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Back in 1866 Okarito was a thriving town of more than 1,200 people, with three theaters and 25 hotels. People came for the gold and for many years there was a working port inside the bar at the entrance to the lagoon. Things have changed dramatically and Okarito is now a nature sanctuary, drawing visitors keen to see kiwi, seabirds, and white herons, and to paddle on the silent lagoon. Its wild black sand surf beach is home to nesting birds and sleeping seals, so watch where you walk.
Okarito Kiwi Tours. Ian Cooper's Okarito Kiwi Tours holds the only concession on the South Island to take visitors to see kiwi in their natural habitat. He'll have you walking softly through the bush, listening for their scuffles and calls, before catching a glimpse of these elusive flightless birds. It's an incredibly rare experience and Mr. Cooper claims a 95% chance of seeing one on a night tour; all you need to bring is patience and some warm, quiet clothes (no nylon windbreakers). The Strand, Okarito, Hokitika, 7886. 03/753-4330. www.okaritokiwitours.co.nz. Prices start from NZ$75. Evenings only.
Okarito Nature Tours. Okarito Nature Tours run kayak trips on the lagoon, which is a good spot to see white herons away from their nesting grounds. 03/753-4014. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.okarito.co.nz or www.birdingwestcoast.co.nz. Rates start at NZ$45 unguided and NZ$85 per person for a guided trip (minimum of two people).
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