Back To Nature Tours are proud to be affiliated with the preservation of both the Sinclair Wetlands and the Sandymount Recreation Reserve – both Dunedin areas being integral to the conservation of New Zealand flora and fauna. Our philosophy is simple – support local initiatives and bring this story to our guests.
Located 40 minutes south of Dunedin, and covering a 315 hectare area, The Sinclair Wetlands are significant in the conservation of over 130 native plant species, 46 bird species and various fresh water creatures that have made this fertile swampland their home.
In the late 18th Century the local Maori chief Tukiauau of the Ngati Mamoe Iwi took temporary refuge on Ram Island (Whakaraupuka) located within the Sinclair Wetlands. Here, he and his people set up camp (nohoaka) hence the Maori name for this reserve. After the arrival of European settlers this land was partially drained and farmed, but in 1984 then owner Horrie Sinclair ceased all farming and gifted the area to Ducks Unlimited New Zealand Limited. In 1998 the wetlands were returned to the Ngai Tahu people as part of the Ngai Tahu Claim Settlement Act. Since this time various groups (including the team at Back to Nature) have volunteered their time to maintain and enhance this special area.
Glen Riley who is part of the Back to Nature extended family has played a significant role in conserving these lush swamplands. Back To Nature staff are often involved in voluntary planting at The Sinclair Wetlands and this coming winter we aim to establish a ‘Back To Nature Garden’ at the site, the goal being to plant 350 trees and plants during the winter period – the pictures above show the site we have chosen. It’s full of introduced gorse at the moment but will soon be cleared and replaced with natives.
The Back to Nature Team will have a training and planting day out at the wetlands in October followed by its annual Christmas Hangi (cancelled last year due to a fire risk) in December – all are invited!!
On-site accommodation at the wetlands boasts 10 bunks, a fully functional kitchen and bathroom facilities and provides volunteers with the opportunity to partake in experiential learning regarding this unique environment.
To observe the native Paradise Shelduck (Putangitangi) or the Pukeko (Swamp Hen) in their natural habitat surrounded by New Zealand Native flax (Harakeke) and Cabbage Trees (Ti Kouka) is both an educational and magical experience. Beneath the water, creatures such as Koura (Freshwater Crayfish) and Freshwater mussels also thrive. These are just a small portion of the unique flora and fauna that dwell within the area. They are an example of why the preservation of the Sinclair Wetlands is important for not only us, but also for generations of the future to treasure and enjoy.
The Sandymount Recreation Reserve is situated on the stunning coast of the Otago Peninsula. Like The Sinclair Wetlands, this area is a natural habitat for various native flora and fauna and specifically is home to the unique but dwindling Sooty Shearwater (Muttonbird or Titi) seabird. Eating mainly fish, squid and krill, this large dark migratory seabird usually breeds on the outer islands of New Zealand although small pocket colonies exist in areas such as Sandymount. If fortunate enough to survive into adulthood, these special birds can live up to 20 years of age. During their life cycle the Sooty Shearwaters will breed on Coastal New Zealand from September to May before flying over 2000kms to The North Pacific and stopping over at places as far afield as Chile, Japan and California before making the long journey back for the next breeding season. Since ancient times the Titi has been a culinary delicacy for Maori and controlled ‘harvesting’ of these birds occurs seasonally on the Muttonbird Islands off the coast of southern New Zealand.
In recent years the Sooty Shearwater has succumbed to predators such as feral cats, rats and stoats. Our team at Back To Nature are involved in the trapping of nuisance predators so as to protect the Shearwater nests and enable their numbers to increase. At present the conservation status of these birds is ‘Near Threatened’, so it is imperative that trapping and conservation efforts are maintained. Shortly, we will start baiting our traps to hopefully reduce the density of introduced predators – we’ll keep you updated!