Beginning in Auckland, North Island, we’ll first focus on observing migratory, endemic and rare birds of the west coast before heading to the central plateau to a podocarp forest in search of birds, insects and plants. Crossing to South Island we now explore the waters of Malborough Sounds before heading to Kaikoura for a pelagic trip and from there we go over Arthur’s Pass and down the wild, wet west coast! During our day exploring Mount Cook National Park we’ll look for the rare Black Stilt among other wildlife, before spending two nights on pristine Stewart Island, where Kaka, Weka, Bellbird and parakeets will be among our finds! Visits to Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound and Dunedin ensure plenty more highlights on this packed tour before it’s time to return home.
Tucked away in the southern rim of the Pacific, New Zealand is a land with an enchanting and refreshing nature. Whilst a morning may be greeted high in majestic mountain valleys by hearing the discreet scuttle of a skink beneath alpine shrubs, the afternoon may be spent on the sea, watching gliding albatrosses and porpoising fur seals.
New Zealand has a very rich and intriguing natural heritage which, when explored in the context of the beauty of the forests, mountains, coasts and wildlife, cannot help but captivate. The native birds, other wildlife and plants are diverse and unique, having evolved without the influence of land mammals since the island’s isolation from Gondwana. Many, though, have become extinct or threatened since the arrival of humans and their accompanying menagerie of animal and plant pests. However, these threats have strengthened the nation’s present-day commitment to conservation, deepening both the locals’ and visitors’ appreciation of this relatively clean, spacious country and its very special wildlife.
Our natural history journey begins in Auckland, an area characterised by water, volcanoes and islands. On the west coast we will watch Australasian Gannets soaring in towards their scattered rock outcrop colonies. Within a few hours’ drive we will be on the east coast, observing congregations of migratory and endemic birds feeding on the silt flats of Miranda. We will also enjoy a visit to picturesque Tiritiri Matangi Island, to enjoy the fullness of birdsong in regenerating forest, including that of such reintroduced rarities as the Saddleback, Stitchbird, Whitehead, Little-spotted Kiwi and Takahe.
The central plateau of the North Island will share geothermal secrets with us as we walk through a valley of boiling mud and water at Waimangu, and in a podocarp rainforest at Pureora. In the mist at the break of dawn we may be lucky to hear the haunting call of the endangered Kokako, and encounter a diversity of other birds, insects and plant species. Not far away is Tongariro, New Zealand’s first national park and a place of great spiritual significance to the indigenous Maori people. The park offers us a wonderful perspective of these volcanic landscapes, and the conservation issues that affect the area, as we walk amongst a subalpine flora and enjoy the spectacular mountain backdrop.
Kapiti Island lies off the west coast near Wellington, and is home to a wide range of endemic rarities. During one special night on the island we will seek out the endangered Little-spotted Kiwi, and look for the native owl, the Morepork (or Ruru), while enjoying further close encounters with Kaka and Weka.
On the way to the South Island, we may encounter species of albatross, shearwater and petrel, as well as dolphins, in Cook Strait. Then we will explore the waters of the Marlborough Sounds aboard a private charter vessel, before travelling further down the coast to Kaikoura, where snow-capped mountains reach to the sea. Here we will venture offshore once again, in search of Sperm Whales, Hector’s and Dusky Dolphins, and a fine selection of seabirds.
