I think there is no greater honour than showing people around your home country. I was lucky enough to do this recently on our 15 day multi-active adventure to New Zealand. What I wanted to do was to showcase and highlight some of the best adventures on offer, but make it all inclusive for all sorts of people as well as showing people a few kiwi secrets which make this wonderful country unique and special.
We welcomed everyone in to the City of Sails, Auckland and some chose to arrive the day before the trip was due to start, to give them some extra time to get over the jetlag. This was a perfect opportunity to get out on the gorgeous Auckland Harbour sailing on an Americas Cup yacht. Other people chose to relax and take a ferry trip across to Devonport and the many restaurants on offer on the North Shore.
The next day was a short flight up to the Bay Of Islands. This is the modern birthplace of New Zealand in Waitangi where the treaty was signed between the native maori and pakeha (white man from England) so we took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in some history. The afternoon after the mandatory Sauvignon Blanc (this became a theme of the trip) we boarded The Rock for a 20 hour trip out on this converted car ferry. We anchored up in a secluded bay, watched the epic sunset and then after an amazing dinner, went for a nighttime paddle to see the phosphorescence in the water from our boat. The stars shone brightly with almost no light pollution. It was out of this world. The next morning, some of the guests were fishing, others just enjoying a freshly brewed coffee. We went snorkeling for kina (sea egg) in the crystal clear waters.
Further down country after passing through New Zealand’s Capitol City, Wellington we boarded the ferry to the South Island. A hour out of port, we travelled through the Marlborough Sounds and its stunning myriad of bush clad hills, miles from the nearest road. New Zealand offers escapism not onto for tourists, but also for kiwis (term for New Zealanders), although literally a small flightless bird). The afternoon we met up with my sister and celebrated one of the guests birthdays at Wairau Valley Winery and left with another couple of bottles of wine for our dinner that evening in Kaikoura overlooking the ocean and mountains eating fish n chips on the beach.
Kaikoura is the home to some wonderful adventures. Swimming with dolphins and whale watching. The dolphin swimmers were treated to calm and perfect conditions and pods of literally hundreds of dusky dolphin. This is a small dolphin native to this area of New Zealand. Off we went, stopping for the mandatory 3 scoop ice cream on our way to Mt Cook. The weather had been wonderful to this point and again we were treated to magic views over Lake Takapo and Pukaki and all the way up to the Hermitage right beside Mount Cook.
The following morning was a different story. Rain by the bucket load! Our planned hike was cancelled and we made for New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown. Despite some trips being cancelled in the morning, we arrived in time to take a ride on Shotover Jet through the narrow gorges of the Shotover River. We took a short trip from our hotel overlooking the lake, down to the TSS Earnslaw, an old steamer ship across the Water Peak Station for a farm tour and stunning meal at the homestead.
Milford Sound is always a highlight and we had planned to fly the 50 minutes. Again the weather was not quite as good as it could be so doe decided to stay in Queenstown and have a day exploring and relaxing and others joined me for the gorgeous drive to Milford Sound. We hit it about as gorgeous as I have ever seen it with clear skies and all the waterfalls running. And best of all, the flights started in the afternoon, so at least the guests could take the stunning return flight while I drove back.
New Zealand is well known for it’s pies. A necessary stop was made at Arrowtown pie shop on the way to Wanaka and further on to our meeting point for our only river trip on this Water By Nature Adventure. Our shuttle was waiting for us on the side of the river. A helicopter. We flew in over jungle clad hills and beneath towering glaciers. Little wonder they filmed Lord Of The Rings here, it sure is dramatic. Rog and Dazz, prepared us amazing hors d’ouvres and dinner. The next day we were treated to some fun whitewater, but also some just stunning scenery. We arrived at camp and took a hot shower! Heaven.
The West Coast road is gorgeous and we made our way up through Fox Glacier, where we hiked up to the terminal face and some of the guests jumped out of a perfectly good plane. They had stunning views over Mt Cook and almost to the east coast from 16000 feet. We continued on to Hokitika and enjoyed a whitebait pizza for dinner and some pretty stunning shopping for pounamu (greenstone or jade)
As we reached the last few days of our adventure it was onward and upward to Abel Tasman National Park for a couple of days seas kayaking around golden sand beaches, seals and stunning bird-life in this gorgeous park. We camped on the beach with just the sound of waves to rock us to sleep. Once back in Marahau, we had a gorgeous final meal together as a group and reflected on the many highlights of the trip.
Travelling so much for a living and escorting guests all over the world on trips, it was wonderful to return to where my passion for travel and adventure started all those years ago and share some of the great places with a great group of people. I hope to share this wonderful country with a few more folks in February 2016.
by Hamish McMaster
Hamish McMaster is the Water By Nature owner. He has spent the past 25 years exploring and playing on the world's great rivers. He still loves nothing more than getting out there and sharing adventures.
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