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6 Waiheke Weekender
was to be our only example of a blue footed booby dance. It was
breeding season but that was the only glimpse we got; it reminds
you that the scenes from wildlife videos have probably taken a
long time to shoot."
When they stopped at the large Isabela Island, they visited
Tagus Cove, one of the places Darwin explored during his jour-
"This was a stop Darwin made but it was also a place pirates
liked to shelter and on the cliffs are evidence of their stay. Old
graffti, the names of ships and people from a couple of centuries
The whole trip was one of contrasts. The couple’s frst stop on
the trip had been Rapa Nui (Easter) Island, located far to the east
of New Zealand in the Pacifc Ocean and one of the world’s most
Separated from South America by more than 3500 kilome-
tres and just over 163 square kilometres in size (for comparison
Waiheke is 92 square kilometres), Easter Island is perhaps best
known for the giant standing stone statutes, known as moai,
which dot the landscape.
Almost 900 of the great statues are scattered about the island,
some weighing more than 80 tonnes.
Originally carved to venerate the Rapa Nui people's ances-
tors, the carving of the moai became something of competition
between the island's tribes.
The construction of so many, however, taxed the small island's
resources, contributing to widespread deforestation. Without
wood to build fshing boats, the island became caught in a vice
of overpopulation and dwindling resources and inhabitants plum-
meted from a peak of around 15,000 to just two to three thou-
Bryan has a real fondness for islands. As well as living on
Norfolk and Waiheke, he has also spent time working on Pitcairn
and the Chatham Islands and Gael says they were struck by a
sense of déjà vu even as they hopped off the plane, as the land
reminded them of Norfolk Island where the couple had lived
before moving to Waiheke.
Gael says that, unlike their Galapagos arrival later in the trip,
customs and bio-security on Rapa Nui was not a big deal.
"We had dutifully completed the forms we were given on board
our fight and when we eventually had the opportunity to give them
to someone on exiting, we were met with a 'oh those, you can have
them as a souvenir if you wish'."
The lax customs policy may be due to the fact that there is little
in the way of native fora and fauna left to protect due to the centu-
ries of deforestation and environmental degradation.
"The island is scarily devoid of wildlife. It may have been
the season but we noticed very few insects, there must be some
because there are a variety of fruit and vegetables that grow but it
is seriously a quiet place in terms of animal noise," says Gael.
The most noticeable animal life they found were multitudes of
wild dogs. They weren't a problem though, as rather than being
dangerous, Gael says they tended to be expert beggars, able to pick
soft-hearted tourists from the crowd with ease.
Gael says a lot of work is going into fxing the environment on
the island but with so many introduced weeds choking the ground
there is a lot of work that would need to be done.
From Rapa Nui the couple few to Ecuador with its cloud
forests full of hummingbirds and toucans and cities that looked a
little bit unusual. Very few of the buildings were actually fnished,
often missing roofs and panelling, they noticed, the reason being
that so long as a building isn’t entirely fnished, it does not attract
Since returning to Waiheke the couple have been weighing
their options about what to do next as they are no longer with Vets
on Waiheke in Ostend. Bryan is working as a locum vet, flling in
where needed around the region and he is considering travelling
around the Pacifc, helping to spay and neuter animals.
Whatever the next step, the trip seems to have cemented the
couple's appreciation for island life. "We'd planned it for years
and years and it was far better than what our minds had conjured
up, because not only is it visual but you've got the sounds and the
smells and everything,” they say. “It’s a magnifcent part of the
world; it's fragile, but then, so is here."
Above – A heron dining on a Galapagos iguana. Centre – A painted locust. Above right – One of Darwin’s fnches.
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