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5 wild adventures in New Zealand's natural playground

5 wild adventures in New Zealand's natural playground

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Volcanic Experience

White Island

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Picturesque landscapes with vast mountain ranges, steaming volcanoes and a huge coastline make New Zealand the perfect natural playground. Tristan Rutherford reveals five of the best adventure activities to keep even the most demanding explorers entertained.

Bobbing in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty, White Island is New Zealand’s only active marine volcano that spouts white steam high into the sky. “New Zealand cruising is simply remarkable,” says Rebecca Pattinson, senior broker at Ocean Independence. “The natural beauty of the landscape and surrounding waters are a nature lover’s paradise. And no trip to New Zealand would be complete without visiting the Bay of Plenty.”

It was Captain Cook who coined the name White Island in 1769, taking inspiration from the gracious plume of white steam that hovers over the isle. Since then, dozens of mini-eruptions have morphed the island’s dramatic topography into the rugged landscape that it boasts today.

A natural scenic reserve since 1953, White Island’s access remains strictly regulated, which makes immersing yourself in this authentic, active volcano a once in a lifetime experience.

Begin your exploration by dropping anchor at nearby Tauranga, which also provides access to the gorges and waterfalls of the subtropical Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park. From here, White Island’s steaming crater complex – the only part of the volcano above sea level – is best accessed via helicopter. Once you’re on the island itself, this vivid experience gets otherworldly. Clamber past tumbling lava domes, a steaming crater lake, bubbling mud pits and fumaroles steaming up from the centre of the earth.

White Island’s lunar landscape isn’t just confined to dry land. Abundant marine life – from giant packhorse crayfish and stingrays, to nudibranchs and sea urchins – congregates around the underwater volcanic vents.

Picture courtesy of Gettyimages.co.uk

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Whale Watching

Kaikoura

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“With its vast landscape of mountains, deep fjords, rainforests, glaciers and bubbling geo- thermal pools, the country has adventures for everyone,” says Cristabel Nye, charter broker at Camper & Nicholsons. There are few places in the country where this sentiment is more accurate than Kaikoura.

Sited on the northeast coastline of the South Island and one of the best places to go whale watching, Kaikoura was affected by an earthquake last November. However, according to our local contacts, all local sealife and marine mammals are as abundant as they ever were. Local divemasters, restaurateurs and tourism chiefs are keen that yachts sail in and help the local economy. Once you do you won’t be disappointed. New Zealand fur seals bask on the shoreline’s rocks and pods of dusky dolphins play hide- and-seek amid the ocean waves.

But it’s the giant sperm whales – many of them weighing more than 60 tonnes – that render this destination an Instagram sensation. Year-round, more than half a dozen whale species also congregate in the waters that surround Kaikoura, including more elusive orcas, humpback and blue whales. Grab your binoculars, then spy these sleek forms slicing the sea’s surface from the comfort of your deck. Alternatively, spot these supreme specimens from a helicopter, taking in thousand-mile sweeps of marine landscape with imposing mountains beyond.

An exciting day spent observing these majestic creatures is a surefire way to whet the appetite. Crack open a bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc and ask your chef to prepare a platter of crayfish. As the name Kaikoura means “meal of crayfish” in Māori, the lobster couldn’t get any more local.

Picture courtesy of Gettyimages.co.uk

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Fly fishing

Great Lake Taupō

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Scattered with shimmering lakes, meandering rivers and cascading waterfalls, New Zealand’s crystal-clear waters are world renowned. It is little wonder then that the country is home to some of the best fly-fishing in the world.

After starting your trip with a splash through the turquoise bays that surround Waiheke Island, just east of Auckland, explore inland by taking a chopper to Great Lake Taupō. The country’s largest freshwater lake plummets to depths of nearly 200m. Better still, it’s tucked into the Taupō volcano caldera at the very heart of North Island. Māori rock carvings trim its northwest shoreline, but it’s the rainbow and brown trout, which skirt the lake’s surface as well as the currents of the southern Tongariro River, that attract keen anglers from around the globe. Knowledgeable local guides can assist visitors in tracking down the lake’s most superlative specimens.

“This region has year-round opportunities, set in an amazing landscape shaped by volcanic forces,” explains Sam Bourne, a member of New Zealand’s 2016 World Championship fly-fishing team. “It’s also steeped in both Māori and Pākehā [New Zealanders of European descent] angling traditions – a combination of natural and cultural heritage that makes Great Lake Taupō the trout capital of New Zealand.” There’s no finer way to finish off your day than with a sundowner in one of the region’s premier fly-fishing lodges, such as the picturesque Poronui Lodge or the sophisticated Huka Lodge. Here the resident gourmet chefs can barbecue, bake or sauté your prized catch to perfection.

Picture courtesy of Gettyimages.co.uk

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