Our journey now takes us over the main divide via Arthur’s Pass, a route once used by the Maori people. We will then travel down the wild and wet west coast, beneath avenues of lush green rainforest, searching for the rare Westland Black Petrel and Fiordland Crested Penguin. The contrast of the west to the vast rolling Otago landscape of schist rock, tussock land and clear turquoise lakes, is striking. Next we will head for the heights and grandeur of Mount Cook National Park, and walk amongst alpine vegetation alive with clicking crickets as we search for the rare Black Stilt. Two nights on the almost pristine Stewart Island will allow us time to watch the Brown Kiwi in its natural environment, as well as the Kaka, Weka, Bellbird and parakeets. At sea fly a number of seabirds, including Shy Albatrosses and Fairy Prions, and in Paterson Inlet we may see shags, rare Yellow-eyed Penguins and dolphins. Back on the mainland, we will then be enticed by the glacially sculptured mountains and valleys of Fiordland National Park. The drive through to Milford Sound offers spectacular scenery as well as opportunities to seek out some unique endemic bird species, including the Yellowhead, Kea and Rock Wren; an optional boat cruise along the fiord, beneath its steep cliffs and waterfalls, is awe-inspiring.
Finally we arrive in Dunedin, the ‘wildlife capital’, where we will cruise around Taiaroa Head, the only mainland breeding site of the Northern Royal Albatross. With a wingspan of three metres, these seabirds are certainly impressive as they soar over cliffs dotted with nests of Spotted Shags and the rare Stewart Island Shags. Cruising on, past rocky shelves of lounging New Zealand Fur Seals, we will sail back down the harbour, towards the city. A magical way indeed to draw to a close our rich and diverse discovery of New Zealand’s wildlife treasures.
• Watch Australasian Gannets soaring in to their scattered rock colonies
• Saddleback, Stitchbird, & Takahē on Tiritiri Matangi Island
• Listen for the haunting call of the Kōkako
• Visit spectacular Tongariro, a place of great significance to the Māori people
• Little Spotted Kiwi on Kapiti Island
• Encounter albatrosses, shearwaters & petrels crossing Cook Strait to South Island
• Hector’s & Dusky Dolphins, plus seabirds on boat trip from Kaikoura
• Look for rare Westland Black Petrel & Fiordland Crested Penguin
• Visit Mount Cook National Park & enjoy Fiordland’s stunning glaciated scenery
• Watch Brown Kiwis on Stewart Island, plus Shy Albatross & Yellow-eyed Penguins
• Look for Yellowhead, Kea & Rock Wren, near Milford Sound
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Présente le mardi et vendredi toute la journée
Sun 31st Oct - Sun 21st Nov 2021- 9.486 euros
Sun 30th Oct - Sun 20th Nov 2022- 9.486 euros
- Flights from London
- Accommodation: We stay in a range of quality hotels, motels and lodges, generally with private facilities, except on Kapiti and Stewart Islands where accommodation is more basic, with shared facilities.
- Food:All meals are included in the price.
* These tours are operated by Naturetrek (ABTA Y6206) for which Nature et Terroir acts as agent.
“Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays in this brochure are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed in this brochure. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLcertificate”
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Mark graduated in Botany from Otago University and is one of New Zealand's leading natural history guides. During his 7-year employment by the NZ National Parks and Reserves Service in southern New Zealand, he founded one of the country's first specialist nature tour companies. In 1988, he and his wife, Marina, established Nature Quest New Zealand, specialising in nature, ornithological and botanical tours. Mark has a wide and in-depth knowledge of his country's natural history, his interest in, and love of, people guaranteeing tours that are both enjoyable and educational. A veteran of over 150 nature tours in New Zealand, Mark's guiding philosophy is to foster a better understanding and appreciation of New Zealand's natural heritage.
Please note that the itinerary below offers our planned programme of excursions. However, adverse weather & other local considerations can necessitate some re-ordering of the programme during the course of the tour, though this will always be done to maximise best use of the time and weather conditions available.
Days 1 - 2
Our scheduled flight departs from London Heathrow, bound for Auckland in New Zealand. Day 2 quickly passes as we cross the various time zones.
