I’d traveled 8,000 miles by air from the comfortable confines of home in America to a remote Pacific island nation 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia. I’d never before left the North American continent. I find myself on a little wooden platform built off the side of the historic Kawarau suspension bridge, 143 feet above the swirling clear waters of the Kawarau River, just outside of Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. A large group of onlookers watches from a viewing platform below. My life is in the hands of the AJ Hackett Bungy crew, whose members are now wrapping a towel tightly around my ankles. As I steady myself on the platform and try to appear brave, I watch with interest as one fellow tries clumsily to thread the sling that’s attached to the end of the bungy chord through my shoelace. He turns inquisitively to his co-worker and asks, “Hey mate, is this how we do this?”
New Zealand is not completely defined by the friendly and whimsical nature of its citizens (known as Kiwis), nor by the sensational nature of its homespun participatory sport creations. Adventures of a more cerebral and picturesque sort abound as the South Island of New Zealand is home to some of the world’s most stunning scenery. A strong national conservation ethic, a dearth of heavy industry, and sparse population density combine to frame the dramatic southern alps, mysterious lakes, lush rainforests and glacier-fed rivers into one of nature’s more dramatic picture postcards. The beauty of it all is that, unlike Yellowstone National Park on Labor Day, one gets the feeling that one has the place to oneself.
The Milford Track is rightfully considered one of the world’s great walks (tramps, in Kiwi parlance). Lacking the worldwide name recognition of the Milford, however, proves a blessing for the neighboring Routeburn Track. A shorter hike than the Milford (three days instead of four), the Routeburn tends to be less heavily traveled, a feature especially evident at the overnight huts. There the Department of Conservation rewards the rigors of the day’s tramp by thoughtfully providing hot showers, drying rooms, bunk-style sleeping accommodations, and kitchen facilities. No less dramatic a visual experience than the Milford by most accounts, the Routeburn features a steady dose of alpine scenery, skirts the mouths of plunging waterfalls, and traverses mountain lakes. I found the expanse of starry sky draping the surrounding peaks above the second night’s Falls Hut awe-inspiring.
New Zealand’s wonders aren’t confined to those on land. Off the coast of Kaikoura, north of Christchurch, Dusky Dolphins congregate near shore in groups numbering from 75 to 300. Being social animals, they seem more than happy to interrupt their feeding to provide a boatload of wetsuit-clad humans a chance for close aquatic encounters. When a group is sighted, the skipper positions the boat in the oncoming path and advises participants to take to the water. The sight of 200 leaping, pirouetting, twisting, plunging, splashing mammals bearing down upon me was an unforgettable one. Although we were asked not to touch the animals, they certainly drew close enough to hitch a ride. We learned we could capture the attention of these frisky underwater kittens by emitting erratic shrieks, whistles, and melodies. Our swim fins allowed us to remain momentarily competitive as we engaged the dolphins in the downward loop chase, the simple head-to-head race, and an assortment of other aqua-gymnastic stunts. As the group of dolphins moved off en masse, I was left wondering just who entertained who.
New Zealand, privileged by its remoteness, is done justice by a minimum stay of two weeks. Those drawn to remote wilderness and exquisite scenery do not do themselves a disservice by spending all of their time on the South Island. Organized adventure tours, which vary widely in style and content, are an excellent way to experience this outdoor-oriented country efficiently and economically.
.New Zealand, New Zealand Youth Hostels
A warm welcome is only the start as you enjoy our spacious Edwardian Lodge overlooking the majestic Whanganui River....
$25 Per Night
Asure Casa Bella Motel
.New Zealand, New Zealand Hotels & Resorts
The Casa Bella Motel is located three hour drive or 45-minute flight from Auckland. The hotel is close to Opua Forest, Christ church, and Flagstaff Hill. ...
$193 Per Night
Asure Macys Motor Inn And Confe
.New Zealand, New Zealand Hotels & Resorts
The ASURE Macys Motor Inn and Conference Centre is located 10 minutes to Mount Maunganui on new expressway, Bethlehem, Mills Reef Winery, less than 5 minutes ...
$160 Per Night
AJ Hackett Bungy Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand Bungee Jumping
AJ Hackett Bungy is the world pioneer of commercial Bungy Jumping. It all started in Queenstown, New Zealand in 1988, and since then they have become an established World Leader in the Tourism Industry. Bungy jumping is a must do in NZ!...
Starting at 150 Per Person
Aqua Air Adventure
Auckland, New Zealand Hang Gliding
Hang-gliding. Land Yachting, Hovercraft, Yike Bikes...
Akaroa Guided Kayak Safari
Christchurch, New Zealand Kayaking & Canoeing
Only 80 minuets from Christchurch, New Zealand, Akaroa Guided Kayak Safari gives you the exciting adventure you dream of! Your qualified guide will help you throughout the safari, ensuring that your comfort and safety is always his top priority....
Starting at 99 Per Person
Kiwi Dundee Adventures Ltd. New Zealand
Coromandel, New Zealand Eco Tours
Doug & Jan are two fun loving genuine 'Kiwi' Guides.Doug Johansen is regarded as one of NZ's foremost guides with a wealth of knowledge on the natural world. His feats earned him the 'Kiwi Dundee' title in 1988, the Queens medal for services to Natur...
Starting at $230 Per Person
Queen Charlotte Wilderness Park
Marlborough, New Zealand Eco Tours
Private native wildlife sanctuary and island in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. Miles of private walking tracks, beaches, gold mines, scuba, snorkelling, fishing, wilderness, nature....
$100 Per Night
Bush & Beyond guided conservation walks
Kahurangi Park, New Zealand Wildlife & Safari Tours
The original operator in Kahurangi National Park. New Zealand's most diverse wilderness park. Largest variety of plant species, rare birds and scenery from alpine to coastal. Trips 1 to 8 days, all ages and fitness levels....
$105 Per Trip
Queenstown Wine Trail - wine tours New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand Wine Tasting
First time tasters or wine connoisseurs join us for a full afternoon of wine tasting, just a short journey from Queenstown this relaxed personalised tour takes in a selection of our finest boutique wineries. Operating daily deparures at 12.30pm....
Starting at 129 Per Person
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