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Located within Stewart Island's Paterson Inlet, Ulva Island is one of the finest examples of an ancient and intact ecosystem in New Zealand and the best way to experience this unique and beautiful habitat is with Ulva's Guided Walks, established in 2000 by Ulva Goodwillie, a native Stewart Islander.
A programme to eradicate introduced rats and mice from the island has created a safe haven for bird and plant life and a half day guided walk through the forest and along the sandy beaches of the island offers you the chance to experience truly pristine nature.
You will meet your guide at the wharf at Golden Bay, just a 10 minute walk from Halfmoon Bay, and a short water taxi ride will take you over to Ulva Island. You may well get straight into the wildlife as yellow-eyed and blue penguins are often seen in the water as well as dolphins.
As your guide leads you into the forest, you will learn about the history of the island and its flora and fauna.
As livestock have never roamed the island and it hasn't been logged, save for a small area by the wharf, the forest is as close to intact as possible from the understory to the canopy. There are mosses, lichens and ground ferns, shrubs, lancewoods and tree ferns, and then the towering podocarp trees.
The lack of predators makes Ulva Island the perfect habitat for birds and the forest is full of them. Kaka (New Zealand's bush parrot), bellbird and tui are the noisiest along with the kakariki (parakeet) in the canopy. And at lower levels you will see many birds that are difficult or impossible to see elsewhere in New Zealand - weka, South Island saddleback, rifleman, Stewart Island robin and the glorious mohua.
Ulva Island is a special place and as you explore, it is important to remind yourself that there are now few places anywhere in the world where it is so easy to visit and experience a habitat that is virtually untouched by human interference.
After your walk, you will be returned to Golden Bay but a really lovely thing to do is to just stay for the afternoon and take the water taxi back later. You can then just sit quietly in the forest with a picnic and let the birds come to you.
Or you could carry on watching wildlife for the rest of the day on the Birding Bonanza trip...