At last we’ve found the place we were trying to find on more than one holiday here (but missed both the trip before this and on this trip on our way north) This post tells all the details:
We make our way to the track that the sign-post points to, and begin to follow the stream inland.
After a few gentle twists and turns the relatively flat path begins to climb and then all of the sudden we come across an elevated railway bridge that leads directly into a tunnel.
On the other side of the stream we pass under the rail bridge and are immediately confronted with a steep staircase going up to the right. There’s hand-rail so I gingerly pick my way up to steps but once at the top I see that the track starts to wind it’s way even further upwards between the trees and the path has shrunk to half the size it was below.
Himself and I look at each other… this is clearly no place for me on my crutches as the path consists of the uneven and still rising muddy leafy forest floor and I’m still on the slow road to recovery from my accident I’m in absolutely no hurry to add anything new to my injuries.
Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour I leave Himself to catch up with the kids who have bounded ahead and retreat very carefully back down the steps and start making my way back to the car.
The walk to the waterfall is supposed to take ten minutes but they caught me back up before I had reached the road, apparently having sprinted up the track for five minutes, it got steeper and muddier as they progressed and then they met people coming back down the track who told them that the view of the waterfall was lovely but that they were disappointed because there wasn’t even one baby seal up there at all at the moment.
The kids and Himself had a quick confer and decided that if there were no seal pups up there then they didn’t want to continue so they turned around and came back too.
Finally we know where to find the seal pups, but nature likes to keep a few secrets sometimes, and we weren’t lucky today.
The information sign-board at the entrance of the path reads:
NAU MAI HAERE MAI
Welcome to the takiwa (territory) of Ngati Kuri and this beautiful whenua (land). This block of land is owned by individual whanau (families) of Ngati Kuri who, along with the Department of Conservation, invite you to enjoy this unique wildlife experience.
Kekeno / New Zealand Fur Seal
The seals that you see along the Kaikoura coast are unique to New Zealand and are known to Maori as Kekeno. This coastline with it’s rocky outcrops, nooks and crannies provide excellent breeding habitat protection for young pups from storms that hit the coast.
Population Still Recovering
Seals were hunted around the coasts of New Zealand by Maori and European sealer’s for food and skins. Hunting was banned in 1894 but not before the whole population had almost been completely wiped out. New Zealand fur seals are now making a steady comeback in many parts of the country. The current population is estimated to be approximately be 10-20% of the original population.
Exploring and socialising.
Between April and October these pups explore their surroundings, developing their swimming and social skills. They make their own way up to the waterfall and are not lost.
In the middle of winter over 200 pups can often be seen playing together in the water and resting beside the stream and pool. Seals are highly social and gregarious species, so these early playful antics strengthen important social bonds. This energetic physical activity builds powerful muscles and develops coordination: attributes needed to become effective marine hunters.
Returning to the Coast.
Each spring the number of pups at Ohau stream starts to fall once they are weaned (at about 10 months) .
They then stay on the coast and begin to use the skills they developed here to hunt for food at sea. At four years old females join the breeding colony. Males will remain in the area but will not breed until the they are least 10 years old when they are strong enough to win a harem (8-10 females). Fur seals live for about 15 years.