Farewell Spit Eco Tour
Farewell Spit Eco Tour: a sandbank at the end of the world
At the northwest tip of the South Island, in the Golden Bay area, is Farewell Spit, a 35 km long and approximately 3 km wide sandbank. This sanctuary for many species of birds is accessible only through Farewell Spit Eco Tours, the local tourism operator, which actively works to preserve the place. I had the chance in 2018 to experience this excursion, a true immersion in an environment that is both unique and completely wild.
On board of an off-road minibus, Paddy, the local guide, takes us first to Fossil Bay, the beach forming the northern base of the "Spit", to observe fur seals. We ride on the sand, which gives an exhilarating feeling. After admiring the visual gags of a sea lion on the way to the sea, Paddy shows us some impressive fossils preserved in the rocks for millions of years.
We then attack the long sandbar. Paddy is rolling at full speed over the expanse that seems to stretch endlessly, a euphoric feeling reinforced by the fact that we are the only humans around. One might as well be in the middle of the Sahara or in the Gobi Desert, if the view of the sea and some sea lions were not added to this dreamlike setting.
Our next step takes us to the top of a dune to admire the panoramic view of the Spit, and for those who are restless to run down the dune. We finally reach the lighthouse which occupies the tip of the sandbank. Built in 1890, it remains in operation today, even though automation has long taken the place of the caretaker. The caretaker’s house, which we are visiting, has been left untouched and gives an idea of the living conditions and history of this place completely isolated from the world.
After a stroll through the site, we take the way back to join Cape Farewell, the northernmost point of the South Island. We admire the impressive sandstone cliff that overlooks the ocean. It is in particular from this outcrop, and from the other rocks on the west coast of the South Island, that the sand that forms the Spit comes from erosion.
This excursion left an indelible memory, by the feeling of isolation it provides and the surprising characteristics of this unique environment. If you are fond of such atmospheres, as well as history and biodiversity, then like me you will not forget this day!
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