King Shags and King Salmon

I worked 6 and a half days at the shop this week so I was getting incredibly restless. The weather here certainly hasn’t helped and with more rain forecast I wasn’t keen for a kayak even though the sounds were flat. Marlborough Tour Company were running one of their fabulous Salmon and Songbirds trips so I jumped on board for an afternoon out on the water.

 Marlborough Tour Company's Odyssey heading out from Picton

Marlborough Tour Company's Odyssey heading out from Picton

I am pretty spoilt spending so much time in the Marlborough Sounds but every day out is different and being able to climb aboard various operators means I learn something new every time. The main feature of this trip was salmon; a trip to the Ruakaka New Zealand King Salmon farm, a great run-down of the history of salmon farming in the sounds by NZ King Salmon General Manager Marketing – Jemma McCowan and a wonderful taste of smoked salmon paired with a delicious Mud House Sav (our region really is blessed with an abundance of local producers).

 Checking out the King Salmon Ruakaka Salmon Farm

Checking out the King Salmon Ruakaka Salmon Farm

 Marlborough Tour Company guide, Deb Henderson (My Mum!!!)

Marlborough Tour Company guide, Deb Henderson (My Mum!!!)

 The salmon farm on a glassy Marlborough day

The salmon farm on a glassy Marlborough day

 Marlborough Tour Company Host Georgia with Mud House Sav. 

Marlborough Tour Company Host Georgia with Mud House Sav. 

 Delicious Regal King Salmon

Delicious Regal King Salmon

I am always amused by the local wildlife trying its luck for an easy meal at the salmon farm and today was no exception a lazy Fur Seal barely lifted an eyelid as we motored past and the Pied Shags and Black-Backed Gulls were virtually oblivious to our presence, it was far more interesting inside the pens.

 A cheeky NZ Fur Seal

A cheeky NZ Fur Seal

 Opportunistic Pied Shags waiting for a snack 

Opportunistic Pied Shags waiting for a snack 

Matt the skipper on board was well aware of my bird nerd status and took a minor detour to the King Shag colony on the way to our next stop. I will never turn down the chance to see these special birds - one of the rarest seabirds in the world, and on our doorstep. If you think they look a little like the far more plentiful Pied Shag, just check the colour of their feet – pink for Kings, Black for Pieds.

 King Shags

King Shags

 King Shags

King Shags

After ticking off the King Shags we cruised over to Double Cove. My understanding is that many years ago a chap started feeding the fish here from his jetty, over time the fish became large, tame and somewhat expectant of food (making them an easy catch for cheeky fishermen) after the man passed away the area became a marine reserve which means no one can catch the fish, and boats still feed them when they go past. Their diet today was mainly weet-bix (a New Zealand breakfast staple) which the ducks quite enjoyed as well.

 Feeding the fish and ducks 

Feeding the fish and ducks 

 Friendly fish and jellies at Double Cove

Friendly fish and jellies at Double Cove

With our bellies full of New Zealand King Salmon, and the fish full of weet-bix we turned Odyssea South to our final destination. Kaipupu Point is a predator-free peninsular near Picton which with hard work and dedication has seen the relocation of many native species and has the honour of becoming a Kiwi creche; where Kiwi (birds, not people) are bought as juveniles to be raised in a safe environment until they are older and strong enough to be returned to their home on the South Island’s West Coast. While there were no Kiwi (or many birds at all, due the slightly grim weather) we still had a great walk up to the look out, which is one of my favourite views of the Marlborough Sounds.

Even on an overcast and dreary day everyone on board had an fantastic time. For a range of activities within Marlborough make sure you check out Marlborough Tour Company, and hunt out a pack Regal Salmon, and a bottle of Mud House wine while you are in the region.

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