We will arrive at Auckland International Airport this morning. On arrival we will be met by our New Zealand guide and naturalist and we will then transfer to our hotel. For those still with energy to spare we will arrange a gentle introduction to the west coast. Leaving the bustle of the city behind, we will watch Australasian Gannets soaring in towards their dotted rock outcrop colonies, before a relaxed walk in an area of rainforest rounds off our first day. Others might prefer to spend the remainder of the day at leisure to recover from the long flight or to do some local sightseeing in Auckland. The city is built on numerous extinct volcanoes and is commonly referred to as the “City of Sails”, having more boats per capita than any other city. Tonight will be spent in our hotel which is situated to the north of Auckland, where an early night will no doubt be popular!
Tiritiri Matangi Island
Tiritiri Matangi is an island sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf, just north of Auckland and reached by boat from Whangaparaoa Peninsula. Many of New Zealand’s rare and endangered species now only remain on islands such as this, as the habitat can be protected from the ravages of rats, possums and stoats. Tiritiri Matangi is the site of an ambitious restoration project which started 18 years ago, and already the fruits of the conservationists’ efforts are being appreciated by many. This small island situated in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park has no introduced animals, despite having been a lighthouse station for many years. It is now a nature reserve, much of which has been replanted and a number of rare New Zealand birds have been reintroduced. We will have a day visit to this picturesque island to enjoy birdsong in regenerated forest, including that of reintroduced rare species such as the Saddleback, Stitchbird, Kōkako, Whitehead and Red-crowned Parakeet. Also on the island are abundant Tui and Bellbirds, the unique Takahē, and the very rare Brown Teal. Sailing by ferry to the island we may see Australasian Gannets, Black Petrels, Cook’s Petrel and Buller’s Shearwaters. We will return to our hotel in the late afternoon.
Miranda Wildlife Sanctuary
Within an hour’s drive south-east of Auckland lies the Miranda Wildlife Sanctuary, an extensive area of tidal mudflats on the Firth of Thames and a fine feeding ground for many wading birds, which migrate from the tundra of the arctic regions for the northern winter. This will provide one of the best opportunities to observe both migratory and endemic wading birds. Among the thousands of Eastern Bar-tailed Godwits on the shellbanks or silt flats, we may view many Knots and South Island Pied Oystercatchers, the rare endemic Wrybill, the endangered New Zealand Dotterel, Turnstone, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Caspian Tern, Black-billed Gull and Sacred Kingfisher. This first full day in the field will also enable us to become acquainted with some of the commoner New Zealand birds which will become almost daily sights such as White-faced Heron, Paradise Shelduck, Spur-winged Plover, Pukeko, Australasian Harrier and Welcome Swallow.
We travel south towards Lake Rotorua, where New Zealand Dabchick, New Zealand Scaup and Little Black Shags can easily be watched from the shoreline. Rotorua is situated in the central plateau of the North Island, a region of much geothermal activity and a centre of Māori spirituality, culture and traditions spanning centuries. We will walk to see evidence of relatively recent activity at Waimangu, a volcanic valley of boiling cauldron lakes. Birds to look out for today include Tui, Bellbird, New Zealand Robin, New Zealand Scaup, Little Pied Cormorant, and Black-billed and Red-billed Gulls.
Nearby, the large Lake Taupo fills the crater of a volcano which erupted many thousands of years ago, spilling lava and debris over a huge area of the South Pacific. Today, Taupo is a popular recreational lake probably best known for its trout fisheries but, like Rotorua, the underground geothermal activity here is evidenced by numerous hot pools emitting clouds of steam, and a constant supply of naturally heated water for our hotel rooms!
This morning we undertake a pre-dawn start, in order to experience the haunting call of the rare, endangered Kōkako in its natural, misty rainforest environment. The Kōkako belongs to the family Callaeidae, a very ancient family which does not appear to be related to any other in the world. Pureora Forest Park contains one of the finest areas of podocarp forest in the country, as well as a large variety of native invertebrates, like the curious Peripatus, and numerous birds. The dense stands of fine native trees include the dominant podocarp conifers Kahikatea, Rimu, Matai, Miro and Totara. We will have most of morning to gain more insight into the nature and conservation of this special forest, and to enjoy the sounds of Kaka, Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Tomtit, New Zealand Robin, Long-tailed Cuckoo, New Zealand Falcon, Whitehead and Grey Warbler.
