Thanks to the geographic isolation of New Zealand a great many of its native flora and fauna are unique to the shores of these two volcanic islands. The most notable on this list of endemic species is the curious little Kiwi bird; a feathered yet flightless critter that lives in a cosy little burrow under the ground.
Unlike many of his winged friends he spends his nights alone, foraging for worms, spiders, bugs, grubs and fruit on the forest floor. Known to be cautious of anything that disturbs his nightly ritual, he is seldom seen by the likes of you and I, choosing instead to keep to himself and forage under the cover of darkness.
To the distress of all Kiwi birds their origin has been traced back to the Australian mainland. Long before the separation of the two land masses they were part of a larger super continent, Gondwana. As the landscape evolved the kiwi bird made his home on the islands of New Zealand and here he has happily remained for the last seventy million years.
To a British badger such as myself the burrow of this curious Kiwi bird has an exotic allure. Growing up within the crowded warrens of the U.K., I often dreamt of the laid back lifestyle these little kiwis enjoy.
The warm climate, clean air and wide open spaces all aid in enticing foreigners such as myself half way across the globe, however I just couldn't fathom how I should go about getting an invite into a Kiwi's burrow?
Step One: Identifying Kiwi Behavior
Prior to my arrival into New Zealand I had spent eleven months touring Australia in a motorhome. During this time I had taken it upon myself to gather as much information as I could regarding the curious Kiwi.
His friendly neighbor the Wallaby had informed me that it was likely I would succeed in my search for an empty burrow. The Kiwi bird was known to hot foot it across the Tasman leaving behind his little piece of paradise in search of opportunities new.
This was my first insight into the migratory behaviours of the adventurous kiwi bird.
The second came when I spoke to a born and bred Kiwi. During our conversation he divulged that not only did his kind leave their burrow for exploratory trips overseas, they also utilised public holidays to frequent an alternate burrow known as a 'Bach' thus escaping from the grind of daily life.
This was most interesting to hear.
Step Two: Recognising the Curious Kiwi
The easiest way to discover if there are Kiwis in the area is to listen for them.
They are known to talk enthusiastically about outdoor pursuits, extreme adrenaline inducing sports and zorbing. Secondly, when walking through one of the countries many natural reserves you can often hear them running, cycling and generally being far too active.
If none of the above character traits are clearly visible you can always spot a Kiwi by initiating conversation and listening intently to the grammatical structure of their reply. If they finish their sentence with an interrogative 'eh' or refer to you as 'bro' you have found yourself a pure bred Kiwi.
Step Three: Locating a Burrow to Borrow
So now that you understand the curious Kiwi a little better I can tell you how you can experience life in a Kiwi community.
I am fortunate enough to have been welcomed into communities all over the world thanks to the concept of housesitting, but nowhere have I felt quite as at home as here in New Zealand.
Despite my jovial portrayal of New Zealanders I have quickly learnt that they are a people proud of their heritage and the rich land they inhabit. The most forgiving of souls they smile politely as I butcher the Maori names given to many of the towns and cities across the country with my terribly British pronunciation.
For this I am most grateful.
If you've the urge to leave your own nest and try out another for size, house sitting could provide the opportunity to do just that. Having looked after sixteen homes since leaving the U.K. a little under three years ago, house sitting has provided me with the chance to submerse myself in a wealth of different cultures during my travels.
In the last eighteen months I've cared for four properties here in New Zealand and have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Kiwi families who've welcomed me into their homes.
Familiar only with the images I'd attached to my house sitting profile they have all greeted me as though I were an old friend and I was immediately made to feel at home.
Caring for a house in an unfamiliar area gives me the opportunity to explore new environments, cultures and communities. Each assignment is unique, however every one has benefited my experience of travel in much the same way.
Step Four: Securing a House Sitting Assignment in New Zealand
Before leaving the U.K. I signed up with a house sitting service that unites home owners in need of property and pet care with those interested in temporarily living in a new environment.
Signing up online is very simple.
Register, create a comprehensive profile and apply for the assignments that appeal to you. I use a brilliant website called TrustedHousesitters.com with whom I've secured assignments in Costa Rica, Canada, USA, Australia and here in New Zealand.
With over 100 assignments listed in New Zealand, I've found myself traveling from one lovely burrow to the next, and during my time here I've acquired an extended Kiwi family.
This just about sums up the nature of the curious little Kiwi bird; he may not be able to fly but he'll spread his wings and welcome you into his burrow.
This post was adapted from an article originally published on Flashpacker Family.