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Final Peek at Stewart Island

Oban is the main town on Stewart Island. Actually, it’s the only town on the island. My characters in Protecting the Bride, Cullen and Grace, stayed here and spent time exploring the town and the rest of the island. This is a view of Oban.

Oban, Stewart Island

We took a boat trip inland during our time on Stewart Island to the start of a popular walking track. The trip into the hut depends on the tide since the water is very shallow at low tide. The scenery, however, is stunning, with lots of pristine native bush.

Boating up the river

The view from the boat during our trip.

Native bush

Scenery from the boat

It was lovely seeing the scenery farther inland, and if I ever get a chance to return, I’d love to attempt some of the longer walking tracks.

And finally, to prove that kiwis live on Stewart Island, they have signs stating this fact.

Kiwis live here!

Yes, it’s true. Kiwis live here!

Read an excerpt of Protecting the Bride or order your copy today!

Exploring Stewart Island, NZ

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that my visit to Stewart Island inspired the book Protecting the Bride. Mr. Munro and I had lots of fun during our visit and many of the things we did found their way into Protecting the Bride.

View over Oban township

Cullen and Grace sat on this same balcony and enjoyed the view of Oban township plus a glass or two of wine. We sat here and watched the native wood pigeons and the tui squabble over tree-sitting rights.

Fishing for Blue Cod

Cullen and Grace went fishing for blue cod, which is something I did, too. Blue cod is one of my favorite fish to eat, and I ate more than my fair share during our visit. Blue cod is a cold-water fish with firm white flesh, and it isn’t as readily available or as fresh up in Auckland. This photo is of me sitting on the boat and getting ready to fish for my dinner. Yes, we caught quite a few and took fish home.

Sunset Rock

This is Sunset rock, a spot Cullen and Grace visited, but during the day and not for the sunset. Mr. Munro and I watched the sunset and slapped at hungry mosquitoes the entire time. Not my idea of a good time!

Ulva Island

This is Ulva Island, home to lots of our native birds. As you can see, the island is small, and the distance from the mainland isn’t great. I loved wandering through the native trees and searching for native birds. Some of them are very shy and don’t enjoy posing for photos. Grace and Cullen walked the same paths we did and loved the experience as much as I did. Ulva Island is a wonderful place to visit.

Read an excerpt of Protecting the Bride or order your copy today!

Protecting the Bride: The Inspiration

Much of Stewart Island is uninhabited and still covered with native bush, making it a haven for many of our native birds.

Ulva Island is a bird sanctuary where some of our most endangered birds have been released and are thriving. It was a thrill and a privilege to wander through the bush and spot some of our rarer birds.

Ulva Island

The beach near the boat landing on Ulva Island.

Weka

A weka strolling along the beach.

Black Robin

A black robin, an endangered NZ bird.

Ulva Bush

The Clematis is a vine that climbs through the trees, and it is a member of the buttercup family. The flowers are white.

Shelley on Ulva Island

Shelley hugging a rimu tree on Ulva Island.

Native wood pigeon

A native wood pigeon.

Bellbird

Bellbird

The bellbird, one of NZ songbirds.

Tui

The tui is one of New Zealand’s more adaptable birds, and it is common in most parts of NZ. It’s still a very cool bird, and there were lots of them on Stewart Island.

Stewart Island is also one of the best places to go kiwi-watching. We went out at 9:00 pm and traveled to an uninhabited part of the island via boat. It was just amazing watching and hearing the kiwi feed. They didn’t seem to notice us and were unaffected by the special red light the guides use to help people spot them.

Kiwi

In my upcoming release, Protecting the Bride, Cullen and Grace visit Ulva Island to go birdwatching. They also spend an unforgettable evening looking for kiwi.

Protecting the Bride is available for pre-order and is out on 17 August 2021.

Stewart Island, Inspiration for Protecting the Bride

Stewart Island is the third-largest island in New Zealand, and it sits around thirty kilometers south of the South Island. Mr. Munro and I visited in 2020 and enjoyed our visit so much that I decided to set a book on the island. After percolating the idea for a few months, PROTECTING THE BRIDE sprang to life on the page.

Plane at Stewart Island
Transport to the island is via ferry across Foveaux Strait, which can be decidedly rough and rocky and not for the faint-hearted or poor sailors. The other method to get to the island is a quick fifteen-minute hop on a plane.

We traveled by both methods, taking the ferry over and the plane back to Invercargill. We had fantastic weather and didn’t experience the rock and roll that can give even those with a strong stomach big trouble.

