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Goat Island, New Zealand

No goats on Goat Island, New Zealand

To have a little counter balance for last nights big meal, we put on our running shoes next morning and run – together with Frank – over Orewa’s boulevard. It’s a bit of a slalom between all day trippers who came down to Orewa this morning, enjoying Auckland Day: their day of. Two hours later, after a nice, cold shower, we jump into our car and drive towards Goat Island. Our road trip finally begins.

The start is smooth. Driving on the left goes easy. Well, after leaving the parking lot on the wrong side of the road. The only thing we can’t get used to, are the names of the towns and villages in New Zealand; Waivera, Porhuehue, Wangateau. I just can’t get them in my mind or pronounce them. When Mickey does it, I don’t recognize them when I see them on the road signs. But as always, we find a solution for it, by spelling just the first four letters and leaving the rest of the name for what it is.

Lord or the rings

Driving through New Zealand we admire the endless green hills that make Annemiek sigh: “No wonder Lord of the Rings has been filmed here.” After a few hours we reach Goat Island, today’s goal. Goat Island is the main attraction of the five kilometer wide Cape Rodney – Okakari Point Marine Reserve, that protects the coast line and reaches eight hundred meters into the sea. It is New Zealand’s oldest national under water park. In the old days the inhabitants had the idea there was more than enough fish. In 1950 the fish population started to decline and on the 6th of January 1975 this part became an official sea reserve to give the fish population the chance to recover.

Nowadays it is a safe breeding ground for the fish and the population had recovered. Partly thanks to all the work the Auckland University is doing, because that has placed a laboratory here to audit what is happening below sea level. Tourist are welcome to visit the reserve, but they can’t visit Goat Island. The nine hectare big island is home to sea birds (among them penguins), who can nest freely. Their only enemy on the island are rats.

No fresh water

Other animals can’t really live on the island, because there is no fresh water. It is Goat Island, but there are never traces found of any goats on the island. So why is it called Goat Island? The theory is that back in the time of captain James Cook sailors would leave goats behind on small islands for castaways who needed food. Leaving the goats on the mainland wouldn’t work, because the goats would just run off.

If that once happened on Goat Island is still a question. There has never been any prove found. What is for sure, is that pigs where put on the island for the same reason. It didn’t work. The pigs jumped in the water, swam to the mainland and made sure they were far out of sight before any castaway could eat them.

Invisible goats

We’re not interested in the pigs or invisible goats. We’re here to see fish. But seeing them requires some courage, because before we can dive into the water with our snorkels we have to wade through meters of brown, slimy seaweed that smells like dead fish and makes our stomachs turn. The reward stays behind. We see some big snappers, a few goat fish (maybe the name comes from them), silver drummers, but the big schools of fish we were hoping for, are not there.

A bit disappointed we leave the cold water behind us, wade through the smelly seaweed again and walk around the big rocks. The more we leave the little beach behind us, the more little animals we see: top shell, cats-eye, snakeskin chiton, cushion star. The more time we spent on studying every inch, the tinier the animals are we see and the more we see of them. They’re pretty funny, but we were hoping to see some big ones. Luckily we will be doing some more diving during this trip.

I wrote this story in 2008; now I'm finally taking the time to translate it into English.
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