The Bountiful Bay of Islands

We don’t often spend time in marinas, preferring our space and tranquility at anchor, but it made life a little easier on arrival in New Zealand, we could give our traveling home a much needed hose down after a very salty passage and we didn’t have to inflate our rather tired dinghy to get ashore. It was wonderful to spend the day with our friends Ted and Barbara who are here on holiday, after a trip to the supermarket in the small town of Paihia they took us to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  Here, on the 6th February 1840, the treaty was first signed between the British Crown and the Maori following the Declaration of Independence created in 1835. The document was then transported around the country to allow chiefs from other tribes to sign.  After a guided tour we had a lively cultural performance inside the beautifully carved Maori meeting house.


‘Ngatokimatawhaorua’ is one of the largest Maori canoes (or ‘waka’) and 70 years old. At 35 metres long and weighing 12 ton it can hold up to 150 paddlers.  The Maori migrated to New Zealand in seven waka in the mid 1300’s, although the country was then known as Aotearoa “The Land of the Long White Cloud”, named by the great Polynesian navigator Kupe who had discovered the islands 400 years earlier.



The tongue hanging out depicts an act of defiance


Beautiful carvings inside the Maori meeting house. The meaning of the carving of three fingers varies from tribe to tribe, some believe that the first Maori man had only three fingers and carved all figures keeping that sign. Others say that the sacred rubbing stick to make fire was held with three fingers, and another belief is that it was forbidden to represent the complete human figure hence only three fingers.



A lively performance of song and dance, ending with the ceremonial ‘haka’ dance


One of the performers explains the Maori tradition of tattooing. Facial tatoos – moko kauae – are of particular importance as they regard the face and head as sacred.


‘The Treaty House’ was built for the first British Resident in New Zealand, James Busby. He lived here with his family from 1833 until 1840, and was involved in the drafting of the treaty.


With some less than favourable weather approaching, we decided to head off out into the bay and seek out some protected anchorages and do some exploring.  The Bay of Islands apparently has 144 islands in total so it’s pretty easy to find somewhere protected from any wind direction.  We spent a week exploring just a few of the islands, a personal favourite was Motuarohia (also known as Roberton) Island, as we entered the anchorage a pod of dolphins followed us in and played around us as we anchored.  They performed some impressive acrobatic leaps time and time again, often two dolphin would leap out towards each other almost colliding as they splashed back into the water.  After a fantastic 20 minute ‘front row seats’ show they headed off and visited each boat in the bay in turn. They clearly just loved to show off and have fun with each other.

Dolphins leaping

Dolphins leaping2Double dolphinDouble dolphin2


Kristen from neighbouring boat ‘O2/3’ very kindly shared her photos of us watching the show!



‘Dolphin’ Bay


A Variable Oystercatcher sitting on her nest at the high water line. The ‘variable’ refers to the frontal plumage which can be pied, mottled or all black. I prefer the Maori name, Torea-Pango.




Looking east from the peak at Motuarohia Island


A brief glimpse of a Yellowhammer



More visitors to Joy at anchor


A warm welcome from an inquisitive Welcome Swallow, a self-introduced bird thought to have flown here from Australia in the early 1900’s. They were named Welcome Sparrows because they appeared in South Australia as a herald of Spring.

Another excellent stop was Urupukapuka Island, the largest island in the bay. Although the anchorage was a bit rolly, we had access to the network of trails across the island with some wonderful views and plenty of bird life.




The Tui bird has a two distinctive white tufts of feathers on its neck and an unusual call with a wide range of tuneful notes and grunts.



A Ewe with a View


The Pukeko is part of the rail family, we saw quite a few foraging in the paddocks


One of my favourite New Zealand birds has to be the Fantail, it’s a small songbird with a long tail that it uses to change direction quickly when hunting for insects.



It was a nice surprise to get a distant glimpse of an Eastern Rosalla, a colourful parakeet introduced from eastern Australia.


And then a Sacred Kingfisher joined the Rosalla on the fence as we tried to get a closer view!

And all this in our first week in the very bountiful Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

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