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“Inspirational conservation story”

Pohatu Penguin Habitat
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Pohatu penguins is a family owned business that offers 4WD safaris trip to the Largest Little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. Conservation based tours include: -Evening penguin tours -Scenic nature safaris (2 or 4 hours) -Sea-kayaking with seals and other wildlife -24 or 48 hour package including accommodation in the middle of the penguin colony
Reviewed 17 June 2018

Amazing experience! It is so awesome that this family provides the opportunity for us to see these little penguins up close. Their story behind starting this conservation is inspiring. Very knowledgeable guides and a fun wildlife experience. I saw the blue penguins, a yellow eyed penguin, seals, and the family sheep. I would highly recommend.

Thank Nichole S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kevin P, General Manager at Pohatu Penguin Habitat, responded to this reviewResponded 19 June 2018

Hi Nichole,

Thank you so very much for your comments and recommendations. It was a pleasure welcoming you and showing you the wildlife found around the area. We're also always happy to share the family history and conservation work.

All the best for the rest of your time in New Zealand.

Kindly,
Kevin.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"nesting boxes"
in 32 reviews
"penguins coming"
in 14 reviews
"conservation work"
in 20 reviews
"blue penguins"
in 61 reviews
"wheel drive"
in 8 reviews
"friendly sheep"
in 11 reviews
"new zealand"
in 58 reviews
"banks peninsula"
in 32 reviews
"overnight stay"
in 8 reviews
"sea kayaking"
in 20 reviews
"baby penguins"
in 11 reviews
"nature tour"
in 15 reviews
"photo stops along the way"
in 5 reviews
"cute penguins"
in 5 reviews
"coming ashore"
in 6 reviews
"eco tourism"
in 5 reviews
"cruise ship"
in 28 reviews
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5 - 9 of 473 reviews

Reviewed 15 June 2018

This family lives on ocean farm and give "tours to see wild penguins" which was completely false--the beach had zero penguins; when I complain there were no "wild penguins" they said, "oh, they are moulting and you can't see them. But here, look in this box and you can see one. A waste of 2 hours to visit their house and see their pet sheep and 5 caged pet penguins. There is no evidence this is a rescue group or doing anything but lining their pockets with gullible tourist dollars. "But don't come to close as we feed these 20 cm baby penguins, they attacked one woman." What lies, as they stuffed dead fish down their little throats. A sucker is born every minute and they got my $96. When I tried to dispute the charge they fought it, of course. Honest family would say on phone, "Yes, the penguins are moulting now, and the colony is not on the beach at our home ranch, but we have 5 pet penguins in cages you can see, and you can feed our pet sheep for $46 each." Dishonest, I am sorry I went.

2  Thank drdrwolff
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pohatu_penguins, General Manager at Pohatu Penguin Habitat, responded to this reviewResponded 24 June 2018

Dear drdrwolff,

I am Kevin the General manager of Pohatu penguins. I am a French man who has studied conservation and Eco-tourism and I am proud to work for this family business as what Shireen and Francis Helps have achieved should be world renowned. Your review is so full of rage and false information that my response will include your review. Please read below and please, please do get in touch.

Complaints:
Fraud family charged $96 to see “wild Penguin colony” They showed us 5 pet penguins in cages at their house.

Response:
These penguins were not pets but rehabilitation birds that would have died if we had not taken them in care. The price quoted makes no sense as it does not match any of our prices for any of our tour options. Pohatu is a wild penguin colony of Little Penguins 1260 breeding pair last survey.

Complaints:
This family lives on an ocean farm and gives tours to see wild penguins which was completely false. The beach had zero penguins.

Response:
Please let us know where we advertise penguins on the beach? Penguins in New Zealand just do not sit around on beaches in daylight hours unless they are sick or dying? There are 3 species of Penguins on mainland New Zealand and three species on off shore islands within New Zealand territorial waters, and none do this! During the day they are out fishing or if on shore hidden away somewhere secluded and dark and in the case of the Little Penguin safe deep in a burrow, or under buildings or pretty much in or under anything that creates a nice safe nesting site they can defend.

Complaints:
When I complain there were no wild Penguins they said oh they are moulting and you can't see them, but here look in this box and you can see one.

Response:
The wooden nesting boxes are standard in any Little Penguin colony all around Australasia where a protection and monitoring program or research is taking place.

Why are boxes used?

1 It might take many seasons for a new pair of penguins to dig a burrow from scratch they can successfully breed in. Penguins fight over nesting sites and in those fights they smash one another's eggs or crush young chicks underfoot. On several occasions we have documented events where a fighting male has managed to kill an opponent by breaking the neck with his flipper so adults can be lost as well. The Canterbury White Flippered Penguin that is at Pohatu is not as prolific a breeder as the Australian Clad and does not double clutch so if a breeding attempt is destroyed, that will usually be it for the season. By providing extra breeding opportunities we get less fighting, more survival rate, more chicks to sea therefore more recruitment back into the colony.

