I have just returned from an unbelievable weekend at Wild Dunedin, New Zealand’s six day ‘Festival of Nature’.
From Critter of the Week, to Albatross spotting, Orokonui Eco Sanctuary, Jesse Mulligan, being outside, Lanarch Castle and more. My head is spinning and I’m shouting to everyone from the rooftops.
Now in it’s third year, Wild Dunedin is now proudly promoting itself as ‘New Zealand’s Festival of Nature’. Growing from humble beginnings this wonderful festival for all celebrates nature in all forms for six days and seventy events. Seventy! I haven’t got seventy friends.
My amazing weekend began with landing in Dunedin and heading out to The Royal Albatross Centre on Dunedin’s Peninsula. A stunningly beautiful sweep of land surrounded by water and, unfortunately for us, a relatively calm day to see these incredible beasts and their chicks. We managed to see the chicks nestled away from us from the viewing platforms and then one solo Albatross swooped in and then disappeared. Such incredible creatures. Albatross leave the land at five months old and don’t come back for five years. Living out at sea, eating and sleeping from the water. And p.s they are MASSIVE. Their parents are legends!
A quick change and off into town for the launch of Wild Dunedin proper with MC and media host for the weekend Jesse Mulligan (RNZ). A beautiful waiata to begin proceedings and we were in!
Wild Dunedin has been relatively quiet in it’s growth, slowly adding more and more events of the six days. This year was the first year they set their line in the sand with the name ‘New Zealand’s Festival of Nature’.
I was lucky to receive a glimpse of the programme a few weeks before release and then given the unenviable task of choosing events to cover my long weekend in Dunedin. So. Many. Events people! Art, wild food dinners, the night sky, penguins, photography, hiking, scavenger hunts, sea creatures, birds, castle walks and more.
Post launch and hugs a plenty, I sped away to Lanarch Castle where we were lucky enough to be staying for our adventures here in Dunedin. An amazing place to ramble, explore and photograph. The perfect place to settle in and gawp at the views of the sea and mountains surrounding. Also on my mind, cycle heaven.
Saturday morning dawned bright and cold and we headed into the city with critters at the top of the list. One of the main attractions for our trip (as we now have a baby) was how easy it is to bring a small person(s) and have them wide eyed and excited all weekend. There’s so many events for children and families. So much to learn and see. And, which is always something I’m mindful of when promoting events is your wallet won’t be left empty at the end of it.
Critter of the Week gave us Jesse Mulligan and Nicola Toki (DOC Threatened Species Ambassador) and their discussion of critters (the ones we don’t usually talk about because they’re not cute and cuddly); Geckos for one. An amazing display of behaviour and understanding. If you missed it you can listen to it here!
A meander around Otago Museum and a look at their incredible exhibitions, some lunch and we were ready for our Wild Street Art Walking Tour.
To guide us around the streets of Dunedin was the amazing Victoria Gilliand (Street Kiwi) and nature writer Quinn Berentson. Cracks, crevices and sides of buildings adorned with beautiful art all over the city. Look up and you’ll see another, another, another. Encapsulating the mashup of nature versus street scape.
There is art everywhere you look in Dunedin and the Wild Dunedin programme is stocked FULL of it. This had to have been one of my favourite parts of the weekend. Meandering through the city with shiny happy faces gazing at art. Art that I had wandered past a hundred times but didn’t know anything about the artists, the stories, the nature aspect of it all.
One thing I did miss (and was gutted when I realised) was a tour of the gardens of Lanarch Castle. ‘A Garden 50 years in the Making’ sounded like an exceptional afternoon of wandering the gardens, hearing the stories of the “whys” and “hows” of the making and creation and then a sumptuous afternoon tea with Margaret Baker.
Next time it’s on the list (which is now 3 pages long).
Sunday morning and we were ready to head back to the city. After our goodbyes to the castle we set off for Orokonui Eco Sanctuary. 307 Hectares of land is protected by a giant fence to keep predators out and rare and endangered species in. A beautiful serene place to wander, listen and be guided around by the team of thoroughly inspiring staff.
We heard about the ventures of the sanctuary and the amazing birds, animals, walks, tours, education that goes on there.
I haven’t been so inspired in a long time. Wild Dunedin has completely outdone itself in providing such a stacked programme for absolutely everyone to enjoy. I fully support each and every wonderful volunteer, member, bird, speaker, critter and the city of Dunedin for ploughing their heart and soul into this festival. Do NOT miss it next year. I for one will be there with bells and whistles on.
2019 I CANNOT wait.
NZ Festival of Nature
This post was sponsored by Wild Dunedin but as always, if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t write about it.