What do you do when you love Mussels as much as I do?

 

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You visit Havelock, New Zealand, the Green-lipped Mussel capital of the world. Definitely one of our favourite days exploring NZ!

This area is in the spectacular Marlborough Sounds region on the South Island of NZ.

 

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We left early on the Pelorus Mail Boat out of the town of Havelock.   This boat delivers mail, supplies and people to remote coastal areas.  There are no roads, ferries or cruise ships.

Living out west on Vancouver Island, we have had the opportunity to spend the day on mail boats.  It is a nice way to let someone else do the navigating and spend a relaxing day enjoying the scenery.  We were looking forward to a break from driving the challenging NZ roads.

 

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It was a gorgeous day, some areas calm, some windy with stunning scenery in every direction.

 

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The captain and guide were very kind, fun and knowledgeable about the history and wildlife in this area. 

The Green-lipped Mussels are endemic to NZ.  The name comes from the distinct emerald green colour of the shell.  They are sometimes called Green Shelled Mussels or NZ Mussels.  They may have anti-inflammatory health benefits for some people. (weblink)

We saw many mussel farms in the inlets of Marlborough Sounds.  Up until now, I have enjoyed eating mussels, although, I had no idea how mussels grow in the coastal waters.

 

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Spat (juvenile mussels) are collected, where they wash up attached to clumps of seaweed.   Spat arrive at a mussel farm and are transferred to ropes in seawater until about 6 months of age.  They are removed and then reseeded onto long stretches of rope, and grown for another 9 to 12 months.  They are then harvested. 

Most aspects of farmed and wild mussels are identical. The mussel farms are located in the same areas where wild mussels thrive.  Mussels require sheltered areas. There are over 600 mussel farms in NZ and they cover thousands of hectares of marine space. (weblink) (link)

We saw some boats go by carrying huge white bags.  Each of these bags contain over a ton of mussels.  These boats were obviously very low in the water.

 

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We stopped at a remote lodge for lunch.  Of course, we ordered the mussels. 

I bit down on a mussel to the sound of a crunch.  Was it a piece of shell or my tooth?  Hiding underneath the mussel was a pea-sized crab.  More on this later in a future story.

 

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We stopped for a hike on a secluded beach.  The only access to this area is by boat or helicopter.

 

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We came across colonies of beautiful, big seabirds called Gannets.

 

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We were introduced to a huge insect endemic to New Zealand called a Giant Weta.  It is described as a relatively harmless insect.  Only a few of them bite.  I didn’t know which side of the fence this Weta belonged, the biting or the nonbiting side.  And using the term “relatively harmless” does not make me feel better. 

 

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A highlight towards the end of the day was to have a large school of Bottlenose dolphins swim around us.  Even, Trish, the guide became very emotional. Although she travels these inlets every day,  she had never seen this many dolphins stay as long to play. 

 

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We have been surrounded by breathtaking scenery and incredible natural beauty in NZ.  Every day has been an adventure.  We have learned about the history of the Islands.  We have been fortunate to witness the diverse marine life and wildlife native to this country.

Exploring the Marlborough Sounds region on the Pelorus mail boat was definitely a highlight for us. It was one of our best days in New Zealand!

 

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And what will I continue to order for my favourite meal?  Mussels, of course!

 

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