1. Days 1-2 Fly to Auckland

    • After arriving in Auckland, we take a connecting flight to Invercargill where it is a two hour drive to the Fjordland World Heritage Area.
    • The next two days will be spent gaining a greater understanding of the processes that have shaped this rugged, yet beautiful landscape. We will visit Lake Te Anau, and then continue into Eglington Valley, famed for its superb red beech forests and the array of forest birds found there.
    • Accommodation: Kingsgate Te Anau, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • The day is devoted to discovering this botanical treasure trove in the Darran Mountains at your own pace.
    • Early afternoon we descend to sea level at Milford Sound, where there will be time for a cruise to the fjord entrance before we return to Lake Te Anau in the early evening.
    • This morning, there will be one final chance to explore the renowned Fjordland rainforests, before we head across to Stewart Island by ferry.
    • This evening there will be an optional, yet highly recommended, excursion to view the endemic and elusive brown kiwi feeding in the wild, on the southern side of Paterson Inlet. We stay on this lovely island for two nights.
    • Accommodation: South Sea Hotel, Stewart Island, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • The day starts with a short boat trip across Paterson Inlet to the near-pristine Ulva Island to enjoy the diverse range of forest birds and coastal flora, which may include the endemic rifleman, or the yellow-eyed penguin which breeds here.
    • Later in the day, we return to the main island to explore the village, shoreline and local tracks.
    • This morning, we travel back to South Island by ferry, before heading north through the forgotten corner of New Zealand – the Catlins. Following a short walk in the Tautuku bay forest, we will arrive in Dunedin, New Zealand’s ‘wildlife capital’.
    • Joining a harbour cruise around Taiaroa Head, we head for the only mainland breeding site of the northern royal albatross. As we return towards the city, New Zealand fur seals can be spotted along the rocky shores.
    • Accommodation: Mercure Leisure Lodge, 1-night on full board basis.
    • Today, we travel north-east from Dunedin to a mountainous region of the Southern Alps, and the contrasting Mackenzie Country – an intermountain basin with three large glacial lakes. Here, there should be the opportunity to take an optional flight over Mount Cook National Park, to see the highest peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps, before we arrive at Lake Ohau.
    • Accommodation: Lake Ohau Lodge, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • We explore the renowned Mount Cook National Park, beginning at the foot of the iconic mountain in the spectacular Hooker Valley. Walking along the trail allows us to study the gradual changes in vegetation on the moraines, as we reach the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers. Golden Spaniards, giant Mount Cook buttercups and subalpine shrubs are abundant on these remarkable landscapes.
    • We travel inland to the foothills of Canterbury, where nestled between two passes – Porter’s and Arthur’s – lies the Craigeburn Range and the renowned Castle Hill Basin. We walk amidst the limestone formations, before making our way to Arthur’s Pass, to our lodge set in a high country beech forest and tussock-lands, with a working sheep farm.
    • Accommodation: Wilderness Lodge, Arthur’s Pass, 1-night on full board basis.
    • This morning, we explore the mountain beech forests and braided rivers of the upper Waimakariri Valley.
    • Late afternoon, we travel through the pass and down to the Tasman Sea, to reach Paparoa National Park.
    • Accommodation: Punakiaiki Rocks Resort, 1-night on half board basis.
    • Paparoa National Park has stunning coastlines, which include fascinating sites such as Pancake Rocks and Truman Point, which we can explore on foot. The Pancake Rocks were formed around 30 million years ago from particles of dead marine plants and animals, which solidified under immense water pressure. The mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater have sculpted these fragments of limestone into these remarkable shapes.
    • We return via the Lewis Pass to Kaikoura, where we stay for two nights.
    • Accommodation: Aspen Court Motel, Kaikoura, 2-nights on half board basis.   
    • Kaikoura is famous for its whale-watching trips, and is probably the best place in the world to get close to a sperm whale; however, the trips are highly weather-dependent. We allow time for you to go on one of these, weather-permitting, as an optional extra (cost approx. £45 pp). Alternatively you may opt for the spectacular albatross and seabird trip.
    • The journey today takes us back east.  A study of New Zealand alpine scree and rock outcrop vegetation begins with a trip to the summit of Blackbirch. Here giant cushions of the wonderfully-named ‘vegetable sheep’ abound amidst a dry flora.  Scree plants, rock outcrop species, herb field daisies, and cushion plants are featured today. If the plants do not take your breath away, the panoramic views are sure to!
    • In the late afternoon we drive to St Arnaud, our base for the next two nights.
    • Accommodation: Alpine Lodge St Arnaud, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • This morning, we drive to Nelson Lakes National Park, which lies at the head of nearby Wairau Valley. The beautiful Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa nestle amongst the northern peaks of the Southern Alps.
    • Surrounding the lakes is the enchanting New Zealand evergreen beech forest, where we enjoy some short walks.  The more energetic may opt to walk up through the forest beyond the treeline and out into the subalpine tussock-lands for breath-taking panoramas of the national park, its mountain ranges and lakes.
  2. This morning we return down the valley to Blenheim Airport where the tour concludes. We fly north to Auckland to connect with our international flights.

