The weather forecast was patchy but this didn’t stop 40 hardy Whataroa School students and community members getting out into the shores of Ōkārito Estuary last Friday to learn about what lives in the mud.

Date:  06 March 2017

By Rachel Norton, Supervisor – Visitor Centre / Community

Joined by DOC marine biologist Don Neale and other DOC staff, we learnt all about mud snails who eat seven times more than their body size, siphoning out the goodness from the mud. We also got to learn how to measure the length of a mud snail’s poo trail. 

Mud crab.
Mud crab

Exploring Okarito Estuary.
Exploring Okarito Estuary


Don encouraged us all to pick up a mud crab and examine it which saw a few brave souls and a lot of squeals as this was attempted by young and old, boys and girls!

Just as the rain started to set in we congregated back at Donovan’s Store for a quick bite before examining one special item that each group had bought back. Out came the digital microscope and zoomed up on the screen we got to saw how mud snails open and close traps as tides come and go, the makeup of crabs and the intricate details of cockle shells. 

Kate Buckley, artist, joined us for an art exercise focusing on our one special item. We measured and recorded all the details like colour, size, shape. This way we use all our senses when learning about our special item — sight, sound, smell, touch. 

Learning at Ōkārito Estuary.
Learning at Ōkārito Estuary

Finding mud snails.
Finding mud snails


Kathleen Langi from Ngai Tahu closed the day, sharing with us her knowledge of early Māori history in the area. Being related to the Donovan family who ran Donovan’s General Store, she retold the history that had been passed through families of school days at the Ōkārito School House before it shifted to Whataroa. 

It was a fantastic day to be out and about exploring our local areas and how to look after them for future generations.

Thanks to WestREAP for their ongoing support of Seaweek events on the West Coast. 

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