A glacial remnant of the last ice age, Mou Waho Island is, geographically, almost unique in the world. Rising high above Lake Wanaka the craggy island has the rare distinction of having a small lake, Arethusa Pool, situated near the summit. It is quite remarkable to stand at the top of the island looking down at the pool and further out to the blue expanse of Lake Wanaka, then beyond to the stunning snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps.
The island is situated near the middle of Lake Wanaka, an easy 30 minute boat cruise from Wanaka’s marina. After a successful predator eradication programme (which I helped on in the late 70’s), the island is now a Nature Reserve and is home to a growing population of birdlife including the flightless buff weka, as well as the N.Z falcon, wood pigeon, bellbird, tomtit, fantail, wax eye and grey warbler. Lizards, geckos and the alpine weta also thrive here.
Once ashore, a well formed track taking about 30 minutes leads to the high summit with its stunning views. The island is a very popular picnic destination in the summer months, offering walking, swimming, bird watching and it even has a lovely BBQ area.
In the late summer I helped organise a clean up day on the island with the Wanaka Rotary Club. We pulled weeds, planted native trees and shrubs, helped clear the walking track and repaired the jetty, all under the authority of DOC (Dept of Conservation) and with the supervision of Chris from Eco Wanaka Adventures.
After a morning spent on the working bee and then a relaxed lunch, some of our group left by boat to go fishing, some lay back in the warm sunshine for a siesta, while a few hardy souls went back to pulling weeds. Soon word came down from the summit that a tourist had slipped on rocks and suffered a broken leg. After a short delay a rescue helicopter approached the island but they were unable to lift the injured Australian off the steep summit. The helicopter instead landed on the rocky beach below and some of our group climbed the path with the paramedic to help stretcher the injured man down.
I must say the injured man was quite cheerful and jolly through what must have been a painful experience of being carried down a sometimes steep mountain trail. Strapped into the rescue helicopter, he was soon skimming across the lake towards the Wanaka Medical Centre.
Finished for the day, we cleaned up, packed up and headed back across the lake, the afternoon sun still strong on our backs as we finished the last of the picnic fruit cake and biscuits.
Trips out to Mou Waho Island are run by Lakeland Adventures and by Chris from Eco Wanaka Adventures While on the island with Chris you can plant a native tree, enabling you to contribute in a ‘hands on’ way to the continuing restoration and conservation of the island. The trees provide a valuable food source for the island’s birdlife and are a lasting reminder of your visit to this wonderfully unique sanctuary.