For over 30 years we've explored hidden spots throughout the world and it still feels like there're so many wonderful areas left to see, especially for nature lovers. Much of the charm of a trip to New Zealand or Australia can be found in their natural settings and the flora and fauna. Whether you want to snorkel near the Great Barrier Reef or see rare, exotic birds, New Zealand and Australia offer some of the best natural settings and unique wildlife for nature seekers.
In New Zealand, you can find over 150 species of birds, which makes it a birders' delight. One of the best places to go birding is an island off the southern tip of New Zealand. Stewart Island will get you up close and personal to both penguins and kiwi birds. This is also the best opportunity to see Antarctic terns, hundreds of albatross, mottled petrel, broad-billed prions, storm-petrels and much more. Penguins breed from November through February but the optimum time to see them all is in December. Depending on your trip length, there are also many closer islands to the North and South Island that the Department of Conservation has established as predator free, dedicated to the ecological restoration of native bird habitats.
On the far north end of the North island, you can hike through a kauri forest, the world's mightiest trees, growing to over 50 m tall with trunk girths up to 16 m and living for over 2,000 years. The Maori used kauri timber for boat building, carving and building houses. The gum was used as a fire starter and for chewing (after it had been soaked in water and mixed with the milk of the puha plant). Though Rotorua, in the center of the North Island, is known as the tourism center of all that is Maori, the far North Island offers an option for a less commercial and more authentic Maori experience.
At the top of our list for treks and hikes is New Zealand's Fiordland, part of the South Island. With spectacular ice-carved fiords, lakes and valleys, rugged granite tops and pristine mountain-to-sea vistas, it's hard to beat the magnificent scenery found at this World Heritage site. Another way to enjoy nature is through the gastronomy of a country and throughout New Zealand, you'll find extraordinary culinary experiences. Arguably some of the best will be found in the Marlborough region where you can explore different vineyards during the day while enjoying world class cooking in the evening. For more about New Zealand's food, read our blog nine foods you need to try in New Zealand.
One of the best back country wildlife experiences, as well as cultural experiences, is found in Kakudu National Park, on the north side of Australia. During the green season, a rich, verdant vista teems with wildlife, flowing streams and dramatic waterfalls. About one third of Australia's bird species are represented in Kakadu National Park with at least 60 species found in the wetlands. Whistling ducks and magpie geese are the most abundant and eagles can be seen searching for prey. You can also see the distinctive jabirus and may even get to see brolgas dancing.
There are also plenty of crocodiles in their natural habitat and buffalo on the floodplains and local Bininj are trained to allow more for indigenous interactions with visitors to the park, especially on tours and cruises. Here their unique heritage and experience of Kakadu is consistently cited as one of the most important and satisfying aspects of many guests' visit to Kakadu. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest marine protected area and is home to thousands and thousands of marine creatures, including 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 500 species of seaweed, and 215 species of bird among other things. It provides a backdrop rich with opportunities for field-based discovery, and a pilgrimage to this UNESCO World-Heritage site is the dream of every marine biologist.
One of the best ways to see the reefs' great biodiversity is to spend a day or two on a live aboard boat or another option would be to stay on a tropical island, roaming the emerald rain-forest while discovering the wondrous abundance of marine life at the inner reef.
For more information about trips to New Zealand or a custom trip to Australia, give us a call at 800-345-4453.