The mysterious light beam over Rangitoto Island this past weekend created quite a stir. An iconic landmark in the Hauraki Gulf, Rangitoto Island can be seen from nearly every north and east facing Auckland shore, as well as the south-facing beaches of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula where I live. The light beam over Rangitoto left many Auckland residents wondering if it was an alien ship, especially on Thursday night (28 January) when they tested it, turning it on for less than a minute.
In case you are still wondering, the short answer is “no”. It is not an alien, but rather artistic and symbolic.
The beam of light is actually a collective gift from 13 iwi to celebrate the Maori identity and heritage of Tamaki Makaurau – the city of Auckland. It shined from 10pm to midnight on 30-31 January, 2016, corresponding to the inaugural Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival. It symbolises the form of traditional pou herenga – hitching posts or moorings for waka. It is lit by not one, but rather 33 powerful lights (similar to those used at Ground Zero in New York).
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Due to its symmetrical shield, Rangitoto Island looks similar from all sides. We can see it from our deck (if we lean out a bit), but get our best views when we travel on the ferry to Auckland or Waiheke Island (where we recently went on a self-guided vineyard tour and to some of the nicest beaches in Auckland).
Practical Information on Rangitoto Island visits:
- The ferry to Rangitoto Island takes about 25 minutes from Auckland.
- The island is 5.5 kilometres wide.
- It takes about an hour to hike to the top. The terrain is mostly black basalt (fine volcanic rock), and there are lava caves that you can enter.
- Another other option is a guided tour on a 4WD Volcanic explorer train.
- Rangitoto is Auckland’s largest and youngest volcanic field. It last erupted about 600 years ago.
- Rangitoto means “Bloody Sky” in Maori.
- Rangitoto is home to the world’s largest pohutukawa forest (a native tree that blooms with red flowers in December, earning the nickname “New Zealand Christmas Tree.”)
- For a one-of-a-kind experience, you can kayak out to the island with a guide, hike to the top and watch the sunset before kayaking back to Auckland.
Did you see the light beam over Rangitoto Island? Did you know what it was?
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