Oban, the only township on the island, is small and quaint with a pub, a museum, a supermarket, a few other shops and tourism-related companies, a school, a café, and the Kai Kart, which does takeout food. It takes minutes to walk from one end to the other, but the setting is pretty with a white sandy beach and lots of native bush.

Pub and Oban township

Kai Kart for Delicious takeaway food

With only thirty-two kilometers of road, there aren’t many vehicles on the island. We walked a lot and learned to take a torch with us at night since the streetlamps are also limited.

Our accommodation was at the top of the hill. We had an incredible view of the township, the bay, and the sea beyond. The only downside was the steep hill that we had to climb each time we returned from sightseeing. I suspect my fitness levels improved during our holiday.

The steep hill

I used lots of our experiences in PROTECTING THE BRIDE, including that steep hill. Since I had to huff and puff up this hill, so did my heroine! Protecting the Bride is due for release on 17 Aug. Learn more details, read an excerpt, or pre-order here.

Cape Reinga, NZ – The Northernmost Point

Shelley at Cape Reinga

Last weekend, Mr. Munro and I visited Cape Reinga, a place I’d never gone to before. Cape Reinga is at the northern end of the North Island of New Zealand, and from here it’s possible to see where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide with currents going in different directions.

I’ve mentioned Cape Reinga in an earlier post, and it has cultural significance for the Māori people.

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga

Sign Post at Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga

The drive up to the cape offers some lovely views, but the road is twisty with countless turns and many one-lane bridges. The nearest town is Kaitaia, which is more than 100 kilometers south. Since it’s winter down this end of the world, everything was very lush and green. I enjoyed my visit to the far North very much, and I now have a bubbling book plot–an addition to my Dragon Investigator series featuring taniwha shifters. Watch this space!

Southernmost Spot in the South Island, NZ

The southernmost town in the South Island of New Zealand is Bluff. Bluff is also the place to catch a ferry to Stewart Island.

Shelley at Bluff

Sign Closeup

Before COVID struck, I’d hadn’t had a chance to visit this far south. Since we couldn’t travel overseas, we decided to explore some of the parts of New Zealand we hadn’t had time to visit. Here is a photo of me (Shelley Munro) in Bluff, plus a close-up of the sign.

Antarctic Icebergs

Icebergs are chunks of ice that have calved off glaciers and ice shelves. They vary in size from small to large enough to sink a ship. The Titanic, for example.

New icebergs are white while the older ones are blue or sometimes green. An iceberg comprises fresh snow and compressed ice. The light hits the iceberg particles and bubbles and is bent and scattered. If there are lots of bubbles, all the light scatters before it gets absorbed. If there are no or few bubbles, the red light gets absorbed and the blue light escapes the iceberg, making us see a blue iceberg.

During our time in Antarctica, we saw lots of icebergs, some of which dwarfed our ship. We zipped around some of the icebergs in zodiacs to get up-close views of them. The blue ones were my favorites.

Our Ship and Iceberg

Le Soleal, our ship, is dwarfed by this beautiful iceberg, and they can be much bigger!

Blue Iceberg

A beautiful blue iceberg.

Zodiac and Iceberg

We did a zodiac trip around the icebergs and checked out the wildlife and birds that lazed on the different icebergs.

Blue Iceberg

Another blue iceberg.

Lazing Seal

Some of the local fauna lazing on one of the smaller icebergs.

Champagne on the Zodiacs

We finished our zodiac tour around the icebergs with a glass of French champagne. The perfect end!

A Visit to Grytviken, South Georgia

The island of South Georgia was first discovered in 1675. It was named Roche after Anthony de la Roché, the ship’s commander who found the island. In 1775 Captain Cook made the first landing, renamed the island after King George III, and it subsequently became a British territory.

The first whaling station was founded in Grytviken in 1904 by Norwegian Carl Anton Larsen. Grytviken was one of seven whaling stations on the island and the largest. During the summer months, from October to March, up to 300 men worked at the station.

By 1960 whalers had depleted the area of whales, and the station became unviable. Grytviken closed in 1964. Much of the equipment and several ships still lie where they were left.

These days, Grytviken is a popular stop for cruise ships. There is a museum, a shop, and a post office, and the cemetery here is the last resting place of the famous explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Rusted ships at Grytviken

Old Rusted Ships.

Equipment for the Processing of Whale Blubber

Old Storage Tanks

Some of the Local Residents

View of Settlement

View of Grytviken Settlement and the Locals

A view looking back toward Grytviken with some of the locals.

