Our whanau was recently invited to experience Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, Mount Bruce. An incredible unfenced sanctuary for native wildlife. Pūkaha has breed wildlife since the early 1960s and is a partnership between Rangitāne o Wairarapa and the Department of Conservation. The Mount Bruce reserve is a restored forest and best known as home to Manukura, the only white kiwi in captivity, and other endangered wildlife such as takahē, kōkako, kākā and longfin eels. They are non-profit and all proceeds go back into conservation projects.
Before I share our family day out at Pūkaha one TIP before visiting would be to spend time on their website understanding not only what to expect on a visit but also to learn more about the incredible work they do and how the indigenous wildlife sanctuary came to life and thrives today. The vision, history and Rangitāne sections of the website gave me additional insight into Pūkaha before our arrival which allowed me to have a deeper appreciation for their endeavours.
On entry, we were warmly welcomed. The boys spotted handy magnifying glass in the nature-inspired gift store, a quintessential toy out in nature. A great purchase! Our little explorers had a ball investigating the bush with them, their curious minds in wonder and awe of earthy texture and colours. We showed up a little earlier to enjoy a meal at the Kākā Cafe which isn’t exclusive to visitors, passersby can all so pit-stop here for a bite to eat mid-journey.
Pūkaha treated us to a Tour & Talk called Te Hīkoi o Pūkaha which began with Karanga (call), carried out by our incredible guide Everlyne. I am personally very big on tours, I believe they allow you to see all the treasures of a place and experience. Essentially when you do a tour you get to sample the very best of a place and what it has to offer with a guide who can share all the know-how and open doors for you that are closed to the everyday visitor. Also great if you are time-bound, a structured tour will ensure you see a lot and meet your time-deadlines.
I could write a separate blog post on our guide Everlyne who we were all magnetically drawn too. Our tour felt meditative and healing at times. It was a magical experience to see our guide interact with the environment. She talked to the tree’s, the birds responded to her like she was one of their own and her connection to the Pūkaha forest was profound. We thoroughly enjoyed Everlyne’s ancient storytelling of the land and wildlife through Māori legends. Our boys were curious conversationalists and our guide was certainly up for the korero (chat). The boys remained entertained and engaged throughout the tour.
One of the highlights for the kids was the Giant Wētā! A sculpture designed and made by the Auckland Burners. The wētā attended the Burning Man festival in 2016 before being donated to Pūkaha in 2019. The sculpture marks the entrance to Te Wāhi Wētā, Pūkaha’s newest attraction, which highlights the importance of the endemic wētā species.
If a tour is not your thing, Pūkaha is also a great place for the free-spirited to stretch their legs. Whether you are an avid botanist, a nature-lover or simply cherish the peace and tranquillity of nature and/or the benefits of a gentle trek, a trip to Pūkaha is the perfect adventure for you. There are handy maps, helpful info boards and signs to guide you during your visit.
Not to be missed at Pūkaha is the cheeky Kākā and Longfin Eels supplementary feeding sessions. They are quite interactive experiences that families of all ages will find fascinating to watch or you could have a go feeding the Tuna (eels) – if you dare!
In the aviaries, there are three types of Kākāriki, Kererū, Kōkako, Korimako, Pāteke and Whio as well as Manukura the resident rare white Kiwi in the nocturnal house, who performed a little dance for us during our visit. We were told it was unique to see her so performative. The Tuatara sadly wasn’t up for visitors, and we understand with wildlife there are no guarantees. Especially in the colder months (in which we visited), it may take some time to spot the native birds amongst the foliage. Birds are just like us and choose to stay tucked up warm in bed.
Our tour came to a magnificent end at the Redwood Grove. Surrounded by spectacular giants of the forest we took a moment to share our thoughts on the day with our phenomenal guide and let her know how much we appreciated the tour.
Pūkaha is a wonderful way to see a true slice of the beautiful natural flora and fauna of NZ and offers glimpses of what natural New Zealand ‘use to be’. We haven’t stopped recommending Pūkaha since our visit. The kids are excited to return and we are set to enrol our eldest in the upcoming Pūkaha Junior Ranges School Holiday programme. We highly recommend a visit and if you go based on our referral we would love to know how you found it! Lastly, Wairarapa locals (from Norsewood to Featherston) bring in your proof of address and claim 50% off your entrance ticket AND bring a visitor with you and they enter for FREE!
Our visit to Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre was gifted.
Summer (October – April)
9.00 am – 6.00 pm
Winter (May – September)
9.00 am – 4.30 pm
Café closes at 5 pm in summer and 4 pm in winter.
85379 SH2 Masterton / Tararua
06 375 8004
See you! Love you! BYE!