Wanaka – a secret tucked into Central Otago remains unspoiled. And nestled on the lake shores is Whare Kea, a mecca for any adventurer wanting to discover untried terrain whether it be scenic, sporting or simply stunning cuisine.
The Kea Connection with Whare Kea
Considered probably the most intelligent of the bird species, this glorious parrot is unique as the only alpine parrot species in the world – but also in the fact that it is only to be found in the Southern Alps of New Zealand in a habitat extending from the beautiful beech forests to alpine meadows and the scree slopes of the mountains. A harsh, wide and variable environment to which the kea has evolved and adapted in order to survive. Thought to be predominantly vegetarian when humans started invading their territory they swiftly adjusted their diet so now they will eat pretty well anything.
Which is where the problem lies. Destruction lies in their wake – no animal, building or piece of land is safe from their ever pecking beaks– and as a result the wake (in the form of humankind) set out to destroy them. Following a bounty on their heads which resulted in a culling of some 150,000 birds the number now of these brilliantly feathered species is estimated to be no more than 5000. Possums and stoats are predators of their nests, lead poisoning and avian diseases have also contributed to their demise. Not forgetting the unknown effects of global warming on their natural alpine habitat. Considering their heritage is suspected to be over 80million years (way back to the time of Gondwanaland) that’s a pretty poor return on longevity.
The Maoris named this distinctive parrot the Kea – a description of its familiar call and considered them the guardians of the mountains for the Waitaha Maori as they searched for Pounamu or greenstone.
So it is understandable that Martyn and Louise Myer should call their beautiful properties Whare Kea – meaning home of the kea.
Their interest however is twofold – not only for the fact that the kea’s home is where they are based in New Zealand but also because both the Lodge and the Chalet have received the Environmental award in 2008 from Relais & Chateau – the luxury group to which Whare Kea is affiliated. Martyn and Louise have a passion for the mountains which they consider are the single element that provides them with both physical and emotional renewal – relieving the stresses of a hectic urban life that no other environment can. This renewal they derive from a multitude of sources – the beauty of an alpine setting, the thrill of the four seasons, the challenge from outdoor sports both physically and mentally and the consequent satisfaction of accomplishment.
But more importantly Whare Kea provides them the pleasure of sharing these experiences with friends. “Whether standing on a spectacular peak or in the bottom of an exquisite gorge, we have the saying which – in a quirky way – sums it all up. And that is “we are gathering the energy of the universe”, explains Martyn. The weather, the lake and the mountains provide a constantly changing visual feast. And it is essential to conserve these precious elements. So support for the Kea Conservation Trust they see as a natural extension of their commitment to conservation.
“We have sought opportunities to support projects in New Zealand,” he continues. “So to be a part of the Kea Conservation Trust is a perfect fit with our Lodge located on the shores of Lake Wanaka and the Chalet based in the Albert Saddle at 1750 metres.”
In 2010 the Myers added a web camera to the mountain chalet. Operated by solar power, it plays a live image and through this it is possible to monitor kea activity at the chalet (as well as many other things). And as a result enables assistance to be given whenever required to help keep these little birds still in existence.
For more information on the Kea Conservation Trust go to www.keaconservation.co.nz