Lake Wānaka is home to four major islands, Te Peke Karara, Ruby Island, Mou Tapu and Mou Waho. ‘Mou Waho’ translates to ‘outer island’ and is settled farthest away from town. There, untold magic and a rich history awaits, the likes of which even many Kiwis haven’t experienced.
We took a ride out to the island with Wānaka Water Taxi and we can’t repeat this enough… you need to go to Mou Waho. Here’s why.
Our guide and skipper Shilo was incredible. Her energy was palpable from the moment we got onboard the water taxi and we could tell that she was passionate about sharing this place with her guests. Not only did we learn nature facts about the lake and surrounding islands, we also learned about local lore (like the prohibition parties of Ruby Island) and the Ngai Tahu history of the area. If you’re in search of some stories to tell round the dining table, Shiloh is your girl.
After about 40 minutes on the boat, we landed on Mou Waho. From there, we had two hours to explore. The first thing that struck us as we wandered the tracks to the look-out was how quiet it was. Far from the bustle of town, we felt ourselves breathe out and relax, despite a bit of a steep walk. It was just so lovely to find ourselves surrounded by beautiful native shrub, listening to the bellbirds play in the brush.
300m down from the look-out is a quiet picnic area where we chose to stop and take a dip to cool off. While one of our group raced to the top of the look-out to grab photos, the rest of us lounged in the brisk water of the lake. There’s a somewhat famous line about Mou Waho that goes “an island in a lake, on an island in a lake, on an island in the ocean” – we’ll let you figure that one out.
We tucked into some snacks from Pembroke Patisserie and kombucha from b.effect brewery and as if on cue, the island resident buff weka appeared. The weka is a large flightless land bird that are known to be quite feisty. We found this out immediately as they got as close as they dared and tried to snatch our sausage rolls straight out of our hands! Weka are often preyed upon by stoats and ferrets, so there have been significant conservation efforts made to keep the Mou Waho population safe from predators. In fact, the island is now maxed out on its weka capacity!
From the look-out to even just trailside, the shoreline of Mou Waho Island is steep, which makes for some incredible views of the lake and the mainland. It’s absolutely beautiful blend of golden rolling hills, turquoise water and deep green foliage.
When we were ready to (reluctantly) leave the island, the crew at Wanaka Water Taxi welcomed us back aboard the boat. For anyone that loves simply being on the water, you’ll love the boat. It’s spacious and open, with windows that open up to let the fresh air and sun rays through while you skirt along the beautiful waters of Lake Wānaka at a comfortable pace. For us, we just sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the ride – not entirely ready to say goodbye to the island and our relaxing morning.