been itching to do some free diving and swimming but only have halfie wetsuits – which in 11 degree water is not just wishful thinking, it’s realll stupid.

On the pretense we were just looking, we tried some suits on. Two 7mm wetsuits, hoodies, booties, a spear gun, gloves, a dive spot book, and weight belts later we managed to make friends with the dive shop owner, Stu and were invited on his boat to do some diving for the following Friday. The stoke was real!

Before diving Friday we had a pretty packed week of exploring the sounds. Our second day we took a water taxi out to the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary. Sipping coffee while the sun rose over the horizon on our hour and a half long journey to the island – 20 minutes into our transfer we spotted a pod of dolphins. The taxi isn’t necessarily a tour, but the captain took a detour and jumped on the opportunity to enjoy some wildlife until they were bored of us and left to play in the waves of the passing ferry boat.

Motuara’s birds are pretty fearless as predators like stoats and rats were eliminated from the island, so we could get up close and personal with the yellow-crowned parakeet, robins, and even baby blue penguins. The hike to the top is a mellow 45-minute return trail but we saw so many birds, cool trees, and the view from the summit was unbelievable, I even got my first look at the North Island.

Our first day out exploring the sounds promised a stay full of wildlife encounters and lots of time on the water.