What is the Muriwai Gannet Colony and why is it special?
Just an hour out of Auckland city is one of the most enthralling sights you’ll find in New Zealand (which is really saying something).
The Muriwai Gannet Colony is a collection of close-knit nests with roughly 1,200 pairs of birds making their home by the shore every year between August and March.
A fully grown gannet can have a wingspan of close to two metres, and can weigh as much as 2.5 kilograms, so it’s always an incredible sight to watch so many of them duck, dive, fly, and return to their own nests, all without crashing into one another.
The chicks are another matter entirely. These fuzzy and cute little creatures spend a lot of time preparing for flight by stretching and flapping their wings as soon as they start growing feathers, all in preparation for the moment when they make a daring leap from the comfort of the nest out to the sea.
When you manage to tear your eyes away from the masses of birds on the shore, watch as the adults go fishing in the sea (you may need your binoculars). Gannets are capable of epic dive-bombs, reaching speeds of up to 145 kilometres per hour as they plunge into the water for small fish.
As well as the attraction of the gannets, the beach itself is also visually arresting. The black sand is a beautiful change from the usual golden shores around New Zealand, and the crashing waves are a huge draw card for surfers who spend summers floating and riding on the water. Plus, you can take the time to hike the four-hour track between Muriwai and Bethells Beach further along the coast.
In fact, we love Muriwai - its gannets and its views – so much that we make a stop here during our full-day tours to the Waitakere Ranges.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist