Volun­teering Kauri Coast - Elisabeth

Ellie spent four weeks in New Zealand with the conservation project on the Kauri Coast. Read her report about her time as a volunteer here.



Name: Elisabeth

Age: 34

Project: Nature protection

Location: Kauri Coast

Duration: Beginning of March to beginning of April


Support from the Natucate team:


Partner on-site:


Volunteering at Kauri Coast, New Zealand– Feedback: Eight questions for Elisabeth

1) Could you give us a brief overview of your activities/tasks in the project/course?

There were daily duties in the camp itself, which rotated for all participants daily: preparing breakfast/dinner, washing dishes, cleaning the lunchroom/common area/kitchen, preparing equipment, cleaning toilets/showers, etc. Living together only functions as a team.

Our tasks in the project itself were very diverse and dependent on the weather: checking and restoring traps including removing dead animals (possums, rats, hedgehogs, mice, etc.), filling and checking bait stations, installing cameras in the forest (possibly with bait) and collecting the cameras and evaluating the photo and video material, kiwi listening at night, evaluation and analysis of collected data, track cutting and clearing, maintenance work in the camp itself.


2) What was the biggest challenge for you during the project?

The terrain and the weather. An untouched (rain)forest at 500 meters altitude in New Zealand in late summer/autumn is something entirely different from a man-made European forest, the African bush, or the rainforest in Costa Rica. The terrain was steep, slippery/muddy, partially completely obstructed by trees/roots. It was physically demanding, even if one was reasonably fit. You have to climb, slide, hold onto roots if they're there, you have buckets or other equipment in your hand, you're alone. It was mostly wet/moist and cold, clothes didn't dry. The weather often looked different in the valley, but at the camp, it was very windy and changeable.

3) Was there something you liked most? Or something you remember particularly negatively?

I really enjoyed the simplicity. No distractions from lights, electricity, traffic, people, houses. The phone was so irrelevant, no messages, no social media, no TV. It was so easy to disconnect, and I didn't miss anything. You need so little, and it's important to remind yourself of that every now and then. You learn to appreciate everyday things again: a proper toilet, showering as long and as hot as you want, turning lights on/off, electricity whenever you need it. Absolute peace away from civilization. My absolute highlights were kiwi listening at night or when you happened to hear a kiwi call in the camp at night and knew they were nearby. We even got to see a kiwi and its chick during the day when rangers had to swap out a transmitter—such a goosebump moment! I don't remember anything negative. Yes, there were days when I cursed and wondered if I could make it through a whole month, but you learn and grow with challenges, and in the end, only the positive memories remain.


4) Did you have certain expectations before travelling to the project?

No, I try not to have specific expectations. That way, you can let everything come to you much better. But I've noticed that over time, you start to compare or have expectations based on experiences from other projects and regions of the world. New Zealand has revised that; it's so different from anything I've done before. It showed me where my limits are and what's personally important to me. I learn something new with every project.

5) Have you done anything in your free time that you can recommend to future participants?

On our days off, we went on various excursions in the region with the team lead, all of which I really enjoyed: Baylys Beach, Dargaville Museum, The Lakes, Tane Mahuta, Sanddunes, Maunganui Bluff Beach. There are amazing, endless beaches, lakes, opportunities for hiking, relaxing, ancient giant trees, everywhere you can just gaze into the distance endlessly— that's what I loved most about New Zealand. I also enjoyed Whangarei; I spent several days in Auckland and went on various island trips, exploring the North Island with its highlights— Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua, Taupo, Waitomo, Hobbiton, and much more.


6) What recommendations would you give to other participants?

Prepare yourselves for the very changeable weather. I've experienced changeable weather in other regions, during different seasons, and I thought I knew what to expect. But March/April in New Zealand is different. Accordingly, you need 110% suitable equipment, especially when it comes to shoes and jackets. Everything should be truly waterproof. My rain jacket eventually couldn't withstand the rain anymore, didn't dry because it was too humid and cold, and the same applied to my very good and comfortable but not 100% waterproof hiking shoes. And you really, really need to be physically fit. I have good endurance, I'm physically active, but in a different way.

I didn't realise beforehand that I would actually see dead animals: Here in New Zealand there are traps and poison everywhere and the aim is to reduce the predators that are dangerous to the kiwis and other native birds. Possums (very cute), rats, mice, hedgehogs, stoats, even wild dogs and cats. All of these are virtual enemies to the native birds. New Zealanders in conservation want and need to get rid of these animals. I love all animals more than anything. I knew it in theory, but it's different when you're confronted with it in practice every day. Be well prepared and think about whether you really want to see and experience it.


7) Can you estimate how many additional costs you had on-site?

During the project, practically none. Occasionally, we ate out when we were on an excursion, but that cost no more than 5 – 10 euros. There are also bus fare and transfer costs, which are another 20 – 25 euros. If you are well-prepared and bring everything you need with you, you don't have to buy anything on-site.

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