It’s not every day that your bags are checked for vermin. But on Kapiti Island, where the New Zealand park service is reintroducing flightless birds like the takahe and kiwi—once plentiful and then killed of by rats introduced from other locales–opening your bag is required.
Just a short ferry ride from Wellington, Kapiti Island is one of the few accessible island nature reserves—thanks to the indigenous Maori who live there.
When the New Zealand government set out to create a nature preserve, they seized the sheep farms of the white settlers, but the few Maori families living there were allowed to remain, and now they run a guest house where a limited number of tourists can visit.
After a day learning about indigenous plants and birds of the island, visitors can spend a night with a Maori family eating a feast prepared in the hangi (an underground earth oven) and a night camping in the family’s back yard bungalows.
The highlight is a guided night-tour of the island in search of the kiwi. I think we saw the bottom of a kiwi skittering off into the night, but the search was the reward.