Yesterday, we drove about 40 minutes outside of St. Heliers to explore Muriwai beach.
It's an extraordinarily beautiful location, made even cooler by its current inhabitants.
These boobie-like birds are called gannets, and they come to this specific beach in New Zealand between the months of August and March. About 1,200 pairs of gannets mate here each year.
Each pair lays only one egg, and the parents then take turns guarding their nest (which is especially important considering the nests are so close together).
Once a baby gannett hatches, it takes about a week to practice stretching its wings, until it eventually leaps off one of these cliffs and takes off— hopefully, into the sky without any problems.
If its first attempt is successful, (full disclosure: if it doesn't plunge to its death) the baby gannett flies all the way across the Tasman Sea to Australia, where this gannett population actually lives. The gannets return a few years later to mate at this site once again.
Humans seriously need to work on getting this kind of internal GPS.
To watch the older gannets guarding the nests and the younger ones stretching their wings was a truly unique experience. I couldn't get over how all of this comes intuitively to these birds. I mean, imagine what it would be like for humans if we had only one chance to get transportation right. As if the first time we got in the drivers' seat of a car we were expected to jump on the interstate for a few hours, you know, to see if we would die or not... no thank you.
While exploring Muriwai beach, we also stumbled upon this massive cave, which was carved out of the side of one of the cliffs. We waded through the entrance into the center of the cave, where we found a full view of the ocean.
It was pretty comical actually, because every time the tide came in, water would rush through the opening and we would all have to hightail it out of there. Run away! Run away! (Name that movie).
But eventually the tide stayed out long enough that we were able to trudge through the entire cave and wound up on the other side. The shadows you see above from left to right are Will's brother, Nick, who arrived in New Zealand yesterday morning, Will and myself (My jeans were too tight to roll all the way up so he obliged me with a piggy-back), Maggie Rose and her friend Sophia.
It was quite a moment.