At over 35km long, Farewell Spit is the longest natural sandbar in the world. Wikipedia says predictions state that the Spit will grow almost 2 km in the next 5 years alone.
The Maori name for the spit is “Onetahua”, meaning ‘heaped up sand’.
And it lives up to its name, there are huge dunes that form a natural costal barrier.
Panoramic views can be seen from atop these large sand dunes.
Situated at the northern most part of the South Island, since the 1930’s Farewell Spit has been a bird sanctuary and provides a home for over 80 bird species.
It’s not only the breeding ground for colonies of Australasian gannet, but also an important molting (feather shedding and replacement) site for 12,000 black swans.
Bar tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones fly around 12,000 kilometres every northern hemisphere autumn to spend the summer here in the south. The Spit is now protected and considered a Wetland of International Importance.
To better understand the bar-tailed godwits on their northern migration to Alaska, Massey scientists recently traced their journey using satellite-tagging. 2008 Update here.
One of the birds was tracked from Alaska to New Zealand, a route of 11,500km, and it took her 8 days of non-stop flying!
With the arrival of eco-tourism many people now get to enjoy the Spit close up. While on the topic of birds, did you know the Red-billed Quelea of Africa is the worlds most populous bird, they number between 1.5 ~ 2 billion.
Visible from space, the Spit has two different sides to it. On the Tasman Sea side is where winds have traveled oversea for 2,000kms from the East Coast of Australia and batter the dunes almost continually. While across the Spit on the southern side, the Golden Bay side, there are tidal mudflats that extend up to 6 km seaward at low tide and provide that sanctuary for the all the different birds..
NASA Photo – (12 Dec. 2006) — Backdropped by a colorful Earth, astronaut Robert L. Curbeam, Jr. (left) and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Christer Fuglesang, both STS-116 mission specialists, participate in the mission’s first of three planned sessions of extravehicular activity (EVA) as construction resumes on the International Space Station. Click to enlarge.