We leave Lake Taupo and drive south to Tongariro National Park. En route we look for the endemic New Zealand Fernbird and will also hope to find the beautiful little Shining Cuckoo in roadside forests. Another diversion will take us into the region of fast flowing streams and rolling hills much beloved by another highly specialised and increasingly rare New Zealand endemic, the Blue Duck. With luck we may find several pairs of this Antipodean version of the Torrent Duck and could even repeat the success of our 2003 group by seeing newly hatched ducklings.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park was New Zealand’s first national park, and is a place of great spiritual significance to the indigenous Māori people. The park offers us a wonderful perspective of these volcanic landscapes and the conservation issues that affect the area. We will walk amongst the subalpine forest and tussocklands on the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu, the North Island’s highest peak which may be more familiar internationally as the setting for Mordor in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. The adjacent Mt Ngauruhoe was 'Mount Doom' in the films. During our exploration of the area we may see the endemic New Zealand Fernbird and Rifleman against a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Today we will begin the day with a morning drive south off the volcanic plateau. We will arrive at Paraparaumu beach and take a short boat trip across the island sanctuary of Kapiti Island. Here we will be able to enjoy further opportunities to view Takahē, Saddleback, and Kaka. By night we will seek out the endangered Little Spotted Kiwi, and New Zealand’s only native owl, the Morepork. Accommodation is in basic lodge accommodation with private rooms but shared bathroom facilities.
Our journey continues southwards through to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, where we will embark on a ferry crossing to the South Island. The drive south takes us across the fertile farming area where sheep dominate, although increasingly this area is gaining a reputation for its wine growing and horticulture. Three hours on the ferry, however, is at times not enough for all the wildlife watching to be done and the trip will be an ideal opportunity for those interested in seabirds to add to their list! Wandering and Shy Albatrosses often pass by, as do Northern Giant Petrels, Arctic Skuas, and many shearwaters. Cape Petrel, Fluttering Shearwater, Fairy Prion and Westland Black Petrel are all possibilities. Towards the entrance to the Marlborough Sounds Little Blue Penguins and Spotted Shags can often be seen and sometimes dolphins. If we are lucky we might glimpse Bottlenose, Dusky or Common Dolphins and perhaps even a Pilot Whale.
The waters and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds will be our playground this morning. A charter vessel will carry us through Queen Charlotte Sound, frequented by hundreds of Fluttering Shearwaters, to a lone rocky islet, where a small colony of the rare King Shag breeds and roosts. Close by lies a meeting place of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, where we will be able to see several pelagic species at close quarters as they swarm around this rich feeding ground. Possibilities here include Blue Penguin, Fairy Prion and Common Diving Petrel. Before returning to Picton, we will land to introduce ourselves to the curious Weka. Mid-afternoon will see us heading south down the east coast to Kaikoura, where we will stay for two nights.
Kaikoura is a breathtaking place where snow-iced mountains reach down to a turquoise sea. The continental shelf drops abruptly very close to shore, resulting in upwellings of nutrients from the sea’s depths, attracting a rich and abundant marine life.
An excellent opportunity for bird lovers and generalists alike is the morning seabird excursion, where one can see flocks of cawing albatrosses (4-5 species), together with numerous petrels and shearwaters, just metres from the boat. Sightings could include seabirds such as Wandering, Black-browed and Shy Albatrosses, Giant Petrels, Cape Petrels, Westland Black Petrels and thousands of Hutton's Shearwaters, an enigmatic shearwater which is known to breed at only one place in the hills behind Kaikoura!
Today’s afternoon will be at leisure, where one may choose to stroll along the Kaikoura Peninsula or perhaps undertake one of the regular whale viewing trips which leave several times a day from the town. This excursion is not included in the tour price and will cost approximately NZ$145. Sperm Whales are seen on most outings at this season, and other possible Cetacea may include Dusky Dolphins, which often accompany the vessels into port, Orcas and even the occasional Blue Whale or Southern Right Whale.
