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June 2020 Issue
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Going guided: Ulva Island Nature Experience

Ulva Island is a goldmine of flora and fauna – if you know where to look. Photo: Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience
A day trip to Rakiura’s Ulva Island is a bird-lover’s dream, and a chance to experience what Aotearoa’s forests would have offered centuries ago.

Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience owner Furhana Ahmad cares deeply about serenity On her guided trips to Rakiura’s nature sanctuary of Ulva Island, she prides herself on her ability to lead clients where the birds are, and the people aren’t – a skill that has earned her the title ‘bird whisperer’.

“It’s a nature-based trip, not a bungee jump or circus trip and I’m not pushing numbers through the door,” she says.

“I try to manage my experiences away from other visitors, and I’ll change the route if I hear noisy groups, to maximise time with wildlife sightings and nature.”

Ulva Island has been pest free since 1997, giving its birdlife the space to flourish – but that’s not all.

“It’s a very special place in the whole of New Zealand because it’s a forest we’ve never commercially logged,” Ahmad says. “The forest is a lot lighter as the wind will thin larger trees down naturally, so you get a lot of regrowth – you won’t get 500-year-old rimu there.”

With 25 years of local knowledge of Rakiura and 21 years’ experience guiding, Ahmad’s skills haven’t been lost on her clients, who have rated her tours on TripAdvisor as number one on Rakiura.

Ian and Kay Graham visited Rakiura for the first time last year and enjoyed a guided trip to Ulva Island.

“It strikes us that Stewart Island must be top of the list of places people say they will visit, but never do,” Ian says. “We researched what there was to do, and Ulva Island struck us immediately.”

The trip to Ulva Island was unforgettable, Ian says – a glimpse into what Aotearoa was once like.

“We chose a guided walk simply because we felt we would see and learn a lot more with a knowledgeable guide than we would walking around on our own, not really knowing what to look for in a unique environment we are completely unfamiliar with,” he says.

“Furhana knew every bird call in the forest and exactly which species to look for at every point in the walk.”

Where Rakiura/Stewart Island
Who Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience,
When Year-round
Duration Half and full-day trips available
Price $140-265