Author: Sandra Robinson

Exploring NZs Wildlife

Before you go exploring NZs wildlife you should prepare yourself with a couple of basics. First of all, ask some locals and guides for the best places to go and pick hikes that you will be comfortable with. You should also invest in a good hunting spotter scope as many of the animals you can encounter are very shy.

Hunting spotters are ideal for observing animals from a distance and their design is such that will give you the best possible magnifications. You can spend anywhere from $50 to hundreds of Dollars, but even a basic one will be better than none at all. Check out scopesandspotters.net for some recommendations.

Forget the images of snakes, scorpions or alligators that you could have seen in wildlife documentaries about Australian wildlife. In New Zealand you have hardly any unpleasant encounter to dread apart except may be the mosquito bites and its small but vicious cousin ‘sandfly’. Certainly, the country houses an insect whose bite is poisonous. It is a small red and black spider called katipo which often live hidden under stones, exclusively in the dunes of the seaside. However, it is rare to meet them in urban areas and even more to get stung. In parts of the bush, one can possibly see wild pigs and deer, but needless to say they will probably be more frightened by your presence than the reverse. Wild boars, deer, rats and mustelids (weasels, martens) arrived with the Maori and then European settlers will be the first mammals present on New Zealand soil, except for a native bat.

This upheaval has decimated the fragile balance of certain species, now almost extinct as the prehistoric tuatara lizard or gecko.

Opossums are the most famous animals that were introduced in the bush. Imported in the 19th century from Australia for their fur, and released into the wild, their number quickly proliferated before the absence of native predators. At nightfall, it is so very common to encounter one of them, especially on the road. Many end up flattened on the road … Little nocturnal animal little fierce, malicious and noisy, its population estimated at 40 million makes a not insignificant dent on the local flora of which it is fond. The opossum is the country’s number one enemy. It is the subject to hunt without mercy.

But it was the introduction of rats, weasels, martens and other predators of the forest floor, which destroyed a large scale of the ecosystem based on the reign of birds. It is because of this that the ‘bush’ New Zealand is now so silent all over the country. Efforts to reduce these pests are bearing fruit in identified islands and nature reserves, but the struggle is long and the outcome is more than uncertain!

Among the remarkable insects, the weta, huge grasshopper, with a weight of 70 grams, is the heaviest of all insects. It is seen regularly even in the city, when it leaves the wet and dark areas where it is at ease.

Birds

Before man set foot in New Zealand, the birds reigned supreme over the country, from the tops of trees to the forest floor. Thus best representation of the wealth of the New Zealand fauna is undoubtedly the bird world, starting with the famous kiwi, a unique species in the world and a national emblem so strong that the people of New Zealand are more commonly referred to as “Kiwis” than “New Zealanders”.

As big as a hen, kiwi (Asperyx australis) has small eyes and a long nose and has neither wings nor tail, unnecessary, since it does not fly but trot. Unfortunately, living at night and naturally shy, your chances of seeing one are practically nil. And besides, the bird is disappearing in most parts of the country, due to the introduction of multiple predators and massive deforestation. You can see in the zoos or, if you are very lucky and silent, in nature, mainly in some protected reserves or islands.

Not to be outdone, you will see anywhere other remarkable birds such as the paradise shelduck, a kind of colorful duck who chose his life partner, the Pukeko, a marsh bird with an orange beak, the weka that can be easily confused with a kiwi and other native parrots that are kaka and kea. …

Among the noisiest, we must mention the Morepork, small brown gray owl whose night cry evokes his own name ( “mo’-po’k”), the bellbird and tui, dark blue color, very recognizable bowls of white feathers he wears around his neck and his surreal and incessant singing (think R2D2 in the film “star Wars”).

Finally, when you stroll in the bush you will surely be followed by the graceful fantail. Hardly as big as a robin, he plays his fan-tail during his frenzied and disorderly flight. If he flies so, it is actually to catch the tens of tiny insects you disturb on your way!

In the maritime field, you will find the best known birds, such as terns, austral mad, the gulls. On the Otago Peninsula, you’ll get to see the royal albatross who nest all year

Marine Life

The waters of New Zealand are very fishy. At sea we fish for example snappers (sea bream), kahawais (sea salmon), crayfish (lobster) and blue cods (cod). In rivers, brown trout and rainbow trout, which are abound.

