If you haven’t seen the stunningly beautiful Australasian Gannet, the Mariwai Gannet Colony is the place to go. From August to March these birds occupy the rocks and cliffs around the Muriwai beach area where they are either preparing nesting areas for breeding, breeding or hatching and raising chicks. Once fledged the Gannet chicks simply jump off the cliffs and start to soar their way over to Australia. In a few years time they will return to the same spot to establish their own nesting spots.
It’s easy to spend the better part of a day watching the comings and goings of these birds as they soar effortlessly to and from there nesting areas. The courting and mating behaviors of the paired couples, which stay together 2 or 3 years, are fascinating to watch as they have an elaborate greeting ritual when one or the other return to the nest.
I would suggest that you take some good binoculars with you for better viewing. If you can, choose a windier day as the birds have an easier time soaring. If you are picture taking the best time for light is in the morning or late afternoon.
Also, visit some of the other areas in the Muriwai area; especially the beautiful and extensive black sand beaches.
The drive from Auckland is also very pretty, especially once you leave the main highway and turn off for Muriwai. The road meanders through some gorgeous countryside with lovely green rolling hills full of iconic New Zealand sheep.
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