New Zealand, known traditionally as “Aetearoa” the land of the long white cloud has each year doubled in numbers of tourists and visitors flying vast distances from around the world to experience the hype of what is becoming known as simply one of the most prestine and beautiful countries, easily accessible and safely travelled and honestly it is completely justified. Travelling around both islands, various climates/ habitats and immersing in the lifestyle was the best 8 months of my life and without being too bias and blinded by my euphoria regarding this country here are the reasons why:
1. Abundant animal life on land and sea
85 Million years ago, Gondwana (the ancient supercontinent) begins to propagate and crack on its eastern side, sea water floods into the rift forming the Tasman sea isolating a large land mass. Fast forward 30 Million years we find New Zealand, situated and remaining relatively exact in its location having up too the present day to evolve and develop its endemic and unique wildlife for tourists to marvel. learning about the History of Moa (a flightless behemoth growing up to 3.6M tall and 230kg) and Haast eagle (the biggest living eagle in history, weighing up to 230kg also) living only a few hundreds of years previous will be sure to bewilder.
Luckily in modern times, expect equally as spectacular but less dangerous animals such as Kiwi birds to roam the forest floors in the dead of night, Tiny “Morepork” owls Fluttering and hooting their own given name like some sort of Pokemon at dusk and the endemic “shellducks” with their beautiful plumage running around the landscapes in their mating pairs. Taking a dip in the southern oceans and relaxing on beaches we experienced “Hectors Dolphins” the smallest and rarest species in the world swimming around our feet, curious and playful, “Hookers sealions” gargantuan and sleepy sometimes blocking our paths to the sea and copious amounts of “fur seal” adults and pups just happy to be basking in the sun alongside the Penguins.
2. Maori culture and the “Kiwis”
A melting pot of ex-British colonial inhabitants and ancient south pacific island inhabitants, New Zealand is a wonderful example of how different cultures can live together and remain to hold the upmost respect for each other. “Maoris” the indigenous people of New Zealand as found by captain cook back in 1769 remain and continue their cultures to this day, their spoken and sign language making up 2/3 of the recognised language spoken currently besides English. The land is steeped in fascinating Maori legend, the elements and every aspect of nature being derived from one primal pair, the earth mother and the sky father. Every location or place has a story and it is captivating learning about the beliefs and practices of these world renown people. “Kiwis” equally are just as brilliant, friendly, accomodating and humble, Only with an added pinch of fun and crazy that’s sure to push you out your comfort zone and experience places and acitvities you may not have counted on!
3 .Safe, easily travelled and convenient
Motorbike, car, campervan, bus, walk, cycle, Hitchhike… You choose! I have seen and heard people travel by all forms. The country has an incredibly good and easy to navigate road infrastructure, information centres in practically every town and accomodation/ campsites always within close proximity wherever you are. Converting our 1993 Toyota Corolla into a makeshift bedroom we had ourselfs a mobile home, pulling up in the many free department of conservation campsites, sleeping and moving on. It was so easy! I would recommend the “camper mate” app, this application provides a downloadable map detailing every campsite and space available for free and payed areas to sleep and build a campfire!
The locations are breathtaking and in a country this picturesque, opening your tent door out onto a lake or mountain backdrop I would recommend over a hotel/hostel any day (personally). Additionally public transport in New Zealand is very convenient and cheap for the distances the vehicles cover and petrol is at a significantly lower cost than on mainland Europe providing a cheap and viable option. A cheeky little tip is to look into rental companies for vehicles, people drive the cars/ camper vans to a destination and inevitably move on with their travels, this leaves the companies looking for cheap ways to return the vehicles to the original location, this is where you come in! If your flexible and have a specific place you wish to reach, companies will offer you their vehicles for free or at a heavily discounted price only paying for fuel, to return it to their site. Cheap travel!
4.Diversity of ecosystems, scenery and climate
4.5 Million people inhabit a land mass not so dissimilar to that of the U.K, over 1 million squeezed into the small thin strip on the North island, Auckland. Travelling the country you will not have to go far to find complete isolation and peace, left alone with whoever you choose to explore, enjoy and adventure into the many landscapes, ecosystems and places on offer. Warmest weather in the north and coldest in the south, the summers averaging 20-30 Deg offer long beautiful hot cloudless days, not too humid and perfect for hikes and mountain biking which are all too popular, for a reason I might add. Winter, snow falls on high land in the north island (Mt Taranaki, Ruapehu) remaining relatively mild at low lying areas, temperatures averaging 10-15 Deg. The South Island is highly advisable during the winter months being colder, it offers world famous snowboarding and skiing, more common snowfall and an incredible buzzing atmosphere around the towns of Queenstown and Wanaka that’ll make it hard for you too leave, trust me!
Mountains, forest, glaciers, volcanoes and beaches are a plenty, take your pick from 13 national parks dotted a stones throw away from each other around the country, to explore, photograph and enjoy as every place has its own charm. One must see, is Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers, 2 of only 3 glaciers in the world still existent (although sadly retreating) in temperate rainforest located on the west coast of the South Island, it’s a must see and humbling reminder the world is definately getting warmer!
5. Adventures and activities
BUNGY JUMP! Invented by AJ Hackett, probably something more to do with a void of grey matter than surplus ( I joke, the guys a genius and a legend within the country) is a right of passage in New Zealand amongst many other widely enjoyed adrenaline pumping sports. Try your hand at canyon swing, mountain biking, Luging, skydiving, paragliding, snowboarding, skiing, surfing and honestly many many more activities all within crazily short distances of each other, it’s so accessible!
This country wasn’t chosen for the “Lord of the rings” films by chance either, take tours or walk yourself to some of the iconic locations featured on the big screen, climb Mt Doom, visit Hobitton for a pint at the green dragon inn or gallop through the lakes and forests of middle earth on horseback, your choice! Just beware of Nazgul. After your quest is complete, wipe the Ork blood from your brow and relax. alternatives are available for rest and rehabilitation from floating down underground rivers on rubber rings,viewing glowworms that light up the caves like the night sky too spending the days and nights visiting traditional Maori villages, enjoying buffets, stories and dances. All in all, you will never be bored!
you will never regret a journey to this country, the people you will meet, the experiences you will have and the memories you will gain will last for a lifetime. this country, my friends and the experiences we had are thoroughly missed and I wish to return to this place one day soon again, I hope after reading this maybe you will too!