Lovers of marine mammals will love the country, and numerous species of cetaceans (whales, sperm whales or dolphins) and pinnipeds (seals). Species of dolphins are numerous, and some specimens sometimes approach very close to the coasts. It is mainly the Hector’s dolphins, which live only in New Zealand, and averages just 1.5 meters long, acrobatic dusky dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins, which include “Flipper” (bottled-nose dolphins) . Killer whales (orcas, Orcinus orca) also frequent these shores.

A little further off, at certain times of the year, we see whales, especially humpback whale (15m) in its migration between north and south, the southern right whale, the great blue whale. But the sperm whale is the most frequently observed cetacean and treats throughout the year visitors to Kaikoura.

The ribs are frequented by sharks, but no panic, no lethal attack has been detected in New Zealand waters since 1963! If you are surfing, beware above all the currents, they are much more dangerous!

You will not fail to observe the coast New Zealand fur seals, and bigger, sea lions (New Zealand sea lions).

The New Zealand Sea Lion is up to 2m long and weighs nearly 200kg. She prefers rocks to sand. A male can have a dozen females on a territory he defends against other males. The young are born in December after nine months of gestation. The sea lion feeds on squid and fish at night. Unlike the majority of animals in New Zealand, the population of sea lions increases each year, and there are more than 60,000 individuals.

The sea lion is twice as heavy as the sea lion. The male is recognizable by its dark color and its mane (hence its name) and the female by its cream color. It lives in the extreme south of the country, but 95% of individuals are in Auckland Islands. Like the fur seal, the male forms its harem (12 to 25 females) during the breeding season. Children are also born in December. These animals are mostly settled on a beach near dunes in order to shelter from the wind. They feed on fish, crabs and squid. There are about 15,000 individuals.

You may find in the Catlins, at certain times of the year, the leopard seal and the largest pinnipeds, the southern elephant seal (Southern elephant seal).

Always fun when traveling and often caught by casual observers for mammals, penguins are undoubtedly other featured birds of the South Island. Beware of their English name. “Penguin” is a false friend!

In New Zealand you will see penguins, ie birds that do not fly (unlike penguins). They are the best swimmers in the world, and they live in the southern hemisphere only. So forget the cartoons that feature penguins next to polar bears! The South Island is home to three species. The blue penguin, or little penguin (blue penguin), 40cm tall and 1kg on average, is the smallest species of penguin in the world.

Larger (65cm), yellow eye penguin or penguin the antipodes is on the list of the most endangered penguin species and is the only one with yellow eyes. Very rare Also, the crested penguin (Fiordland crested penguin) only lives on the southwest coast of the South Island and offers pretty “eyebrows” yellow shaped crest.

Categories: Wildlife

Family Travel Tips

New Zealand as a whole is a very family friendly travel destination. In fact millions of families from all over the world come here every year. Our lodge is equipped and fully catered for families of all sizes and ages. There is no shortage of stuff to do to keep kids entertained, but there are a few things that you should consider depending on your itinerary.

Travel Light

travel lightThis is especially the case when you are travelling long distances. If you are staying with us then you can take advantage of the fact that clothes can be washed and dried within a day. We once had a family of 6 arrive with 5 suitcases. The following year when they returned, they only had 2 items of luggage and their entire travel experience was made so much more pleasant.

A lot of stuff can also be rented making it less likely for things to be lost or damaged on a plane. As much as possible we recommend renting activity equipment. We can help with sourcing everything you need for your itinerary anywhere on the islands.

Pack According To Activities.

You will obviously want to bring your own hiking boots and gear, but if you plan to go skiing then there is no shortage of rental companies on both the North and South Island. Where families can really make a difference is with baby equipment. We can offer things like highchairs and travel cots, so no need to try get those on planes and cars.

Most people tend to travel with a lightweight umbrella stroller which is ideal for the airport experience.

However, if you plan on doing some short hikes then these umbrella strollers are not always the best solution. We would always recommend looking at some the best jogging strollers available here. These are far better for navigating along uneven surfaces. We keep a few of these in storage and you can hire one directly with us if you want to avoid buying one.

Pack For All Weather Conditions

This is probably one of the biggest obstacles for people travelling to NZ. Unlike our neighbours to the west, the NZ climate is very different and it is quite common to have cool and wet summer days. We always recommend travellers to pack layers that can be easily taken off as the weather can drastically change from morning to afternoon.

While it is generally very mild here we do get quite a bit of rain. Also, the climate from the tip of the North to the South is very different and ranges from subtropical to alpine.

