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Toyota Kiwi Guardians Adventure

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Blogger and writer Isobel Benesch took her boys and some friends on a Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure to Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island Marine Reserve) and witnessed abundant marine life as they earned Toyota Kiwi Guardians medals!

“Children are born with a sense of wonder and an affinity with nature. Properly cultivated, these values can mature into ecological literacy, and eventually into sustainable patterns of living.” - Zenobia Barlow

The moments we spend in the outdoors as children help to shape our views on the world around us.

A number of studies have shown the numerous benefits of getting kids outside and into nature. These include improved mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing.

Perhaps the most important aspect of encouraging time in the outdoors is that a young child’s direct experiences with nature are critical to fostering a healthy conservation ethic, and influencing the development of lifelong conservation values.

Toyota and the Department of Conservation have recognised the need for Kiwi kids to get outside and enjoy direct experiences with nature. Partnered to create the Toyota Kiwi Guardians programme, a plethora of free family-friendly, treasure-hunt-like activities to encourage Kiwi kids and their families to adventure together in the hopes of growing the next generation of conservationists and guardians of this unique and beautiful country we call home, New Zealand.

The fear of the unknown and the fear of failure are the biggest barriers to parents getting out and adventuring with kids. What should we do? Where should we go? What should we take? What will we do when we get there? Will the kids have fun? Will I have fun? These are the questions that can stop parents adventuring with their children... and that’s where Toyota Kiwi Guardians comes in.

With a number of places across New Zealand, the Programme website shows families where to go, what to look for and activities to do once there, and is guaranteed fun for the kids, who have the added incentive of earning a medal on finding a Kiwi Guardians signpost with a secret code word. You print a map, explore places you’ve never been to before or perhaps have been to but never explored before, and create a lifetime of memories.

We love exploring all of what New Zealand has to offer in our backyard and are always looking to visit new places or explore familiar places and learn something new.

We decided to go to the Kiwi Guardians website and find a new adventure for the day. My boys had been wanting to snorkel, so we chose Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve (also known as Goat Island Marine Reserve) and invited some friends to join us.

We printed out maps at home and I passed them out to the boys on our arrival. Seeing the different points of interest on the map, some of which, such as the kelp forest and the reef were, hidden from plain eyesight, immediately turned our adventure into a treasure hunt, with everyone running in different directions to discover all the areas shown on the map.

The older boys swam out to swim amongst the seaweed and then swam over to the island to check out the colourful caves. The younger boys used boogie boards to snorkel over the reef, where they spotted lots of snapper and two large stingrays, then went tide pooling along the rocky coast, where they found lots of hermit crabs.

When we arrived there was not a cloud in the sky, but after an hour or two of exploring, dark clouds appeared and rain began to pelt down.

As thunder clapped across the sky, we sought shelter in the nooks and caves nestled into the rocky coastline and watched the rain fall onto the sea. When it slowed to a drizzle, the boys were right back in the sea and snorkelling again, noticing that life underwater hadn't change a bit with the differences in weather.

There was something for all ages. Everyone found and saw new things, learning about different sea creatures and overcoming fears (like swimming with giant stingrays and a scary looking horned fish) along the way.

As we prepared to leave for home, we discussed the importance of marine reserves, the boys realising how lucky they were to have seen such varied and abundant marine life in one place and just how special and unique places like this are in the world. The kids can’t wait to tick off the next Toyota Kiwi Guardians site and earn more medals!

It was the adventure of a lifetime and memories were made that will be remembered forever. This was our adventure with Toyota Kiwi Guardians... what will yours be?