Getting to Know Rachel Haydon

11th February 2021

Scientist, teacher and nature lover Rachel Haydon shares her passion for the outdoors in her recent publication, The Nature Activity Book. Encouraging children to get closer to wildlife and have fun in nature, the book calls on young readers to embrace their inner David Attenborough. Rachel has studied Zoology and Marine Science and has been lucky enough to work in some of the biggest and best natural history museums in the world. She is currently at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, where she is the General Manager. Grab the family and join Rachel at Verb's Garden Party on Sunday 21st February for some awesome outdoor activity ideas for all the whānau.

What is your day job?

General Manager of the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

What is your connection to Vic Books?

Excited to be part of the VERB Garden Party event supported by the wonderful Vic Books!

What are you working on at the moment?

In my spare time(!) a book about a penguin who pays a visit to the Aquarium...

Your new book The Nature Activity Book combines your education background with your love of the outdoors. How did you transfer that passion to the page?

Keeping it simple and writing about what I love to do out in nature, and love doing with my daughter and family. We have so much fun coming up with ideas and just mucking about together. It is an absolute luxury to be able to spend time doing nothing at all with loved ones - or even just on your own! My education background helped me shape some of these ideas in a way they really supported understanding of science.

Nature writers Robert Macfarlane and Dara McAnulty have become bestsellers in the last couple of years - readers are really connecting with the outdoors again. Why do you think this is and what has made nature writing so popular?

We are lucky to live in a world that offers so much opportunity in terms of things to do, buy, see, but sometimes the simplest things are best. Talking a walk, listening, observing, being... just having the opportunity to be still and take in a moment. This is more true now that we are experiencing a world that none of us have ever been a part of before - a global pandemic with unlimited access to information from every part of the world. It can be quite overwhelming so that time outdoors to reset and reconnect is so important.

What's your favourite nature activity as an adult? And as a child?

Mucking around in rock pools - as an adult and a child! Some of my earliest memories are of discovering an amazing array of creatures on the Central Hawkes Bay coastline. It's awesome to see my daughter express the same excitement.

What's your favourite spot in Wellington for connecting with nature and the outdoors?

The waterfront! When I lived in Wellington in 2018 I couldn't believe what I saw with visits from whales! It was amazing how many people came out to see them - just awesome!

What are you most looking forward to about appearing at The Garden Party?

Hopefully seeing people enjoy activities from the book!

Who are you most excited to see at The Garden Party?

Witi Ihimaera - an absolute kiwi legend and a gifted writer.

Some quick fire book recommendations please!

Salman Rushdie - Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Wallace J Nichols - Blue Mind

Eric Weiner - The Geography of Bliss

Alain de Botton - Religion for Atheists.

What are you reading at the moment?

Jeanine Cummins - American Dirt.

What do you like about it?

As a mum, I put myself right in the book...

Which literary character do you most identify with? Why?

Elizabeth Bennet. I constantly question and love a good walk!

Hardback or paperback?


Favourite coffee?

Flat white.