Located on State Highway 2 roughly 30km north of Masterton, or 10km south of Eketahuna, Pukaha Mount Bruce is under the guardianship of a strong partnership between The National Wildlife Centre Trust, Rangitane o Wairarapa and the Department of Conservation. Sharing a common vision to return this area to its natural, tranquil beauty and restore the forest's legendary dawn chorus, these three groups are are drawn together into a unique community partnership through the Pukaha Mount Bruce Board, which was established in 2006.
The Department of Conservation is the significant partner who undertakes day-to-day management and forest restoration programme of Pukaha Mount Bruce on behalf of the Board. The Department of Conservation operates the captive breeding programme as part of its national mandate.
Pukaha Mount Bruce is supported by the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Horizons Regional Council through their ongoing predator control programmes on neighbouring properties.
I thought that Mt Bruce's overall appearance has improved greatly mainly because of the new gathering area and the interactive gallery. They have incorporated new technology to enable you to interact with the displays which gives you more information on the animals and layout of the park. This very useful and tonnes of fun to play with.
I really enjoyed watching and listening to the animal feedings, as they say a lot more about the animals and give you a deeper insight into their behaviour and general life. Even though they had some very funny and interesting birds at the park, I still found that I felt like it should have more birds there. It seemed just a little too empty in parts as you walked around.
However I was glad to hear that they are extending one of the long walks to form a loop, so you don't have to walk back the same way and so you can see more of the native bush. I was also told that they are trying to get in some bats. That would be so cool.
As a lover of wildlife and the bush, Mt Bruce was definitely a must-visit, and having been to Karori Wildlife Sanctuary last year, I was interested to see how this would compare. The well laid out paths were a lot more comfortable to walk along than Karori's (probably because there weren't so many hills!), and it was easy to find our way through the beautiful bush to the stops we wanted to make that were marked out on an easy-to-read map provided at the counter. The aviaries weren't exactly large but big enough I suppose for the birds living within them, and the birds in the enclosures seemed to be in a rather anti-sociable mood as barely any of them let us see them. But apparently it's breeding season, which could account for the lack of wildlife, and we were later told that September and January/February are usually the best months to visit to see a larger number of birdlife. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to get up to the lookout, which is about a 1-2 hour return trip (I think) due to lack of time, but there is still plenty to see even on the smaller tracks. Listening to the wild birds calling and singing as we walked provided a lot of entertainment as we tried to figure out what bird was making which call, while frantically searching the trees and skies for the owner of each call. We managed to spot a few... a morepork quietly sitting there watching as we walked past (now that was a really unexpected and rather pleasant surprise!), a couple of tuis, a pair of wood pigeons, and several cheeky Kaka! With kids in tow, we definitely had to check out the eel feeding, which for me was a bit blah... eels just don't catch my interest... but this was more than made up for by the Kaka feeding later in the day. Sitting on the benches at the side, 20+ Kakas calling and chattering away in the tree, you can't help but duck as they fly above you, some so close their wings almost clip your head. An amazing experience indeed, and one I would go to Mt Bruce for, time and time again, just for that. A great opportunity for some really great photography... close ups included.
Back at the entrance, you've got a cafe to take care of the munchies created by walking through the bush, although I will admit the prices were too steep for my liking. I think I'll take a picnic next time. There's a gift shop as well, and their incredible interactive gallery!! This has walls covered in snippets of information about native plant and wild life, and a bit of history. There's the interactive table map of the sancturary, which is a lot of fun to play with (it even senses where abouts you're standing!), a tree filled with insects, and a couple of fascinating digital displays that show just how much things have changed. This is one area that is a must to check out... see if you can find the little tuatara in his tank!
Mt Bruce wildlife center is a great place to go with or without the kids. Make sure you have most of the day, or at least all afternoon, as a mere couple of hours really doesn't do it justice, and the Kaka feeding is just too enjoyable to miss. They are apparently going through some big changes in the next few months, so I will definitely be going back again... and again, and again!!
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