Stewart Island’s original name, Te Punga o te Waka a Maui (The Anchor of Maui’s Canoe), positions it at the heart of Māori mythology. According to legend, Maui fished up the North Island from his canoe (the South Island), which was anchored by Stewart Island. The more commonly known Māori name, Rakiura, refers to its famous glowing skies which can be enjoyed at sunset or via a glimpse of the southern lights, aurora australis.
From the 13th century the Island’s rich resources of native flora and birds, seafood and the Titi (sooty shearwater/muttonbird) provided a bountiful harvest for Maori. Early in the 19th century explorers, sealers, missionaries, miners and settlers from all corners of the world made their mark on the Island.
Today, New Zealand’s third largest island has a population of less than 400, a community in rhythm with the sea and natural environment, supporting fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation pursuits.
A short water taxi ride from the township of Oban is Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara), an unspoilt island sanctuary of vibrant bird life in ancient primeval forest that has been predator-free for more than 20 years. Threatened native species flourish here, one of few offshore islands with a podocarp forest which plays a leading role nationwide in conservation management.
Ulva’s Guided Walks invites you to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors and experience the bygone era of a bird-lover’s paradise in the southernmost open bird sanctuary in the world.