Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
To visit Willowbank is to participate in a story. Willowbank is not just a wildlife park with a collection of exhibits - it is a holistic New Zealand wildlife experience.
Combining conservation, culture and New Zealand cuisine Willowbank is your opportunity to experience New Zealand's endangered wildlife in a natural setting. Take the opportunity to dine in our award winning restaurant, and enjoy Ko Tane - a pre-European Maori village and an interactive Maori cultural experience; all in one great location.
The kiwi breeding area covers an outdoor open area of bush land, approximately 2 hectares in size. This area has been extensively planted and is surrounded by a high predator-proof fence sunk deep into the ground. It is the home of several breeding pairs of kiwi. Rarely seen during the day, these birds are very active at night-time, and often viewed under the lights.
The juvenile kiwi can be viewed in a huge nocturnal house. At any one time there are up to 8 to 10 birds in this area. These are North Island Brown Kiwi that have been bred at Willowbank. Kiwi are naturally very shy and keep well hidden from humans but at Willowbank our kiwi are calm and relaxed. One of the best ways to see the kiwi at Willowbank is on one of our Night Tours or Kiwi Breeding Tours.
We welcome and encourage your participation throughout the evening.
Ko Tane has been created by the coming together of the Willis family (founders of the reserve) and the Brennan family. The Brennans are from the Ngai Tahu tribe which traces its ancestry back to Paikea, the original Whale Rider. Paikea fathered Tahupotiki, who was the founding ancestor of Ngai Tahu. Eventually the Ngai Tahu moved to Te Waka o Aoraki (the South Island) and intermarried with the Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha peoples, over time becoming the dominant tribal group of the entire South Island.
What to Expect at Ko Tane
- The blowing of the Putatara (conch) starts your evening. The conch was used as a form of communication over great distances to inform of intruders or visitors.
- Your guide will explain the night ahead, with stories that have been passed down through the generations.
- Come face to face with our wildlife. Our guide will explain the relationship between Maori, wildlife and conservation.
- Be guided through and welcomed onto our Pa (village) with a powerful challenge by our fearsome warrior. The Wero or Challenge is where the warrior or most skilled warrior displays a number of movements to distinguish the intentions of the visiting parties. (Do you come in peace or to fight?)
- This will be confirmed by the picking up of the TAKE laid by the warrior for the chief of the visitors. Once this gift has been accepted visitors will be allowed to enter onto the next stage.
- Inside the village the chief will speak words of welcome to the visitors and thank the chief of the visitors for accepting the challenge to come in peace.
- The pressing of noses (hongi) is the final part of the welcome process this is the sharing of life between the two parties and must be done between the two chiefs.
Here your guide will discuss the lifestyles, including some of the hunting techniques, of the Maori people. The village is a papa-kainga or hunting village. There were around 1400 of these types of sites in and around the pre-European Canterbury region.
- The hunting and capturing of bird species was a specialised skill with different types of birds serving different needs. The easiest birds to hunt for food were the flightless kiwi, weka and the large moa which were trapped with snares.
- Flax was the most important fibre to Maori as it was used to bind buildings & boats, for clothing, hunting snares, rope & fishing nets.
- One of the traditional uses for musical instruments was to duplicate communication with the birds to trick the bird into a trap.
It is here you will learn:
- Haka (war dance) the haka is a preparation for war. This is a dance usually for men however there are some haka where women participate, the first haka of the evening will be one such haka.
- Poi dance (swinging ball): The poi was a flax ball commonly used to store food for long distance journeys. Other uses included training for warfare where the balls use was to assist with the strengthening of elbow and wrist joints to aid in greater flexibly for the heavy short and long club weapons
- Waiata ringa (action songs with a hand display) spoke about events and family members of great mana (prestige). It also helped to record and preserve historical events.
BOOKINGS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR THIS EXPERIENCE