2 New Zealand was a land of birds. Unfortunately Predating mammals have been brought into the country and Little Penguins have declined dramatically because of this. Most Colonies around Banks Peninsula had local extinctions. The 30 years of penguin conservation work at Pohatu by the Helps Family of especially predator trapping for Stoats and Ferrets, servicing a line of close to 100 traps weekly through real mountain goat terrain has not only saved the Pohatu Penguin colony but has seen a healthy increase in breeding pair from 717 breeding pair year 2000 to the current 1260 breeding pair. There is published research of one of these surveys and Francis is co-author of several published papers, one using his 15 years breeding biology study.

3 There are around 300 nesting boxes out of the 1260 breeding pairs and we use these to monitor breeding success, to gauge any predator activity, to take note of any possible disease problems, to discover any starvation events at sea and to pick up on any problems with chicks failing and dying in the nests. These boxes are used for our monitoring program as a window on the colony, a monitoring program you witnessed, as we obviously monitored one that you saw. The moult is a stressful time for the penguins and boxes can only be monitored twice a week at the most so if this was late moult you were lucky to see one.

Shireen remembers you well. She said she just could not get through to you. You didn't want to listen or accept at all that what her and her husband have done over 30 years and the rehab work has merit. Shireen Helps is so passionate about Penguins and known as the Penguin Lady, has been featured in many TV documentaries, not just in New Zealand, gave you her personal time and took you to see the moulting penguin in the box and tried very hard to explain things to you personally against a huge amount of negativity from you. She said you oozed negativity that was extremely off putting and threw her completely, and then you spat on her personal effort by insisting on a full refund. She was angry and it was she that insisted we not give you a refund.

Complaints:
A waste of 2 hours to visit their house and see their pet sheep and 5 caged pet Penguins.

Response:
Here again the penguins you saw being fed were not Pets. They were chicks that were found in a starving condition and rescued. The penguin rehabilitation usually only happens from December to February so you were lucky to see it.

There are several reasons chicks fail. There can be starvation events and if that is severe there is really little you can do but save a token few. This season it was a predation problem with a particularly skilful Giant Petrel, and its mates taking part in its success, taking parents as they came in to feed chicks which left chicks without a parent. If there are two chicks one will fail. It dies and fouls the nest and you are likely to lose the second chick. Often the parent left will lose some enthusiasm for raising a chick alone or maybe be taken as well and we may need to rescue the second chick. These chicks are fed till they are fledging age and up to goal weight. They suddenly change from keen enthusiastic seemingly friendly chicks to aggressive adults and are very quick to bite the hand that feeds them. Shireen’s arms are often covered in bruises and scabs from their vicious pecks. This she doesn't mind in the least because we then know they are ready for release. Shame you didn't see one go. You may then have understood.

On our brochure there is a Tripadvisor statement that does sum up our tours very well. It says:

“MUCH MORE THAN JUST SEEING PENGUINS, A LOOK AT HOW ONE FAMILY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE NATURAL WORLD”

At Pohatu the conservation projects protect more than just penguins. There are a number of bush covenants protecting native forests and even insect monitoring stations. All this has been voluntary in the past with any expenses coming out of Francis's and Shireen's pockets.

Complaints:
There is no evidence this is a rescue group or doing anything but lining their pockets with gullible tourist dollars.

Response:
This statement is the one that really hurt Shireen and Francis Helps. They have won many conservation awards. Aroaki Conservation award for Penguin Conservation, once as runner up, and a few years later as award winners. They also won the Heritage section of the Balance farm awards for balancing farming with conservation. They have a community service award. They share a Visitor Solution Environmental leadership award with the rest of the Banks Track, and just this last season the wild side Conservation area won two national awards for the Wildside project. Francis and Shireen and Mark Armstrong (their neighbour) were the inspiration behind the setting up of the Wildside conservation project. How much proof do you need? They are even being mentioned in Universities inspiring young generations. We need more people like them working with dedication and proving wrong those who say it is too late to save a species from Mainland New Zealand.

Over the 30 years of conservation the Helps funded their efforts out of their own pockets. You were at their house, you saw it. Did they really look as if they are making heaps of money out of penguins? The tours provide funds to further conservation work and research projects even outside Pohatu and also of course to provide wages for guides to run the tours so people can visit this area and be inspired to get out there and make a difference.

Complaints:
But don't come too close as we feed these 20 cm baby penguins. They attacked one woman, what lies as they stuffed dead fish down their little throats.

Response:
Little they might be but they sure can bite as anyone working with penguins can testify.
We have a permit to handle them but it is illegal for anyone without a permit to touch a penguin. One woman did try it on when we weren't looking and did get pecked for her trouble, deservedly so. These are wild penguins that should be treated as such.
Parent penguins feed their young regurgitated dead fish. We do fall short on quite doing it the same way but it is standard practice to rehab penguins by feeding them with fresh dead fish. How else would we do it?