  3. Day 17 Arrive UK

North Island extension

  1. While the remainder of the group make their way to the airport to depart for the UK, we join an afternoon sailing to the North Island.

    Sail through the drowned valleys of the Marlborough Sounds, then across a short stretch of Cook Strait, before approaching Wellington Harbour. Not only is there spectacular scenery, but we hope to see little blue penguins, and a range of seabirds in the open waters.

    We arrive mid-afternoon on the North Island and drive north to Taihape.

    Accommodation: Aspen Court Motel Taihape, 1-night on half board basis.

  2. Immediately to the south of Lake Taupo are the three high volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park. We travel into this, the earliest national park in New Zealand, and spend the first day on the slopes of the highest peak, Ruapehu.

    Tonight we stay in Ohakune on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu.

    Accommodation: Skotel Whakapapa, 1-night on full board basis.

  3. Today, we study the podocarp forest communities in detail, with morning and afternoon walks through northern Pureora. This is one of the few places we hope to find the primitive kokako, something of an emblem of New Zealand conservation, gliding through the canopy, with its evocative calls echoing through the treetops while tomtit, grey warbler and fantail, all sing in the surrounding trees.

    To complete the day we view evidence of the Taupo eruptions.

    Accommodation: Chelmswood Motel Taupo, 1-night on full board basis.

  4. Travelling southwards, the landform abruptly changes as we climb from the base of the peninsula onto the central North Island volcanic plateau. This region is the heart of New Zealand's geothermal activity.

    At Waimangu Valley we study the impact of the major Tarawera eruption of 1886 and the successive lesser periods of activity – a rift valley undergoing primary succession, sinter terraces and large steaming cauldron lakes. The valley is also home to a variety of sub tropical fern species found only in New Zealand, within metres of the steam vents.

    Accommodation: Hotel Grand Chancellor, 2-nights on full board basis.

  5. Today we take a boat trip to Tiri Tiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf. This island is home to superb coastal pohutukawa forest and endangered bird species such as saddleback, takahe, brown teal, red-crowned parakeet, and stitchbird. There are fantastic photographic opportunities here.

    We return to Auckland mid-afternoon for the second of our two night stay.

  6. Day 21 Depart Auckland

  7. Day 22 Arrive UK

All prices are per person and include:

  • Services of the naturalist leader
  • Flights
  • Transfers
  • Accommodation
  • Guided activities
  • Most meals

Accommodation

Good quality hotels and lodges with en suite rooms, except on Stewart Island, where some of the rooms have shared facilities.

Meals

Most meals are included, with some exceptions as indicated in the itinerary.

Breakfasts and dinners taken at the hotel. Lunches are a mix of picnics and leisurely sit-down meals taken at one of the local restaurants.

Birds

The absence of land mammals have given New Zealand’s native birds room to adapt and move into the mammal niches, relatively free of predators. Thus they have evolved into a truly fascinating avifauna, including the famous nocturnal flightless kiwi, but with many other uniquely-formed, and often very tame species.

  • Northern royal albatross
  • Yellow-eyed penguin
  • Kea
  • Rifleman

Mammals

While our main focus will be on the diverse range of birds, flora and natural history, we will keep an eye out for cetaceans and other marine mammals during boat trips.

  • New Zealand fur seal
  • Hector’s dolphin
  • Dusky dolphin
  • Sperm whale

Flora

Highly distinctive plants amidst the beautiful scenery of the New Zealand summer include the famous ‘vegetable sheep’, scree plants, rock outcrop species, herb field daisies, cushion plants and the endemic Mount Cook lily.

Scenery

We explore the stunningly beautiful and varied landscape of coastline, forests, glacial valleys, lakes, mountains and fjords, in search of the New Zealand’s unique wildlife. Scenic highlights include visits to the spectacular Mount Cook National Park, and the remarkable Pancake Rocks in Paparoa National Park.

Boat trips

On this tour we will take boat trips to Ulva Island to enjoy the forest birds and coastal flora, and travel across to Stewart Island by ferry. When in Dunedin, we take a harbour cruise to Taiaroa Head – the only mainland breeding site of the northern royal albatross.

Weather permitting, we can take an optional whale-watching trip from Kaikoura to see sperm whale, dusky dolphin and the endemic Hector’s dolphin. 

Photography

The stunning scenery and diverse plant life provide excellent photographic opportunities.

Flights

Price includes return scheduled flights London – Auckland – London, plus domestic flights between Invercargill, Blenheim and Auckland.

Ferry

Ferry crossings between the North, South and Stewart Islands are included.

Ground transport

Ground transportation will be by minibus or 4 wheel drive vehicle, with driver.

Climate

January is the peak of summer in New Zealand, where average maximum temperatures range between 20-30˚C. The weather is however variable as the North Island is subtropical, while the South Island is temperate.

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