Being surrounded on three sides by the most biologically diverse National Park in New Zealand and the clean, untamed Tasman Sea on the other means that Karamea sports both an abundance and a great diversity of native wildlife. From the sub-tropical coastal nikau palm forests to the high alpine zone the region is nothing short of a wildlife lover’s paradise.
At the Karamea River estuary and other coastal lagoons in the area, it is possible to see black swans, kotuku (white heron or great egret, shown above), paradise ducks, pukeko, oystercatchers, stilts, herons, gulls and many other species.
Away from the sea, the dawn (and dusk) chorus must be heard to be believed. Tui, kereru and bellbirds among other natives are most commonly heard in the forest, while in the village and fields, blackbirds, songthrushes and skylarks join the chorus.
For the lucky, glimpses of rarer birds such as the kaka (forest parrot), kiwi or kakariki (yellow crowned parakeet) are possible. Wekas while rare in almost all of New Zealand are actually common in the Karamea region and their amazingly bold and curious antics can be commonly observed at many popular tourist sites.
Hunting is a popular pastime in Karamea with both locals and visitors and the wild, national park bred deer produce some of the best tasting venison in the world.
The area has a huge diversity of flora in a small area, with many different forest types, including lowland beech, alpine beech, coastal rata, mixed podocarp and coastal palm forest.
In this region though it is at the coast the most spectacular forest vistas can be seen. Imagine standing on a deserted, golden beach, the roaring sea behind you, and ahead, a wide sweeping panorama of verdant nikau palms, giving the feeling of being alone on a tropical island. Above the nikau, massive ratas the size of a four-storey house cling their way up the side of the bluff in a dense growth, their knarled trunks and twisted branches suffocated by clustered bromeliads. In Spring the boughs are distorted by a huge weight of scarlet flowers, blending the trees into a single mass of red, the highest branches creating a striking contrast with the bright blue sky.
At night time in many areas glow worms can be observed shining like stars in the undergrowth and under rocky outcrops beside many forest trails and roads. That’s if you can take your eyes off the stars in the sky, which unsurprisingly in such a remote location, are incredible on a clear night.
Above the treeline are open alpine meadows with sapphire tarns and a vast number of endangered plants.
Although surrounded by incredible wildlife Karamea is at heart a farming community, and in early springtime it’s common to see newborn lambs and calves in fields fringed by blossoming fruit trees. Karamea has a microclimate unique on the South Island that allows more tropical plants such as limes, lemons, oranges, peaches, chillis, capsicums (bell peppers), tamarillos, feijoas, kiwi fruit and even to a degree bananas to be grown successfully.