Arthur’s Pass National Park
Our journey carries us across the vastness of the Canterbury Plains, and over the main divide via Arthur’s Pass, a route once used by Māori. This route across the Southern Alps will introduce us to the vegetation and birds found in the mountainous regions of South Island. Black-fronted Terns are regularly seen on the flats leading up to the pass, and in Arthur’s Pass National Park we may encounter the cheeky Kea looking for scraps around the settlement. We will stop overnight at a coastal motel at Hokitika.
This morning we will have a leisurely start, travelling down the wild and wet west coast on avenues framed by the green lushness of rainforest. Amongst this landscape is our next stop, the Ōkārito Lagoon, where in gentle wetlands Fernbirds may be found, as may the striking White Heron, or Great White Egret, together with Royal Spoonbills. We will visit the Fox Glacier in the Westland National Park and if time, may also venture into the nearby forest, to enjoy its lushness and perhaps see the Brown Creeper.
The Westland National Park is home to approximately 60 glaciers, the most famous being the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. These glaciers are unique in the world for their location in the middle of the rainforest and so close to the sea. Kakas and Keas also occur in the National Park. We will spend the evening looking for the endangered Ōkārito Brown Kiwi.
Near the peaceful Lake Moeraki, a delightful walk to the coast through a tract of superlative forest, brings us onto a golden beach, where there is a northern breeding colony of the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin. These entertaining birds are strictly protected but from a safe distance we can sit and watch the adults braving the crashing breakers to bring food for their hidden youngsters.
Ascending Haast Pass through the Southern Beech forests may provide us with further opportunities to view forest species. We drive along the Haast pass through the Alps to Wanaka then head north again through the Lindis Pass. Thereafter we leave the forest journeying through the vast rolling Otago landscape of schist rock, and the tussockland and clear turquoise lakes of the McKenzie Basin. Birding possibilities include Great White Egret and maybe Royal Spoonbill as well as numerous Black Swans, Paradise Shelduck and other wildfowl.
The braided rivers in this region are the habitat of the endangered Black Stilt, and later in the day we will look for these rare waders along with Black-fronted Tern, Banded Dotterel, Grey Duck and a range of inland waterfowl.
We will spend the afternoon in the vicinity of Twizel and head towards the grandness of the snow-topped peaks of Mount Cook National Park. Mount Cook’s visual impact is better described by its Māori name “Aoraki” or “Cloud Piercer”. Driving alongside the enormous crater Lake Pukaki we draw ever closer to the magnificent snow-capped peaks which comprise this montane National Park and include not only Mount Cook itself, at 3754 metres the highest peak in New Zealand, but 20 other mountains over 3,000 metres in height. The scenery is stunning and a well maintained road facilitates easy access to the very heart of the mountains. Our walk amongst the myriad of alpine shrubs, grasses and herbs in the vicinity of Aoraki, will be punctuated with the clicking of alpine crickets. Today, the birds are secondary to the grandeur of the scenery but even so a number of high altitude species such as Rifleman and Kea may be seen near Mount Cook. Investigation of the wetlands at the northern end of Lake Pukaki could produce Wrybill, Banded Dotterel, and even possibly a Black Stilt among the numerous Pied Stilts. We may also be fortunate to catch a glimpse of the New Zealand endemic falcon overhead, aptly named the New Zealand Falcon. We will stay in accommodation close to Lake Ohau tonight.
