Gannet Beach Adventures, Hawke’s Bay
Departing on the days’ low tide, visitors travel by tractor and trailer along the majestically rugged coastline. Photographic opportunities abound as stops are made throughout the journey giving visitors an insight into how nature’s forces have shaped this amazing area.
Travelling through the Black Reef colony (one of two colonies we visit) visitors can almost touch the gannets in their natural environment, without even stepping off the trailer. It was at this site in 1769 local Maori kidnapped a crew member off Captain Cook’s ship The Endeavour, the incident from which Cape Kidnappers gets its name.
Continuing onto the Cape itself, an approximate 90 minute break enables visitors ample time to picnic, swim, or enjoy a scenic walk to the Plateau colony. Stunning views across Hawke’s Bay from the top of the Cape grace many a visitor’s photo album. The Saddle & Whalebone Reef colonies can also be viewed from here (but are inaccessible to the public).
The gannets are present at the Cape from August to April of each year for the sole purpose of breeding. At the age of around 15-16 weeks, the chicks will take their first ever flight – a solo instinctive migration of around 2,800km to Australian waters. The mortality rate is high with around 70-80% perishing before they have a chance to return. Those that do survive will return to their birth colony at around 2-3 years old, complete with their beautiful adult colouring. They will then spend the rest of their lives in this area – on land to breed, and New Zealand sea-waters for the winter months.
Depending on the time of the season, visitors can witness new-born chicks, through to 4-month old gannets preparing for their first ever flight, which will take them all the way to Australian waters.