Abel Tasman is the smallest and most popular national park in New Zealand and one of the most beautiful. It has some of the finest coastal scenery and beaches in the country. So it was with this description in mind that we took the hour and a half drive there from Nelson. The road takes you through numerous small settlements and soon larger areas dominated by fruit farming from apples to pears and cherries with the occasional vineyard. Mountains begin to loom ahead as you approach the foothills of the park itself and we began the gradual descent and ascent down towards the small village of Marahau.
It is a small village sitting right on the sea front and the base for numerous walking tracks and kayaking trips. Water taxis are available from a number of companies in the village for those who want to taxi further up the coastline and then walk back. We arrived at the visitors centre of Abel Tasman Kayaks and Aqua Taxis and decided on a 12km coastal walk before meeting up with one of the companies kayaking guides to then kayak back through the azure coloured clear waters back to the village. The Abel Tamsan Costal Track is a well worn one which infact is a two to five day 51km walk although there are shorter ones on offer if you don´t have the time to complete the whole thing.
The walk began at sea level before heading up into the rolling hills covered in native bush with the ever present sound of waves below us to our right. The water is so clear and the most amazing colour. The beaches that we passed were only a few of the 50 beaches of golden sand scattered along the coastline. Once we had completed the winding walk through sunlit and shaded tree and shrub lined path, we descended down to Watering Cove to meet up with Josh, our kayaking guide for the journey back. He arrived by water taxi, armed with four, two man kayaks, for the five girls who accompanied him from the village and us.
Once we were all set in our kayaks and personal belongings stashed in the watertight central areas, we all donned our ´spray skirts´, which attach around your hollowed out seating area to stop you getting wet, and headed off into the calm clear water to Adele Island. Along the coastline here, we were able to see wild Fur Seals and their pups, some of whom were about four months old and who had been left alone whilst their mothers went in search of food, for some periods of up to a week! They were quite vocal from their rocky terraces as we approached, I guess they thought we could be her returning. We also saw a group of adolescent seals who were playing together in a shallow, enclosed pool close to the rocky coast of the island, swimming fast together and doing aerial jumps over one another, a wonderful thing to see, completely free without human interference. The whole island acts as a reserve, being predator free it therefore allows for the breeding and re-releasing of native birds. The Fur Seals are also a protected species here in New Zealand.
Along the way, we were able to stop on a sandbar and stretch our limbs and have a snack, before the paddle back towards the village. We were lucky today as the wind stayed calm and so we didn´t at any time have to group together and form a ´raft´enabling us all to travel together. The scenery was amazing, and the water along the coast crystal clear. Although Orca´s are seen here twice yearly during their migration, where they stop to eat the local stingray, our visit did not coincide with this. We made it back safely to the beach where we loaded our kayaks onto the waiting trailers pulled by tractors and were taken back across the beach to the base where we first started.
The whole day was great fun, not only the walk where we got to see some lovely sights from above, but the experience of kayaking in such a scenic and tranquil place. It is definitely recommended if you make it to Abel Tasman National Park with an extremely professional kayaking company with great guides