Shackleton's Grave

Frank Wild

Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild, his friend, are both buried in the Grytviken cemetery.

Shop and Post Office

The shop and post office do a brisk trade with the tourists.

The Church

The church.

Shelley

A pic of me exploring the area beyond Grytviken. As you can see it’s very barren and craggy. I loved our visit to Grytviken, and it turned out to be an inspiring one, because I used the settlement as the setting for my recent release. While it’s difficult to travel to South Georgia, try an armchair visit and check out Snow Moon Dragon today!

Meet the King Penguin: Ten Facts About the King Penguin

One of the things I was most looking forward to seeing when we visited the Antarctica region was the penguins. Penguins are fascinating birds, and I never tired of seeing them or watching their antics.

A king Penguin Colony

Facts about King Penguins

1. They’re the second-largest species of penguin.

Close Up of a King Penguin

2. They weigh up to 15kg and grow to around 3.1 feet in height.

3. It’s estimated there are around 2 million breeding pairs, but some say there are far more than this.

King Penguins on the Beach

4. The largest colony is found on the island of South Georgia, although they also live in Antarctica and on the south coast of Argentina.

5. King penguins eat fish and squid.

6. Penguins have two chicks every three years, and their varied breeding season means that there are always a few chicks within a colony.

A King Penguin Chick

7. The penguin chicks have wooly brown coats before they molt and the adult feathers grow. Early explorers thought they were a different species of penguin.

King Penguin chicks and adults in the background

8. King penguins don’t make nests but carry their eggs around in a brood patch.

9. King penguins will change partners for each breeding season.

10. Leopard seals hunt the adult penguins while the skua bird attacks both the eggs and chicks.

Source: Cool Antarctica

King Penguins on South Georgia

Some of the many King penguins on one of South Georgia’s beaches.

Snow Moon Dragon, book 4 in the Dragon Investigators series, is coming out soon. Snow Moon Dragon is set on South Georgia and King penguins are mentioned a time or two.

A Visit to South Georgia Island

South Georgia is a small island in the southern Atlantic Ocean. It’s a British territory, and the island’s nearest neighbors are Antarctica and the Falkland Islands.

Until I visited the region in early 2020, I’d never even heard of South Georgia. Now I know what I missed out on! South Georgia is a nature lover’s paradise and will be forever linked with Sir Ernest Shackleton, the great explorer since Grytviken is his final resting place.

It’s not an easy place to reach, and we visited as part of our journey to Antarctica. My upcoming release, SNOW MOON DRAGON, is set mainly in South Georgia.

Our first stop was Fortuna Bay. We went ashore via zodiacs and watched some of the thousands of residents. The air is so crisp and clean, although you do get a whiff of penguin poo. It’s quite a unique scent, but I didn’t mind the aroma. I was too busy checking out the local characters.

Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

This is the view of the bay from our ship, Le Soleal, which is part of the Ponant fleet.

Seal pups hanging out on beach

We saw lots of Antarctic Fur seal pups. They hang around on the beach and in the shallows, playing together and waiting for Mum to come home. They’re cute and very curious. It was very hard not to get too close since they seemed to have no fear of the two-legged creatures wearing bright orange coats.

King Penguins

We visited Fortuna Bay to see the King penguins and see them we did. They are magnificent birds. On land, they can be clumsy, but they are graceful blurs of speed in the water. Very difficult to get a photo of a speeding penguin!

King Penguin

A close-up of one of the handsome penguins. They are striking with their yellow coloring.

Penguins and glacier

The scenery is gorgeous, despite the lack of trees. Grasses and lichen stud the lower slopes while craggy peaks, some of them covered in snow even during the summer, tower above. In the distance is the König Glacier.

König Glacier

A close-up of the glacier at Fortuna Bay.

King Penguin colony

This is a photo of the King penguin colony at Fortuna Bay. It’s said there are over 7000 pairs that make this area their home.

King Penguins

Several of the King penguins strutting their stuff with our ship in the background. Access to the area is limited to one ship and a maximum of one hundred people ashore at the time. We took care to clean our boots and make sure our clothing and footwear were free of foreign seeds and anything that might harm the pristine environment.

Boot Cleaning

Boot cleaning in action. This also helped limit the “penguin pong,” but after a day ashore, we’d all leave our boots outside our doors. The passages continued to hold the penguin fragrance!

Snow Moon Dragon will release on 18 May 2021.