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'Thousands of nesting gannets ready to meet their adoring fans'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Around 6,000 gannets are already busily building their nests at Cape Kidnappers, prompting the ever-popular Gannet Safaris Overland to bring its season forward.

Gannet Safaris Overland runs coach and 4WD tours from its base in Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay, taking spellbound visitors over rolling privately owned farmland to view the world’s largest accessible mainland gannet colony. Although the season usually runs from September until April, General Manager Sophie Phillips says she’s opening the doors on Saturday 29th August, due to the early arrival of the migratory gannets.

She says while nobody’s really sure why the gannets have already made an appearance, one theory is that a very mild winter and warmer ocean temperature have brought food stocks closer to shore - and with them, the gannets. "We already have thousands of gannets up at the top of the Cape which is really exciting," says Sophie. "They are incredible birds, with beautiful markings and are just a joy to observe as they find a mate and build their nests, ready to welcome their chicks."

Gannets - part of the booby family of birds - will usually mate for life. Their chicks, once hatched, need to put on three kilos of weight - more than their parents weigh - to survive their maiden flight to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Their 2000km journey is a direct one - there’s no stopping for sustenance, as the birds are not yet waterproof.

"We usually say goodbye to our gannets - which total around 20,000 across all their Cape Kidnappers nesting sites at the height of the season - around April when the water cools down and the birds migrate," Sophie says. She’s thrilled to see gannet numbers are increasing year on year at the Hawke’s Bay attraction, with expectations of 3-4% growth this season. "Again, we’re not 100% sure why, but there is a possibility the gannets that used to call White Island home migrated here following the eruption in December 2019."

Gannet Safaris Overland runs two comfortable coach tours each day as well as arranging private tours via two 4WD Range Rovers. The route takes in spectacular views at various vantage points from the remarkable Cape Kidnappers Station - a working sheep and beef farm, native bush conservatory and home to The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.

Their Sunrise Tours, with variable departure times for best effect, are gaining in popularity too. "They’re very special," says Sophie. "We only launched these tours last season, but we’ve had steady bookings. This tour is especially wonderful for budding photographers as the opportunities to capture great shots are numerous. We serve coffee and pastries, and visitors tell us they absolutely love the atmosphere, along with the fact they’re back at their accommodation by 9am, with the whole day still free to explore Hawke’s Bay."

Gannet Safaris Overland is crewed by 10 experienced drivers, each with considerable knowledge of both the gannets and the farm’s rich history. "We have such dedicated staff, and everyone shares a real passion for this unique property, the birds, and the people we bring on the journey," Sophie says.

She encourages locals and visitors alike to take up the opportunity to see this extraordinary colony up close - just metres from the birds, in many cases - and to consider visiting several times across the season. "There are so many milestones to enjoy - the nesting and breeding season, hatching, and it’s special to watch the gannets leave in April, too."

To book a tour with Gannet Safaris Overland, please call 06 875 0888, email or go to

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