March 21st, we are in the library of Invercargill. We just went to Stirling Point (Bluff), the most southern point on the island. I had Bluff oysters and they were indeed delicious! It is a NZ delicacy, harvested from March to August in the Foveaux Strait here in Bluff. We are lucky to be here at the right time. Tomorrow we will drive to the Catlins and hopefully see some penguins. It is cold here, 12 degrees Celsius but it is not raining.
Travelling on the South island is like driving from one national park to another. From the 4.7million people living in NZ, 76% live on the North Island. On average there is less than 15 people per square kilometer in NZ (contrast this with Belgium where there are 892 people per square kilometer). Their conservations efforts are really incredible. A lot of indigenous species were lost both by Maoris and European settlers hunting and farming, but they managed to change their behaviour after realising the disastrous effect on flora and fauna. The NZ Department of Conservation manages about 30% of the NZ land as parks. There are 14 national parks in NZ and 31 marine reserves. Besides these there are many regional protected areas.
The next day we travelled to Franz Joseph Glacier where we did a Heli-hike on the glacier. More on that in the next blog.