Rēkohu, Wharekauri, Chatham Islands, how different is the flora and fauna?
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Our informative Chatham Islands host, Lois Croon of Admiral Garden, told us that the native plants of the island have big, lush leaves. She said that Rēkohu's light is softened by high cloud which causes low light levels and the trees have to have larger leaves to photosynthesize. Thus the Moriori translation for the name for the island - misty skies.
Our guide Denny, who has worked as a Department of Conservation ranger on the island, informed us that the native trees at Chathams do not exhibit the juvenile stages as seen on the mainland. Is this this because the tree browsing moa have not roamed these islands?
There are also differences in the names of the trees. The karaka, which we are familiar with as a hardy coastal tree with orange berries, is called the kopi tree at Rēkohu. This is the name given by the Moriori, the islands first inhabitants who brought it here. The designs they created on the bark of the tree (Rākau momori), are still evident today and is another fascinating story.
We were stunned by the island's unique megaflora, many are colourful compared to some of our flora on the mainland. Examples are the yellow flowered Chatham Island Christmas tree/rautini, (Brachyglottis huntii), the familiar blue flower of the Chatham Island forget-me-not kopakopa/kopukapuka (Myosotidium hortensia) and the purple Chatham Island aster (Olearia semidentata) to name just a few. We were very fortunate to have Denny and Lois help us to identify and learn about these unfamiliar plants while on the island.
Will and I are not bird experts, however we are bird observers and photographers. I noted that the native birds at the Chathams such as the Chatham Island Warblers, Fantails, Tui and Parea (Wood pigeon) had subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences. The Parea for example was larger, very relaxed around people and more iridescent in colour.
Endemic sea birds of the island include the the striking Chatham Island and Pitt Island cormorants, which can be seen roosting on points along the coastline, if you know where to look. The ocean going pelagic seabirds such as the Chatham Island mollymawk, toroa and the Chatham Island tāiko, which are endemic to the islands are more likely to be seen by charter boat. Glen King, our skipper and guide of Owenga Charters is familiar with the various albatross, many of which breed on the offshore islands. If weather permits we can visit these remote rocks and islands on a private charter.
One bird you will not be able to miss is the weka, It is legal to harvest the weka for eating at Rēkohu. The locals associate with the bird to the degree that they prefer to call them themselves 'Wekas' rather than 'Kiwis'.
Join us on a 8 day, privately guided tour of the Chatham Island staying at the comfortable Awarakau Lodge with our hosts Greg and Rosemarie Horler. We will organise your Air Chathams flights, accommodation, meals and charters. You will also have access to see highlights which are only accessible by special permission.
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