Cape Kidnappers is at the southern end of Hawke Bay, on the east coast of the North Island. The name Kidnappers refers to an incident during Cook's first voyage when an attempt was made to trade with the occupants of an armed canoe. Tiata, the Tahitian servant of Tupia, Cook's interpreter, was seized by the Maoris and escaped by jumping into the sea when the canoe was fired on. The cape was named to commemorate the event; Sunday, 15 October 1769. The cape lies 7 miles by coastal route, negotiable between tides on foot or bicycle, from Clifton at the far eastern edge of the Heretaunga (Ahuriri) Plains. There is also an inland route which passes through private farm land. The high plateau area between Kidnappers and Clifton is deeply gullied and accessible from the shore by a few routes only. The cliffs behind the beach are vertical and largely unclimbable. The plan shape of the cape is an acute-angled triangle. It is flat, probably a sea-cut bench at a height of between 200 and 300 ft, rising moderately steeply at its inland edge. It is composed of Lower Pliocene (Opoitian) blue-grey sandy mudstone, with large irregular calcareous concretions.
The cape is the site of a thriving gannetry which has grown in numbers in the last few years to the point that nesting now occurs as far as the inland edge of the rising slope from the cape plateau, and outlying colonies nest on the stacks of nearby Black Reef. The gannetry is administered by a domain board and permits to visit it are issued by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Napier.
The Maori name for Cape Kidnappers is Mataupo Maui – the fish hook of Maui. Another less common name is Tapuwaeroa – the long footsteps. These, according to legend, were made by the giant Rongokako who left other impressions of his feet at Mahia and East Cape.
by Thomas Ludovic Grant-Taylor, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Lower Hutt.