Nature Tours in New Zealand
Strangely New Zealand has no native land animals other than a few bats. But that doesn't mean that the idea of a nature tour may be disappointing - far from it.
The result of being at the far end of the earth, so to speak, and breaking away from the great Gondwanaland continent fairly early on has meant that New Zealand's natural life has evolved quite independently of almost anywhere. It shares a few plant and bird families with Australia and nearby Pacific Island neighbours, but otherwise it is a land of unique natural life.
New Zealand was once almost covered in virgin native forest, offering unlimited food and ecosystems for a fabulous range of beautiful birds, insects and ... bats. And being surrounded by sea, it also has a rich array of seabirds, fish and marine mammals well worth learning more about. And until first the Maori, then European settlers, came to its shores the landscape remained largely unchanged. The native forest was spectacular, in a temperate style, and the areas of it that are left are well worth exploring. National parks, marine parks and World Heritage Areas are helping to preserve these beautiful areas.
We'll help you find nature tours and activities to suit wherever in New Zealand you are planning to travel - email us for more info.
The Marine Environment
Being made up entirely of islands New Zealand has a long and varied coastline, with the coastline of the Marlborough Sounds alone being longer than the coast of California. Straddling the latitudes from almost sub-tropical waters in the north to sub-antarctic on the most southerly islands, there is a huge variety of sea life supported in this area. You can explore these areas on your own by visiting beaches and marine parks around the country's coast or join tours led by knowledgeable guides. These include nature cruises, sea-kayaking expeditions, seabird-watching tours, snorkelling and dive trips, fishing trips and charters, whale, seal and dolphin watching trips, albatross experiences on both land and sea and more. Wherever in New Zealand you plan to go there will be trips available to maximise your experiences.
The Forest Environment
The 13 national parks in New Zealand give many opportunities to explore the native forest environments in New Zealand. A number of these are part of larger World Heritage Areas so they are well-protected, which also reflects the importance of their environmental value. From the towering kauri forests of the far north to the native beech forests of the deep south there is huge variety. Some landscapes include vast areas of sub-alpine tussocks and grasslands, and the coastlines often have a gentle cover of pohutukawa, nikau and other trees that enjoy the being by the sea. At altitude the forest trees slowly get smaller so that you can actually walk out of the shoulder-height forest on to rock and scree. In wetter areas there is a rich understory of tree ferns (punga), vines and ground ferns. In amongst all this beauty there are many native and introduced bird species, insects and lizards - but lucky - there are no snakes in New Zealand! And there are always opportunities to see the special species such as kiwi, takahe and tuatara.
The Rivers and Lakes
With much of the country benefiting from ample rainfall the rivers and lakes of the New Zealand back country are great places to explore. Many hikes and short walks follow rumbling rocky rivers or skirt vast lakes. There is excellent fly fishing for trout in many rivers, and this is encouraged as the trout are an introduced species which needs some control, even though much of the fishing is catch and release. White water rivers can be rafted on exciting single or multi-day trips, or can be enjoyed on river kayaking trips as well. Rivers range from grade 2-3 to 4-5. Lakes are also beautiful places to kayak or fish. Rivers and lakes are sacred to Maori so it is important to respect local protocol when using natural waterways. Your guides will be able to share this info with you.