Matakohe-Limestone Island is a fantastic place to bring school groups of all ages. It provides a great variety of teaching opportunities including conservation, restoration & ecology topics, history, cultural heritage, geology and geography, as well as the fun of a boat trip.
On arrival an introductory talk is given by the ranger at the visitor shelter, which covers the history of the island and the restoration project and usually includes demonstrations of traps and kiwi telemetry monitoring.
Following the ranger's talk the class(es) then follow the teacher’s plan for the day. Groups can also request a FOMLI guide (subject to availability). Most teachers have included the visit as part of the classroom curriculum and therefore have specific goals for the children to achieve while on the island. If the teacher discusses goals with the guide at an early stage then talks can be tailored to help meet those goals.
Tracks & Routes
There are numerous combinations of tracks to walk, which can be changed according to the age of the students, intended teaching topics, time available, tide and the weather. A map of the tracks is available for download here.
After being dropped at the Pontoon landing, a common route is through the cement works ruins to the Singlemens Quarters, up the Hill track, taking the first left to the flax field overlooking the ruins (this route takes you past a toilet and two interpretation signs). Then head through the flax field (old quarry floor) onto the Southern Shore Track along the beach (accessible at most tides except peak high tides) and then boardwalk (please don’t go out onto the sand spit). From here you then head up the hill onto the Ridge Track and up to the Pa site and the high point of the island. From the Pa, continue down the Ridge Track and down to the Manager’s house ruins facing up-harbour. It is nice to have lunch here on the lawn. Then back up to the School site and then wind down through the trees on the School Track (stopping to see the weta motel!) to Shipwreck Bay for a look at the remains of two ships (if tide is out far enough). It is then a short walk back through the ruins to the pontoon.
Time on the Island
Most local schools aim to get students to the car-park area (beside main Onerahi boat ramp) by around 9.45am with pickup at 10am. Depending on tide and weather, the Society barge Petrel Tua Toru will leave from the main ramp or the floating pontoon at the end of the jetty, some 200m down-harbour. The boat carries 24 passengers. Petrel Tua Toru is a registered commercial vessel with a qualified commercial skipper.
A class of 25 children plus teachers and parent supervisors, usually requires two boat-loads across, which can take up to 40 minutes (usually less). Similarly, for the whole class to be off the island by 2.30pm (leaving enough time to get back to the classroom by 3pm), the first boat-load back needs to leave by about 1.45pm. This leaves three hours or so usable time on the island.
Prior arrangement must be made with the Ranger (phone 436 0923). We recommend booking at least a month in advance, particurlarly during the busy season for visits (March-June and October-December).
Adequate supervision of students by parents/teachers is a must at all times and the School remains responsible for the students during the classroom outing. Teachers are to provide and carry a first aid kit. Lifejackets are provided by FOMLI in a range of sizes to suit children and adults (there is one infant lifejacket available). It is advisable to bring a coat in any weather. Suitable footwear, along with something to eat and drink is also advisable. Students should also bring along any essential medication (eg. for asthma, allergies).
Guides may be available for school groups – check with the Ranger when booking the trip.
A donation to the Society is requested to cover costs, with a recommended donation of $80 per return trip (maximum number of passengers per trip is 24).
Teachers and parents are advised to read the Facilities and Health & Safety sections.
Research (tertiary students/institutions)
If you are a tertiary student with an environmental research project looking at forest restoration, predator detection & control, species translocation and monitoring, or other environmental topics, please consider using Matakohe-Limestone Island as your base.
We can take you across to the island at no charge and may be able to help you with labour for fieldwork. If you have us in mind, contact us at an early stage in the project planning process.
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