Complaints:
A sucker is born every minute and they got my $96 (We do not have such a price) When I tried to dispute the charge they fought it, of course. Honest family would say on phone, “yes the penguins are moulting now and the colony is not on the beach at our home ranch, but we have 5 pet penguins in cages you can see and you can feed our pet sheep at $46 each

Response:
Where do these prices come from and this “penguins on the beach stuff”?
We always answer questions honestly if questions are asked:” Will you see Penguins?” If a daytime tour: “Yes in Nesting boxes as we monitor a few” and if we have any Rehab birds we say “Yes, you will some being fed”.
If you are on an evening tour: “Yes, from hides and with provided binoculars, you can see penguins out on the water socialising. With darkness falling you will have a likelihood to see the first ones coming ashore on the rocks where they will then preen allowing you to see them undisturbed and acting naturally”.
Nobody is allowed to approach penguins at Pohatu if they are coming ashore. Calling us dishonest and liars is a lie on its own.

Complaints:
Dishonest, I am sorry I went.

Response:
The sad thing about this is if you had listened to what your guide was telling you and understood the species you were seeing and stopped long enough from your suspicious nature to look around at the scenery and seen the merit of the conservation projects, you would have come away inspired and enjoyed yourself. We did try hard to get through to you. It is important to us to inspire others to make a difference.

The tour you were on was obviously a 2 hour daytime nature safari. It is priced at $65 each. The only other tour it could have been is the 4 hour daytime nature safari at $95 per person. With this one you would have had refreshments and visited the very scenic Akaroa Heads Reserve. You mentioned neither. Shireen says she saw your insistence on a refund or else you would write a very bad review on Tripadvisor was nothing short of blackmail and she will not bend to this.” She sees this as deliberate sabotage of their conservation work as such bad comments could affect their permit.

We are happy to welcome people who are happy to see the beautiful remote area that Pohatu is, see penguins when they are in season and share the history behind the inspiring conservation effort two people have achieved self funded and is now a very successful community project that embraces far more than penguins. We are very lucky now to be able to welcome clients on tours as it allows us to fund on-going conservation work so much easier. Funds from our tours are also being used on Yellow Eyed Penguin research down south and Hector Dolphin research.

We are very upset that there are still people in this world that just want to consume, take a photo or a selfie and see thousands of penguins as you can see in other parts of the world. Not be willing to understand species behaviours, differences between them, that no species is the same, that all have differences and different needs in a troubled world is very sad.

If only you did know the truth and how desperate things are becoming for many of our native species. The beautiful Yellow Eyed Penguin is being driven into extinction mainly by freedom tourists demanding to get close for a selfie without realising they are stopping the parents from going to feed chicks. There is very damming research out there and seemingly little that can be done to stop the growing public demand on our native species. At least at Pohatu we can keep things under control as most of the colony is on private property and you can only go on guided tours to see penguins. We are what Eco-tourism is truly about using tours income toward much needed conservation work.


But I would like to thank you for your review as it has allowed us to CLEARLY STATE WHO WE ARE and why we operate and what we have been and will be able to achieved in the future.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 May 2018 via mobile

Really good and informative tour. Worth it for the enjoyment factor and to help out the conservation efforts to keep these penguins safe!

Thank Charlie D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pohatu_penguins, Front Office Manager at Pohatu Penguin Habitat, responded to this reviewResponded 18 May 2018

Great you had a good time and thank you for coming along and recommending us.

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Reviewed 8 May 2018 via mobile

Absolutely by far one of my favourite days ever. Not only because I saw my favourite animals but supported a local family who have worked so hard their entire lives for penguin conservation and research.
I loved every moment and am really amazed at the committment this tour has all for the penguins. I can not speak highly about the day and how respectful we were to the penguins. I learnt so much thank you

Thank Alexandra B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pohatu_penguins, General Manager at Pohatu Penguin Habitat, responded to this reviewResponded 11 May 2018

Hi Alexandra,

Thank you so very much for your kind comments, we are touch about as we really feel that we have shared a special moment.

We are always very happy to show people around and the history of of our work and are very glad that you have enjoyed every moment.

Remember that if you wish to help further we have an adoption program online ^-^

Thank you once again for your comments and all the best.

Kindly.
Kevin.

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Reviewed 21 April 2018

Despite coming outside of peak season, they were willing to take us on an evening tour on the off chance that we got lucky. And we did! We managed to see a nesting blue penguin and a pair of yellow-eyed penguins as well. It was a magical and enlightening experience. We both learned a lot about the penguins and the ecological situation in New Zealand. All of the staff were extremely helpful, friendly and accommodating as well. Highly recommend a visit to support the important work this company is doing for preserving these beautiful animals!

Thank Bryan Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Pohatu_penguins, General Manager at Pohatu Penguin Habitat, responded to this reviewResponded 11 May 2018

Hi Bryan,

Thank you very kindly for taking the time to share you feeling on your visit and recommendations.

We are very glad to see that you learn a lot as this is a big reason for us to offer tours, sharing the history of our conservation work and inspiring and encouraging people to do the same.

Wishing you all the best.
Kindly,
Kevin.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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