If you are doing a large tour of the island with your kids then ensure that you hve enough clothes to keep warm and cool.

Rent A Car

While a lot of backpackers tend to travel by bus, for families we always recommend getting a car. It is so much easier to travel around and get to places at times that suit you and your kids. Being reliant on strict timetables and limited space can be very inconvenient for families so avoid hardship and disappointment.

We can help you with finding the best car rental deals, so just use the contact page above and we will take care of the rest.

 

Categories: Family Travel Tips

Best Hiking Trips

A spectacular nature and carefully protected, that is the best way to describe NZ. No wonder that many films have been shot here. So if want to go hiking in a film set you try… here’s our 5 favorite New Zealand walks!

Abel Tasman Coast Track

A circuit of three to five days (51 km) on the coastal trail of the Abel Tasman National Park, you walk, as a Robinson, along beaches fringed by lush vegetation, bypass turquoise lagoons; it is this coastal hiking trek that is most popular. If you are tempted by a taste of paradise, do not hesitate; the coastal path at Abel Tasman is passable year-round.

The accommodation along the trail works on reservation: you must book shelters and campsites in advance, and throughout the year. Markets in a day are free of charge. For a taste, the 2-3 hours from Tonga Bay to Bark Bay is very beautiful; otherwise, you can also stop on a beach and enjoy.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

18 km through volcanic are, alpine vegetation and forest of the Tongariro National Park. Considered the “best day hike in New Zealand”, the Alpine Crossing through a volcanic landscape is breathtaking – an active crater, smoking chimneys and beautiful colored Lakes.

Although theoretically feasible in one day, this grueling course should not be approached lightly. The weather can change from one moment to the other, equip yourself accordingly. If you are not in the best of physical condition, grant 2 days and spend the night at the Ketatahi hut. The trail is accessible from Mangatepopo Rd, near the SH47 and Ketetahi Rd, near the SH46.

Shuttles serve the 2 ends of the route. You must however first book and complete the hike in time because the bus does not wait for latecomers.

Milford Track

Milford SoundFive days (54 km) in the rainforest and high reliefs of Milford Sound. This award-winning 53.5 km trail passes by one of the most beautiful scenes in the world. The backpacking season (late October – end April), the number of walkers is contingent (it is imperative to book) and follow a route in 4 days one way. Accommodation is in huts (no camping). You can hike alone or with a guide. For reservations in solo, contact the DOC of Te Anau or book online on www.doc.govt.nz.

Queen Charlotte Track

Three to five days (71 km) to explore the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. This immensely popular trail, which meanders on 71 km of the historic Ship Cove to Anakiwa, passing through private land and reserves in the DOC, reveals a beautiful coastal landscape.

It is well-defined and accessible to people of average physical condition. Can split hiking by taking a taxi, walk along (3 to 5 days) or combine walking and kayaking or cycling. The trail is served by many tour operators and boat companies, allowing you to start and finish where you want, walk, bike or kayak.

Accommodations are never more than a few hours of walking, and boats can carry the luggage along the trail.

The places where you will sleep depend on the distance that you want to travel every day – do your research and book well in advance.

Rakiura Track

Three average walking days are necessary to hike the Rakiura Track (30 km, 37 km, including the sections on road), easy loop, passable year-round and well signposted departing from Oban. The opportunity to see many birds, beaches, and lush vegetation. You must be in good shape but no more.

The scenery is spectacular and it is one of the famous Great Walks, hence the need to reserve well in advance for huts and camping, in any season (online on www.doc.govt.nz or at the information center of the DOC of the Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island).

Categories: Hiking

South Island Skiing

The South Island is home to close to twenty ski resorts on the alpine chain which crosses the island from North to South. The most beautiful are in the region of Central Otago around Queenstown, Arrowtown and Wanaka. These cities are part of the Great Lakes region and the framework is splendid. In the South Island, skiing is practiced in several small stations best chosen depending on its program and weather.

Ski resorts are all outside cities. To stay, you can choose between Queenstown, Arrowtown and Wanaka.

Cardrona

The Cardrona station, 1894m above sea level, is perched in the most impressive mountains in the South Island. The road from Wanaka to the bottom of the slopes takes about 35 minutes, from downtown Queenstown it’s longer (about 1 hour) but it is a spectacular drive.

