Guided Tours

Kiwi Birds & Mason Bay Photography with Ruggedy Range™

+64 3 219 1066
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14 Main Road, Oban

Mason Bay and the Freshwater Valley provide an abundance of photographic opportunities due to the array of ecosystems and wilderness habitats.

Our primary purpose is to seek a kiwi to allow you take a photograph. Kiwi are highly sensitive birds. Mainly nocturnal, some of our kiwi are active in the daytime. Sightings are not guaranteed, in particular a sighting good enough for photography can often be hard. However, we have had some wonderful daytime sightings, resulting in some great photographs. Private customised tours can be arranged if you want to spend more time at Mason Bay to increase your chances of getting a good photograph.  

Our trips provide an opportunity to try to photograph kiwi and other native birds, the breathtaking dune and beach environment, native coastal and inland plants, orchids and of course the general wilderness environment. 

We use our in-depth knowledge of the area to try to maximise your chances of taking away some stunning imagery. Although similar to the Kiwi Journey Fly In / Boat Out option, this trip is simply dedicated to taking photography. The group moves together, but each participant can choose what they want to photograph. Your guide will try to maximise your photo opportunities by finding birds and pointing out interesting subject matter.

The middle section of Stewart Island from west to east coast comprises: Mason Bay, the Freshwater Flats / Freshwater Valley and Paterson Inlet.

Mason Bay has approximately 14 kms (9 miles) of curved beach, one of the most extensive natural sand dune systems in New Zealand with native coastal plants, some sea and shore birds and a population of kiwi. A great place to go kiwi spotting, enjoy the stunning seascape, watch the surface crash on the beach and feel at one with nature! 

Coastal forest, tussock, grasses and scrub surround Mason Bay. Further inland, the surrounding northern and southern hills slope down to an extensive wetland area - the Freshwater Flats.  A multitude of creeks that run through the flats feed water into Freshwater River. The river meanders down to its estuary at the start of Paterson Inlet, releasing tannin stained water and silt. The changing habitat, allows a variety of native and endemic birds and plants to exist in the area.


  • Our trip times are dependent on daylight hours and high tides for boat trips to / from Freshwater River and low tides for plane access to Mason Bay. Weather is always an important consideration. 
  • Our day to day itinerary will vary due to weather / client preferences / aspects of nature.

Mason Bay and the Freshwater Valley, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island.  


We stay at Mason Bay Hut, which is operated by the Department of Conservation. Facilities are shared with other independent hikers. 

Mason Bay Hut does not have a hut booking system. In the event that the hut is full, we have stored tents and sleeping mats for our clients at Mason Bay.

Facilities at the hut include: Sleeping area, separated from kitchen/communal area. The sleeping area is partitioned into three areas, two with 4 bunks each, and one with 12 bunks. The bunks have mattresses. The kitchen has work benches, sinks with cold running water, tables and seating. There is an outside washbasin with cold running water and long drop toilets.


We provide healthy meals and snacks (plus the sweet things too), with local seafood where possible. We cater for most dietary requirements.

Meals on our trips include:

Day 1: Lunch, pre-dinner snacks, dinner, hot drinks. Snacks during the day.

Day 2: Breakfast, lunch, hot drinks. Snacks during the day.

Meal arrangements can vary depending on the timing of our trips. 


We recommend at least a 45 litre backpack with your personal belongings, light sleeping bag and space for food and snacks. 
Camera equipment: camera, spare batteries, spare memories cards, tripod (remember you will have to carry this). Waterproof cover recommended for your camera.
See: Wear and Bring. We operate an Outdoor Shop (Gear Hire / Purchases).


Contact us for customised packages to include travel to and from Stewart Island by ferry or plane and accommodation before and / or after your guided walk.


To appreciate the diversity that Stewart Island has to offer, we recommend that you come on the following tour:


Some commonly seen birds include:

Land birds: Kiwi, Stewart Island robin, Stewart Island fern bird, New Zealand pipit, tui, bellbird, South Island tomtit, fantail, grey warbler, red-crowned parakeet, wood pigeon, kingfisher, brown creeper, Australasian harrier, skylark, chaffinch, dunnock.

Sea birds: Little blue penguins.

Shore birds: Black-backed gull, red-billed gull, variable oystercatcher, banded dotterel, Stewart Island shag, pied shag, white-fronted tern, black swan.

Note: Southern New Zealand dotterel are seen on some trips.


The flora is varied and includes podocarps on the slopes of the Freshwater Valley, manuka, wetland plants including mosses and lichen, tussock, scrub, flax, coastal and dune plants and a variety of orchid species.

Ruggedy Range
Last modified
Thu 14 Mar 2019
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