Visit Okarito on one of our boat tours and experience the magic of this small village with the big landscapes – and New Zealand’s largest unmodified wetlands – over 3000 hectares, only a 25-minute drive from Franz Josef Glacier.
Yes! there are white herons here year round, as well as royal spoonbills – plenty of birdlife and so much more to see!
The surrounding landscape is simply stunning – on a clear day we’ll see Mt Cook and Tasman, Franz Josef Glacier – an amazing backdrop to the ancient kahikatea forest and wetland rushes in the foreground. Plenty of opportunity for photos of birds and landscapes.
West Coast NZ Wildlife Tours
Daily Tours & Private Charters
We’ll show you as much as we can on our popular 2-hour EcoTour via the Explorer Douglas – this flat bottomed open air boat was custom built for the lagoon – we cruise along at slow speeds and often drift alongside feeding white herons, godwits, oystercatchers and dotterels.
The Okarito Eco Tour
Our most popular tour is the all encompassing 2 Hour Eco Tour departing at 9 AM (sometimes an additional departure at 11:30). This tour departs from the Okarito Wharf and heads up the main lagoon channel.
We’ll watch for a variety of wading birds along the way, tell you about the wetlands and conservation efforts and programs in full force! and on clear days, pause for mountain and reflection photos. Then we drift slowly up the rainforest waterways, stopping for a hot drink and snack along the way. So much to see on this tour including exploring a bit further up the inland waterways and plenty of time to interact – questions and comments always encouraged!
Discover Okarito Tour
This tour encompasses so much of this West Coast gem – Okarito. The birdlife and biodiversity of this pristine waterway system reaches from the Tasman sea to glaciers and the tallest peaks of Aetoroa. Discover Okarito and discover the flora, the fauna, the heritage and the people of this unique and diverse seaside settlement.
Your tour begins with a thoroughly all encompassing two hours with your guides Paula and Swade – a local Okarito couple who have run Okarito Boat EcoTours for 16 years – discovering the inland waterways of the Okarito wetlands and rainforest.
While watching for the wide variety of wading and forest birds along the way, you may also have some wonderful photographic opportunities for mountain vistas and to see the complexity of this incredibly diverse environment from the tops of the tallest peaks to the rainforest and right down to the wetlands adjacent to the Tasman Sea – a true mountains to sea landscape complete with Franz Josef Glacier, Mount Cook and Tasman and more.
Learn of the exciting conservation work and predator control being undertaken in this area and witness the benefits with the steadily increasing species and sightings of some of NZ’s rarer birds. Hear the stories of the rowi – the Okarito brown kiwi – and how it helped lead to changes in the industry of the West Coast and to the extensive conservation work and successes this has led to.
Then on to discovering the past, present and future of Okarito from its heritage to its forests and bird life, to restoration work being undertaken by both Glacier Valley EcoTours – your on shore guides – and Okarito Boat EcoTours. Both local/family run operators also head up the Okarito Plants Trust and are involved in numerous projects for restoring our biodiversity within the community, Franz Josef, Whataroa and beyond on the West Coast.
Learn of the delicate and intricate life of the “small world” of the forest – from carnivorous sundews to the bright blue of the entoloma mushrooms, the ferns and of course the birds of the forest.
You will have the opportunity to plant a tree, grown from seeds that we have sourced, propagated and prepared for planting – you can help contribute to the ongoing diversity of this beautiful landscape and be a part.
You will leave feeling part of this very unique West Coast seaside community – yours to Discover – Okarito.
- Departs 9 AM
- Duration 5-6 hours
- Includes donation to the Okarito Native Plants Trust
- Suitable for all ages – walking portion of the tour may be tailored to suit varying abilities – easy to moderate.
- Includes homebaked snacks, hot or cold drinks and a full packed lunch to enjoy at a picnic area
- Max. 12 participants (please inquire for larger private groups – up to 24).
Okarito Eco-Heritage Tour for Groups
Designed for groups of 12 to 24, this tour delves into the history of the waterways of Okarito and how they connect to the present and future – from the rich stories of the gold mining past to the conservation efforts of today for tomorrow’s future – it’s community, waterways, bird life and rainforest.
Spend time exploring the Okarito waterways and its diverse bird life – from the graceful kotuku – great white heron – royal spoonbills and stilts to the forest birds of the rainforest waterways. Then join your on shore host Paula as she describes the individuals and families making their way to Okarito by ship and by shoreline – walk the newly planted restoration walkways they are involved in planting and the dine together in “Donovan’s Store”. The west coasts oldest heritage weather board building and a Historic Places Trust Category 1 building.
A truly unique and all encompassing tour – the challenges and benefits of living in a small, remote seaside community in both the past and the present and looking with an eye to the future.
- Group size: Min 10 – max 24
- $180/person including 3 course plated lunch and donation to Donovan’s Heritage fund.
- Allow 4 hours.
Private Charters & Photography Workshops
Private morning charters are available for that early light of day and your own special time on the waterways of the Okarito lagoon and its amazing landscape. What a way to start your day! Quiet, calm waters, birds feeding, mountains soaring…capture that special photograph or just relax, taking in the peaceful untouched atmosphere amongst this unique and inspiring landscape.