Locals will be able to get up close and personal with marine life with the first of several kayaking tours kicking off this weekend.
The Experiencing Marine Reserve (EMR) Community Guided Kayak Day will allow people of all ages to be guided through the mangrove forest at Waikaraka Reserve, which is inhabited by a variety of fish, shellfish and bird life. Participants will be able to learn about the reserve first-hand from marine experts, while receiving professional kayak tuition as they paddle the shallows at high tide.
Organiser Kim Jones says EMR wants to raise public awareness of what the organisation does.
"Our aim is to help people experience our local marine reserves. We want to increase community engagement."
EMR has been showcasing Northland's marine reserves for over eight years with its Community Guided Snorkel Days, which are held several times throughout summer. Kim hopes the new event will prove to be just as popular, and says public interest is already high.
"Around 40 people have registered their interest already, which is very promising."
Kim encourages anyone who wants to participate in the kayak tours to register their interest with her first.
"It guarantees you can come out on the kayaks as soon as you turn up."
The Waikaraka site is home to a large mangrove forest inhabited by fish such as snapper, kingfish, mullet and eels, and shellfish such as oysters and mussels. The reserve also hosts a variety of birdlife including shags, spoonbills, kingfishers and herons - all of which can be observed from the tour route in single or double kayaks.
Lifejackets will be provided at the free event, but participants should bring their own kayaking footwear, a spare change of clothes and sun protection. Because kayak tuition will be involved, Kim recommends that participants are at least 7 years old and capable swimmers, although lifeguards will be on hand to help if necessary.
The Community Guided Kayak Day will be held on February 16 at 10am-3pm and again on March 17 at 10am-3pm at Waikaraka Marine Reserve, Whangarei Heads Road, Whangarei. Register your interest with Kim Jones on (09) 434 0779 or 027 243 4818, or via email at email@example.com.