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Review Highlights
Part of Trip home to Coast

This has been on bucket list for a while. The Jet Boat trip alone is worth the money. Dion the... read more

Reviewed 20 November 2018
Christchurch, New Zealand
via mobile
Fantastic experience

Very professional operation. Decades of experience and knowledge and it shows. Very informative... read more

Reviewed 19 November 2018
Greymouth, New Zealand
via mobile
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Reviewed 4 October 2016 via mobile

My husband stumbled across the White Heron Sanctuary tour on the web when we were planning our NZ South Island holiday. He said it looked great but I was ambivalent as neither of us are avid bird fanciers. I am so pleased we did this tour as it's a "must do" if you want something that's off the beaten path and very special. With only about 200 birds in NZ the White Heron, or Kotuku in Maori, is endangered in NZ. We went by mini bus for about 15 minutes to the river and then a 20 minute fantastic (but not rough and jerky) jet boat ride to the breeding ground in the Okarita Reserve. This is the only breeding place in NZ where the birds return each year between September and February. We saw about 40 birds from the hide. It was very special. Most people in NZ never see a White Heron and they have a saying "as rare as a Kotuku". We did the 9am tour on 3 October which returned to the motel just before 12noon. This is a small group tour no more than 10 and there were only 4 of us on our tour. Deon was a very knowledgeable tour guide, bus and boat driver who was very caring and attentive.

We also stayed at the White Heron Sanctuary motel which is operated by the same people. Whataroa is a very small rural town of around 300 people so there are not many options. From the outside the motel looks circa 1960s but don't be put off as it was very comfortable and one of the cleanest places I've ever stayed at. The queen bed was very comfortable with quality linen. The powerful heater warmed the place up well, the lounge was comfortable and the kitchen well equipped with full stove/oven and microwave. You can see the snow capped mountain from the kitchen window. The owner Adele was lovely and made us feel very welcome. I even got to help bottle feed her pet lambs which was an unexpected joy.

There are limited options for dinner in Whataroa. We had nice fish and chips at the pub across the road. The store also does some hot food and breakfast. We took our own breakfast provisions.

I highly recommend the White Heron Sanctuary Motel and Tour. Whataroa is an easy drive from Greymouth when you get off the Tranz Alpine train as we did andca good stop over point.

Date of experience: October 2016
Thank JennyC0309
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 July 2016

We contacted Dion on a wet day in Franz Josef and although short notice he easily arranged a time to take just the 3 of us by Jet Boat up to the Heron Sanctuary. The ride up was brilliant weaving through the farm land and although quite a miserable day no need to avoid going. Spend an hour at the sanctuary which was surprisingly informative, the Herons only nesting in this small 50 metre stretch and nowhere else. Highly recommended.

Date of experience: October 2015
Thank Colin H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 April 2016

The White Heron Tour begins about half an hour away from Franz Josef and well worth doing at the right time of the year. The advertising leaflet does say September to March although we went February and some white herons had already dispersed. However, the jet boat ride up the river is really good and then there is a short boardwalk to the hide. We got brilliant views of royal spoonbill, white herons, shag and the guide also explained about the flora and fauna. Plenty of time in the hide and not hurried at all. Would definitely go again.

Date of experience: February 2016
Thank Suegofar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 April 2016

I didnt do the tour but I did spend a lovely night at the attached hotel, run by the same folks. There seemed to be two parts to this hotel, the original next to the tour office and the old hospital down the road. I was in the old hospital - dont worry, there are no hospital beds and no bed pans, the only give away is the (excellent) disabled bathroom facilities.

Like just about every other hotel in this part of NZ, the owners think of everything: there's a toaster, kettle, microwave, cutlery, bowls, cups and - the real winner - a can opener! You can pick up some supplies at the On The Spot across the road, though dont leave it too late, they close around 5/6pm.

A great option for cyclists and anyone unable to find a bed in Franz Josef (which seemed to be quite a few people when I was there).

Date of experience: February 2016
Thank Lily W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 March 2016

Whether or not you are an avid birder (and I am), this is a spectacular tour that allows you to see the only white heron breeding site in NZ. These statuesque birds breed in the summer and we were lucky enough to get there shortly after most of the chicks had recently hatched. There are fewer than 150 nesting pairs of White Herons in all of NZ and this is the only place you can see them. What a show they put on! You observe from across the river where there is a blind- perfect for taking photos. Getting there is half the fun as well. You start with a short drive in a van while getting the history of the area and information about the local flora. Then you get into a jet boat to head up the Waitangi Taona River into the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve. After a short easy walk along the boardwalk and through the rainforest you arrive at the sanctuary where we saw not only the white herons, but also nesting Royal Spoonbills and little shags. See my photos to see why it was such a high point of our South Island visit

Date of experience: November 2015
Thank yummyrib
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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