Cape Kidnappers Gannet Reserve

South-east of Napier (no direct road access)
Te Awanga, Hawkes Bay
There was no sign of gannets when Cape Kidnappers was named by Captain Cook following an incident in which a Tahitian interpreter aboard his ship was captured by local Maori. However the Cape which has a Maori name meaning "the fishhook of Maui" has, several hundred years later, become the world's largest mainland gannet nesting site.

The season for gannet spotting is October to late April.

Access is along the beach at low tide. A number of companies offer tours or you can visit independently with an easy walk from Scotmans Point at Clifton. This will take about 5 hours for the 18km return journey.

The best time to start is no sooner than 3 hours
after high tide. Depart from the Cape no later
than 1½ hours after low tide.

An information board and car park are at the
departure point and an information shelter,
toilets and picnic facilities, including water can be found just below the Cape colonies.

A gannet’s average lifespan of 25 – 40 years has a remarkable start. The 16-week old chicks have never been airborne before, yet their first voyage is a 2,800- kilometre crossing of the Tasman Sea. Some of the birds make the journey in just two to three weeks, but
the perils are great and only about a quarter of the
birds will actually survive the crossing.

Two or three years later, the young birds return from
Australia to undertake tentative mating. However, it is
not until they are five years old that they nest in earnest, after which time they spend most of their adult lives around the coastal New Zealand seas. The majority of gannets mate for life and they tend to return to the same nesting site each year. They nest in large groups for protection against predators.

Gannets are expert fishers of small squid and fish such as anchovy, pilchard, yellow-eyed mullet, and garfish. They can dive from heights of up to 30 metres, entering the water as fast as 145 kilometres an hour and diving up to 43 metres deep. Special adaptations enable such spectacular diving, such as a strong skull that can withstand the impact and special inflatable air sacs that help to cushion the shock.

Audio Guides

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  • Street map
    Street map
  • Getting underway on the walk
    Getting underway on the walk
  •  A trailer ride will reduce the walk distance.
    A trailer ride will reduce the walk distance.
  • Two gannets
    Two gannets
  • The Cape
    The Cape
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