performs a welcoming dance
New Zealand is known for its stunning natural beauty, healthy
environment, and a friendly, peace-loving people. This Nature
Discoveries trip brings you to the great natural wonders on the North
and South Island, including some areas seldom visited. You’ll see the
major attractions, but we’ll also take you off the beaten tourist track
to discover New Zealand’s lesser-known gems. We’ll offer short
walks and other excursions, where you’ll get to know New Zealand’s
rugged coastlines, lush forests, great glaciers, alpine regions, and
its unusual birds and plants. You’ll see birds found nowhere else on
earth, plants of ancient lineage, and spectacular scenery. You’ll also
gain insight into the lives of the indigenous Maori people, as well as
modern farm families.
The North Island is awash in natural wonders. You'll have a
chance to amble on beaches, gather shells, watch birds, or just enjoy
We begin our North Island experience with a special visit to
Tiritiri Matangi Bird Sanctuary, located on an island in Hauraki Gulf,
just a ferry ride from Auckland. The sights and sounds of Tiritiri
Matangi will leave an indelible impression on our participants. This
island has been carefully managed to provide a haven for native bird
species – 11 of which have been reintroduced. Expect to see many of
these other native birds with hard to pronounce names: kereru, takahe,
weka, tui, kakariki. Many of these are difficult to find on the
mainland, but on protected Tiritiri Matangi they are common. The
takahe, a flightless gallinule, was thought to be extinct, but was
rediscovered in 1948.
At Rotorua, you’ll see active geysers, as well as gurgling mud
pots and steaming pools. We’ll be treated to a performance of
traditional Maori song and dance, and partake in a special feast, or
hangi. We continue towards Tongariro National Park, but won’t
overlook highlights along the way. We’ll see Lake Taupo, site of
one of the largest volcanic eruptions in historic time, and walk
through magnificent podocarp (southern hemisphere "pines") forest, that
takes us to the shoreline of a lovely lake.
Our comfortable lodge in Tongariro National Park looks out upon
Ngauruhoe, a classic Fuji-type volcano. It's the perfect base to
this unusual landscape, home to rare plants and unusual geologic
formations. We'll explore this park on foot, though you'll have an
option to sign up for a helicopter ride over Mt. Ruapehu or ride a
chairlift to the top.
Our last night on the North Island will be in Wellington, New Zealand's
capital. We should have time to visit the outstanding museum of natural
and cultural history, Te Papa.
Kea - the mountain parrot*
We'll take a ferry ride from the North Island to the South Island as our adventure continues. The South Island's wonders are legendary: we'll explore rainforests, coastlines, glaciers, and snow capped mountains. We'll begin with a coastal walk at Kaikoura, with spectacular scenery and interesting tidepool life. At Kaikoura you can also choose to go whale watching in search of sperm whales, swim with dolphins, or take a pelagic bird adventure to seek out albatross and other seabirds.
We'll continue over the Southern Alps on a spectacular road
that crosses Arthur's Pass. The views, great and small, are phenomenal
here. We continue to the rugged west coast where photographic
opportunities abound, including a close look at the unusual geologic
formations at the "pancake rocks" of Punakaiki in Paparoa National
Rainforest and glacier meet in the charming town of Franz Josef, in Westland National Park. We'll visit two spectacular glaciers (Fox and the namesake Franz Josef), and offer a variety of walks. There are also options to take a helicopter flight (with glacier landing) or a glacier trek.
We'll drive through parts of Aspiring National Park to the lakeside town of Wanaka. Its pastoral setting contrasts with the rugged coastlines and glaciers we've seen. You'll have some free time here, and can schedule a flight and boat trip on Milford Sound, as many have done in past years. We continue to the Otago Peninsula, New Zealand's wildlife mecca. We'll visit the world's only mainland albatross colony, where we should see chicks in the nest from our viewing place! We cap off the day with a visit to a colony of yellow-eyed penguins, one of the world's most endangered. By scheduling an early evening visit, we should see penguins leaving the sea, and waddling to their nests a half mile away. We'll observe them from blinds, often at quite close range.
We're off to Mt. Cook National Park. We stay in comfortable
roomy cabins at the Hermitage, in the shadow of Mt. Cook, New Zealand's
highest peak. You'll enjoy breathtaking alpine scenery, with rushing
mountain streams, awe-inspiring glaciers, and delicate mountain
You'll be amused by the antics of the mountain parrot called the kea,
that will try to abscond with any item you might leave. Of course
leave nothing but footprints, and especially won't leave your backpack
Next we head for the Canterbury, a prosperous farming region, where, in small groups, we'll enjoy a comfortable overnight visit on a working farm. This experience will enrich this adventure even more. If our previous visits were any indication, you'll talk and share perspectives with your host families well into the evening. You'll gain an appreciation for the resourcefulness of the New Zealand farmer, with this inside look at life in rural New Zealand.
Our adventure ends in Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, whose British charm will be immediately apparent. We'll have time to explore this lovely, cosmopolitan city and its world-class botanical gardens.
Entoloma (forest mushroom)*
We’re justifiably excited about this trip, which offers a special window into this interesting country. Our participants have told us they’ve gained uncommon insight into the nature and culture of this interesting land. Our in-country driver-guide is scheduled to be Herbie Mues, who will offer a unique perspective on New Zealand’s history and culture.
Herbie is a native of Germany who has made New Zealand his home
for decades. We have worked with Herbie for years. He is a
treasure - an absolutely outstanding guide. Our groups have
always recognized the high quality of the experience that Herbie
provides. He is extremely knowledgeable about New Zealand’s
history, culture, and natural history, and he is extremely articulate
and considerate. He is certain to help make your trip to New
Zealand a trip of a lifetime.
* All photographs are taken by Steven Daniel and are the property of Nature Discoveries, Inc.