Distinctive New Zealand is resplendent with nature, adventure, flora, fauna, and naturalist guides committed to conservation. And, as the last major landmass on earth to be settled – humans arrived 1000 years ago in comparison to Australia, which was settled 60,000 years ago – New Zealand is also a constant study in evolution.
About the size of Colorado, the country’s terrain is a mix of snowcapped mountains and lowland plains with a temperate climate. New Zealand rests on the South Pacific Ocean to the east of Australia and is largely made up of two distinct islands, namely North Island and South Island. It is part of the British Commonwealth and enjoys a stable, diverse economy that heavily relies on agricultural exports and financial services.
While the country enjoys a clean and green reputation as a result of its rich and fragile natural landscape, there is controversy as to whether its official environmental policies and practices are doing enough to protect and conserve nature given that New Zealand faces the typical issues of waste disposal, lack of public transportation choices and recycling schemes, and sustainable use of land and fisheries.
In response, there has been an introduction of the Ecotourism Certificate, which allows students to participate in a 34 week, full time, work based program studying ecological management, biology and physiology, earth science, environmental tourism, local tourism industry practices, history, and environmental interpretation. The overall goal is to coordinate ecotourism and conservation activities so that better environmental practices and policies can be developed.
With that, outdoor adventure for the whole family is the name of the game in New Zealand. Besides trekking, mountain biking, skiing or snowboarding, horseback riding, soaking in thermal pools, and hot air ballooning, travelers can also enjoy birding, whale and seal watching, and sea kayaking all over both islands.
Some top ecotourism destinations include:
- Waipoua Forest – on a night tour through the forest, one can see the tallest and most revered kauri tree (standing at 150 ft) in New Zealand
- Fox Glacier – from the nearby village, one can walk directly onto the glacial ice
- Fjordland – where ancient glaciers have carved steep-sided fjords from rugged coastal mountains; the UNESCO World Heritage site is also the country’s largest national park
- Tiritiri Matangi Island – regenerated from barren farmland by a volunteer planning program, this forest is an island and open sanctuary for rare native birds
- Kaikoura – from here, one can board a boat to see whales up close, and guided by a local Maori naturalist, one will leave with a deep appreciation for the ocean’s ecosystem
- Kahurangi National Park – has wonderful trekking expeditions
There are many family-oriented eco activities in New Zealand throughout the year including relaxing on sandy beaches, glacier exploring, enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime sailing tour of the Sounds, and bungy-jumping in Queenstown. In addition to these “kiwi” experiences, most cities have playlands, which are children-only entertainment venues with bouncy castles and adventure playgrounds. Whatever the activity, New Zealand offers enough adventure, culture, history and nature for all.