Ttongarirahis pretty resort with an area of 320 hectares spread over three valleys and an altitude difference of 390 meters offers a very high quality with tracks intended for skiers and snowboarders beginners and average. It has 7 lifts, snowpipe, ski school, equipment rental shops, cafes as well as a medical center. The resort offers various activities and play areas for children.

Note the path is unpaved for 12 km and can be difficult for campers and in the event of snowfall.

Treble Cone

Treble Cone is a resort particularly suitable for skiers and snowboarders of medium-level and experienced. The views from the heights of the stations 1910 m on Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring, as well as the quality of the snow make this resort one of the best in the country.

With an area of 550 acres, it is also the largest ski resort in the South Island. Coveted by snowboarders, it has excellent equipment of half pipes and snowpark. It hosts also several competitions for snowboards. It has a fast chairlift for 6 people, which avoids the long queues in high season.

Activities abound for families with a child ski school, a children’s club for indoor and outdoor activities as well as reserved parking.

Shuttle bus daily from Wanaka and Queenstown during the season.

Waiorau ski area and Snow Park

On the other side of the Valley facing Cadrona Waiorau is one of the few stations to have a cross-country course. It lies between 1200 and 1500 meters above sea level. In the same region is also the Snow Park, a well-equipped technical field where snowboarders and freestylers can have fun.

The Remarkables

The Remarkables station is distributed over three valleys. It has slopes suitable for all levels. But we quickly made the round of trails (only 220 hectares). It offers, in contrast, 500 acres of off-piste. It culminates at almost 2000 meters with a climb of 357 meters and has 7 lifts. On-site you will find a ski rental shop, ski school, half pipe, snowpark, tubing park, cafes, and restaurants. On the other hand, there is no accommodation.

The station is located 24 km from Queenstown. The access road is very steep.

Christchurch mountainsCoronet Peak

Coronet Peak at low altitude (1220 to 1640 meters) is the nearest to Queenstown station (18 km). The 280-hectare site, highly developed and well equipped, is served by 6 lifts with a climb of 481 m. Track-level will be intermediate and beginner skiers. There are some steep off-trail. This small station has a picnic area, snack shops, daycare, equipment rental, ski school as well as a half pipe, snowpark, tubing park for snowboarders.

Possibility of accommodation on location.

Mt Hutt

Mount Hutt, a hundred kilometers from Christchurch (less than two hours by car) is the largest resort in the region of Canterbury and the best equipped. Located at the foot of the Southern Alps at an altitude of 2086 meters with a vertical drop of 683 m, it offers good conditions of snow and the tracks all levels.

The ski area of 365 hectares is served by 9 lifts. The lower part is reserved for beginners, and the southern slopes to the advanced. At the Summit, there are the Banks Peninsula and off the distance the ocean.

If conditions permit, it is possible to practice cross-country skiing on the north side (North Peak). A helicopter will drop you off at the beginning of the course. Shelter, to get to Methven, the nearest town (26km) where you can enjoy the warm atmosphere of the bars after a long day of skiing. The station access road is not paved for 13 km. On location parking, rental equipment, daycare, restaurant and ski school.

Porter Heights

The Porter Heights is home to a medium-sized station that enjoys good weather conditions. It is located at 1980 meters. The view from the Summit offers a magnificent panorama of the Southern Alps. This station has the longest descent in the southern hemisphere called Big Mama (720 metres), and tracks the steeper of the country (Bluff faces). The site has 5 ski lifts and slopes for all levels.

Heli-skiing

Heliskiing is very widespread in New Zealand. A helicopter drops you off at the top of a vast expanse of Virgin snow as you descend in ski or surf. MtPotts stations (Canterbury region), and the site of the Harris Mountains (region of Otago – Wanaka) offer various Heliskiing options. Expect about $ 650 per day.

We recommend using this site www.snowplanet.co.nz for indepth information about ski and snow conditions.

Categories: skiing

North Island Skiing

There are only four ski resorts on the North Island. In the heart of the island in the national park of Tongariro, Whakapapa (where we are located) and Turoa are the most popular. These two ski resorts are located on each of the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, a volcano still active, and came together recently to form a single station. They attract many skiers and snowboarders.

Whakapapa

NZ MountainsWith an area of 550 acres, 43 tracks (trails and off-trail), 16 lifts and its inflow of 15 000 skiers per hour, Whakapapa, 2300 m on the northeast side of Mount Ruapehu, is the largest ski resort of New Zealand.

