Field Trip | Levels 1-4: Field trip guidance for Otago Harbour to learn about estuaries. The saltmarsh supports many native birds and 90 species of fish as part of their lifecycle.

The field notes below is part of the Protecting our estuaries education resource - an integrated curriculum teaching resource using New Zealand’s estuaries as a real-life context for learning.

Download the resource

Visiting Otago Harbour - Notes for schools and educators (PDF, 1,350K)

Learning opportunities at this site

Otago Harbour is the largest feature of the ‘drowned valley’ landscape that characterises the Otago coastline. Mud flats, saltmarsh, salt meadow and shrubland bounded by rolling dunes join to form the most intact example of this type of ecosystem in Otago.

Aramoana Ecological Area is a landscape of unique character. The Aramoana Saltmarsh sits at the entrance to the harbour and includes dune slacks that make this area nationally significance.

Self-guided activites

In the notes, you'll find guidance to do:

  • sandy shore surveys - do a survey to look for changes on the shore over time
  • five minute bird counts - find and count the birds along the shore and identify them
  • an estuary survey - discovery seaweeds, plants, snails, crabs and other small animals
  • beat plastic pollution - follow this Young Ocean Explorers activity to learn about plastic pollution

Native or endemic species to explore

You can explore the following species here, and learn more their habitats:

  • 90 species of fish use Otago Harbour as part of their lifecycle. Including flounder/pātiki, mullet/kātaka, sole/pātiki rore and more
  • the saltmarsh provides habitat for migratory birds such as eastern bar-tailed godwits/kuaka, South Island pied oystercatchers/tōrea tuawhenua
  • 400 species of seabed invetabrates have been recorded, many of which rely on the mud flats here

Learning levels

  • Primary


  • Estuaries
  • Animals
  • Plants

Curriculum learning areas

  • Science
  • Social science


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