We heard that Lake Matheson was a prime photo spot for the high peaks of the glacier country, especially Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. On clear days, the still, reflective surface of Lake Matheson is a great vantage point from which to photograph the snow covered mountains. We didn’t get a sunrise start, but made it to the lake reasonably early. As we set out on the trail around the lake, clouds and mist shrouded Mt. Cook, which is also known by it’s Maori name, Aoraki. A light breeze also ruffled the surface of the lake, so it seemed like we wouldn’t get any great photos. We stopped at a popular photo spot, called Reflection Island, that juts out into the lake and has terrific views of the mountains. Alan persuaded me to stay put for a while, and his patience was duly rewarded. Enjoy the photos he made after the clouds cleared out of the mountains and the breeze stopped on the lake.
Photos from Lake Matheson:
We ate breakfast in the parking lot as more clouds and mist enveloped Aoraki. It seemed like our timing on the photographs was just about right. We headed back to camp for lunch, and then decided to take the tour at the Wildlife Experience in Franz Josef Glacier town. Wildlife Experience is a kiwi bird conservation facility. Kiwis are small, ground-dwelling, flightless birds unique to New Zealand. They have long legs and long, skinny beaks, with nostrils at the end specially adapted for poking in the leaf litter of the forest in search of various insects to dine on. They have unusual feathers that are almost fur-like, so they are ridiculously cute in their weirdness, like some little Muppet with brown fur and long legs. They are also nocturnal, and very hard to find scurrying about the forest floor in the wild. Like many of the birds of New Zealand, kiwi had no natural predators before humans arrived with our array of rats, weasels (stoats), cats and dogs. These introduced mammals have decimated the kiwi population, and the several species of kiwi on the North and South Islands are all endangered. Wildlife Experience is a facility that is able to rear kiwi from hatching until they get to be a size where they are more-or-less safe from predation by rats and weasels. Some of the young kiwi live in an enclosure with the day/night cycles reversed, so inquiring tourists like ourselves can get to see them behaving like they might normally do so out in the forest. Eventually, all of the kiwi reared at Wildlife Experience get released into the wild, usually on small islands off the coast of New Zealand that have been cleared of all predators. Because of the darkness, and the need for quiet, we don’t have any photos of our own of kiwi birds, so this will have to do.