Vix the Jack Russell used to be a pup with a purpose, though like many graduates, her intended career path went off course. While she still dabbles in pest control – her original calling – these days she is more likely to be found cruising the Opawa River and Wairau Lagoon on the front of owner Will Parson’s kayak. The excellent Driftwood Ecotours offers visitors the chance to see the region from the water and experience rare birdlife (the Caspian tern and glossy ibis are just two birds that call the area home) and drift through endangered wetlands. Will and wife Rose are the caretakers of a 10-hectare section and spend their days sharing their place with those interested in discovering the richness of the region’s wildlife and history. The Mãori history in the lagoon is fascinating. It is the oldest-discovered site of human occupation in New Zealand. The tale of 12-year-old Jim Eyles, who discovered a moa egg and the remains of a Maori chief below it, is one of Will’s favourite stories, but we won’t spoil it by telling you the ending.
Visitors don’t need to be too fit for the kayaking, the waters are generally calm (“there is always a hole for the sun to shine through on the Wairau,” says Will) and the pace suits all. There are also options for guided walks, 4WD tours and multi-day tours of the surrounding regions. There’s a feel-good factor, too. Will and Rose plant a tree for every tour booked, so hitting the water means helping regeneration. There is accommodation on site for those who want to linger and enjoy the peace and quiet of the river. 749 Dillons Point Road, Blenheim, (03) 577 7651, driftwoodecotours.co.nz