Today will be occupied with a long, but interesting, drive to Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city, where we catch a late afternoon flight to the almost pristine Stewart Island. If conditions permit we will head out later on an evening excursion, by boat and foot, to observe the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi in its natural habitat, a remarkable experience which will mean a very late return to our hotel in the early hours of the morning but is one of the great attractions of a visit to Stewart Island. It is claimed that there are more Kiwis than humans on Stewart Island, a ratio unique to this island, but even here it is very difficult to find these nocturnal creatures and it is only the local knowledge of the guide which enables visitors to stand on a remote isolated beach to watch in awe as one or more Kiwis emerge from cover to pick their way along the tide-line debris.
Stewart Island is an example of what mainland New Zealand must once have been like and even around the settlement of Oban, Tuis are abundant, Kakas fearlessly inhabit the gardens and Redcrowned Parakeets chatter in the trees. Introduced Redpolls, numerous throughout South Island, are particularly common on Stewart Island often feeding on the grass in front of our hotel.
A day marine charter to Paterson Inlet and into the South Pacific will invigorate us with opportunities to observe a rich diversity of seabirds. Among the bays of the inlet we will scan for two very rare penguin species: the Yellow-eyed Penguin and the Fiordland Crested Penguin. Out at sea we may encounter several species of albatross, including Shy, Black-browed and Buller’s, and the Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Great Skua, and Common Diving Petrel. We are also likely to come across large numbers of Stewart Island Shags, which breed nearby on the small outer islands, Blue Penguins, Fur Seals and possibly New Zealand Sealion. A treat awaits us on Ulva Island; a bird sanctuary rich in lush podocarp forest, and ringing with the sounds of Kaka, Tui, Bellbird, New Zealand Robin and Redcrowned Parakeet. Flocks of Brown Creeper may be seen here and we have another chance of finding a Mōhua, or Yellowhead, as some of these rare birds have been released on Ulva. The Stewart Island Weka is also a popular resident which will probably greet our arrival at the jetty.
Should conditions have precluded a Kiwi excursion the previous evening, we will try again tonight.
Fiordland National Park
We fly back to Invercargill and head into the glacially sculpted mountains and valleys of the Fiordland National Park. Our base for two nights will be a motel in the picturesque Te Anau Downs. This is an area of great natural beauty but there are also some interesting birds to be found in the vicinity of our accommodation including the often elusive Long-tailed Cuckoo.
Beyond Te Anau we will explore the evergreen Southern Beech Forests of the Eglington Valley. In these forests, which bear little or no resemblance to those of the northern hemisphere, dwell the Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Kaka, and the now threatened Mōhua (Yellowhead). We will stay in Te Anau for two nights.
Fiordland National Park
A drive along the Eglinton River to the Hollyford Valley will delight us with mountain scenery. In this valley we will seek out some unique endemic species, including the ubiquitous and cheeky Kea, and if we are very lucky, the tiny Rock Wren, which is more at home high in the mountains. Fiordland is famous for its rainfall, but if weather conditions allow, then a walk through the flowersprinkled herb fields of the Gertrude Valley will be inviting. Tour members may wish to join an optional boat cruise below the vertical cliffs and waterfalls of Milford Sound (actually a fiord), to where it meets the sea, during which we may see Fiordland Crested Penguin, Fur Seals and Bottlenose and Dusky Dolphins. We will return in the early evening to Te Anau Downs.
Leaving this land of fiords, we make our way again to the east, arriving in Dunedin, New Zealand’s “wildlife capital”, in the early afternoon. A charming harbour cruise will take us around Taiaroa Head, the only mainland breeding site of Northern Royal Albatross. With a wingspan of three metres, these seabirds are certainly impressive, soaring over cliffs dotted with nests of Royal Spoonbills, Spotted Shags and the rarer Stewart Island Shags. Passing rocky shelves of lounging New Zealand Fur Seals we will sail, on our way back down the harbour towards the central city. This is indeed, a magical wildlife experience, drawing to a close our rich and diverse discovery of New Zealand’s native treasures. We will stay in Dunedin tonight.
This will be a free morning in Dunedin city, before an afternoon flight from Dunedin to Auckland International Airport, where will connect with our flight to London.
We will arrive back in London today.