It has trails for all levels. You will find restaurants, cafeteria and ski equipment rental. It is possible to stay on-site in many lodges and hotels.

The station has just undergone a full makeover with a new parking space, a new customer service center, and an equipment repair shop. It is also equipped with a snow-park and a half pipe for snowboarders.

Turoa

Turoa located on the southwest side of the volcano Mt Ruapehu offers also 500 hectares of ski slopes but has only 11 lifts. It culminates 2322 metres for an altitude difference of 720 metres. The setting is paradise with surprising views over the unspoiled Valley. In fine weather, it is possible to see in the distance Mt Taranaki on the West coast of the North Island.

The station offers a snow park and a half pipe. It also organizes numerous events for snowboarders.

On the other hand, this station offers no accommodation on-site. The majority of holidaymakers are housed in Ohakune (at 10 km) where the view of the snowy mountains is magnificent. After a day of skiing, you can relax or continue the evening in bars in the village.

Beware, these stations are sometimes overloaded in high season.

Maunganui Ski field

It is the only station of Mount Taranaki on the West coast of the North Island. It culminates in 1680m and has 4 ski lifts. The lower part of the station is reserved for beginners or average skiers while the upper part is intended for experienced skiers and snowboarders. The resort offers stunning views of the Tasman Sea.

Categories: skiing

Skiing Tips For NZ

With the approach of winter and the first snow, the ski resorts are preparing for the new season, which starts in June. Winter sports enthusiasts will soon give heart to joy on the slopes. Also enjoy a winter break (or summer!) to fill the lungs with oxygen and to discover the heart of the most beautiful landscapes of New Zealand.

Certainly New Zealand resorts do not compete in size with European ones. They are less extensive and exceed barely 2000 meters of altitude. Their level of difficulty is slightly lower also. That said, they offer an exceptional natural setting that will seduce all lovers of skiing and snowboarding looking for exoticism and authenticity. New Zealand is recognized as a destination of choice for the quality of its powder (and its opportunities for off-piste skiing).

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Thus, from the heights of Mount Ruapehu (2322 m) in the center of the North Island, landscapes offer a magnificent panorama to the contrasting colors between the peaks of the surrounding mountains covered with a white coat, black volcanic rock, emerald blue lakes, desert colors gold Tongariro and off the forest and the hills of a pure green. On the southwest coast of the North Island, at the top of the slopes of Mount Taranaki (2517 m), the ocean stretches out of sight… a unique decor, which combines sea and mountain!

There are approximately 26 ski resorts in New Zealand including about 20 on the South Island.

These resorts are divided into two categories: the “commercial” ones operated by large groups or families and associative ones (club ski areas).

The first offer better infrastructure and better customer service. They feature modern facilities (snow, snow groomers to winch lift and snow cannons, half pipe, etc…) and have larger ski areas. They generally attract an international clientele.

The second, more numerous, are managed by non-profit associations. They are smaller, their infrastructure is a bit antiquated and tracks are sometimes less well maintained, but they offer a more friendly and family setting. They are suitable especially for those who wish to escape the tumults of the resorts and prefer the authenticity. They also apply more affordable rates, generally in relation to the level of local life. Note that access can be difficult, roads are not always very suitable according to the sites.

New Zealand resorts differ from European ones in their organizations. Rare are those who have accommodation on site. It’s down into the Valley for accommodation, and takes a bus or other vehicle to get there. Companies have in general the entire station, i.e. the lifts, restaurant, cafeteria, ski school, rental shops and photographers. It is possible in some stations to rent on-site: your ski or snowboard equipment and even your winter sports clothes (anorak, jacket, trousers, gloves, hat, glasses…).

Average associative stations have 3 lifts and commercial stations have between five and ten lifts. The prices vary around 90/98 NZ$ per adult and 50/55 NZ$ per child for the day, according to the areas.

Stations slopes are suitable for all levels and will satisfy beginners and experts. Some stations prefer skiing for families with accessibility to all altitude. The trails are not marked with numbers and there is no red. Green tracks are intended for beginners, the blue slopes to average skiers and black for advanced skiers. Warning tracks are not marked but the risks of straying are low.

A weather report is at your disposal every morning in the tourist offices. It is recommended to consult before leaving for stations and open slopes, the quality of the snow and the temperature.

The ski season extends from mid-June to early October on the island until mid-November in the North Island and the South, the best months for snow being July and August.

 

Categories: skiing