Protecting our local treasure - Donut Island 02 July 2018 Awareness is growing of the need to protect the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary, commonly known as Donut Island, off Whangamata Beach. Whenuakura has become a popular destination for intrepid travelers looking to discover secret spots, and social media has projected #donutisland into a must-visit location when visiting The Coromandel. But while word of the island spreads, a lesser known fact is that the group of islands it is among are privately owned by local iwi and enjoy wildlife sanctuary status administered by the Department of Conservation. Expected visitor etiquette on Donut Island, and the need to protect the fragile ecosystem, is highlighted in a new video by Destination Coromandel. You can view the video here. Destination Coromandel has been working with the community to increase awareness of the expected etiquette for visiting the island. This includes the fact visitors are required to remain in the water and take only photos. It's also recommended visitors visit the island with a trained guide. Having a Qualmark-endorsed tour company was identified by Destination Coromandel as an important step for visitor safety, and to enhance the historical, cultural and ecological profile of the island. Local kayak and paddle board tour operator Surfsup has the Qualmark accreditation under its belt and is now leading the way in protecting the island’s future. Surfsup owner and guide Mauro Bender believes respect for this special place will grow as more people understand that it is privately-owned and a wildlife sanctuary. “Our guests love the fact that they are contributing to the preservation of Whenuakura and the future of this beautiful yet fragile environment,” Mauro says. Surfsup has now raised more than $7k towards an ecosystem preservation project - through visitor contributions. Surfsup guides are also taking local community groups and school trips to Whenuakura. “The locals we’ve been taking out are keen to be part of the solution, become guardians and contribute towards improving the island and the marine environment," Mauro says. Visitor safety is another reason the islands’ owners are supporting guided tours. The proximity of the islands to the land can be deceiving particularly when winds change, making it difficult to return to shore. Surfsup tours only operate in safe conditions, when wind and swell permit. Being a Qualmark-accredited business provides assurance to guests that their safety is paramount. Our Mayor Sandra Goudie commends the combined efforts of the owners of the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary, and the local community, to ensure the attraction is preserved. "It's important we look after what we have here in the Coromandel and manage tourism sustainably," Mayor Sandra says. "Making the most of the popularity of Donut Island and the increased visitor interest will help ensure this special natural treasure on our coast is preserved for generations to come." For more information on the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary click here for the Destination Coromandel website.