New Zealand – natural history from north to south

A wonderful natural history exploration of New Zealand, this itinerary takes in North, South and Stewart Islands, with a particular focus on the botanical highlights of the country, as well as the endemic birdlife and other wildlife.

Whether its birds or botany, landscapes or general natural history, this holiday has something for everyone. We will explore a wide range of habitats with the scenic backdrop of New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes.

Along the way the highlights of this trip should include the endangered birdlife of Tiri Tiri Matangi, where Saddleback, Takahe and Kokako will entertain us; the ancient Kauri forests of the Waitakere Ranges; the spectacular peaks and glaciers of Mount Cook National Park, with alpine flora and the critically endangered Black Stilt; albatrosses, dolphins and Sperm Whales out from Kaikoura; the spectacular scenery of Milford Sound; and the bizarre crepuscular kiwis feeding on Stewart Island.

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New Zealand is a remarkable assemblage of islands, stretching from the subtropics in the north to the subantarctic in the south. This holiday has been planned to enable us to see a very wide range of the ecological diversity that occurs in the islands, starting far enough north in North Island to see mangroves and the huge Kauri trees and ending on Stewart Island off the southern tip of South Island, the magical climax of the trip.

Our foremost objective is, of course, to enjoy the incredible variety of scenery and wildlife, but the holiday offers much more than that for those who are keen to learn more. The leaders have extensive knowledge of the fauna and flora and will be able to offer detailed information about the wildlife of a country where more than 90% of the native plants and animals are endemic to Oceania.

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Wildlife Travel New Zealand 2011

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.


20 January – 9 February 2018


Mark Hanger with Chris Donnelly and Henry Stanier


Single Room Supplement – £895


Local transport on excursions as specified in the itinerary. Twenty nights’ accommodation, full board basis. Inter-island ferry, water taxi to/from Ulva Island, ferry to/flight from Steward Island.

Not included

International flights. Internal flight Dunedin to Auckland. Evening meal on Day 17. Refreshments. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.

Stunning landscapes, lush vegetation, unique wildlife and friendly people make New Zealand a paradise for nature lovers.

Day 1 – Our holiday starts with dinner at our hotel in the centre of Auckland.

Day 2 – We take a boat out to Tiri Tiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf, home to superb coastal pohutukawa forest and endangered
bird species all-but exterminated from the mainland.

Day 3 – We head to the majestic ancient Kauri forests in the Waitakere Ranges for an excellent introduction to New Zealand’s lowland forests.

Day 4 – We head south we towards the North Island volcanic plateau; the heart of New Zealand’s geothermal activity.

Day 5 – We have a dawn start, in order to experience the haunting call of the endangered North Island Kokako in its natural, misty rainforest environment, followed by an exploration of magnifiscent areas of rainforest in Pureora Forest Park.

Day 6 – We travel into Tongariro National Park to spend the day on the slopes of the highest peak, Ruapehu.

Day 7 – We take more walks onto the slopes of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, or relax and enjoy the alpine splendour.

Day 8 – We head south to Wellington, where we embark on the three hour ferry crossing to Picton in the South Island. The scenery is spectacular and we should see our first albatrosses, Blue Penguin and other seabirds along the way.

Day 9 – We explore the enchanting forests and lakes of Nelson Lakes National Park.

Day 10 – We enjoy walks into the Mount Arthur region and the surrounding tablelands.

Day 11 – We start our day with a trip to the summit of Blackbirch before we continue our travels, bound for Kaikoura.

Day 12 – We can take an optional three-hour whale watching trip, to spot Sperm Whales, Dusky Dolphins and a wide array of seabirds, including six species of albatross. There is also an albatross and seabird trip, which focuses more on bird watching, or for those who prefer to stay on dry land, today will be a day to relax and explore the town at your own pace.

Day 13 – In the case of poor weather yesterday, there will again be the chance to go out on an early morning whale trip, followed by late morning departure, before moving on on to Mackenzie Country, a dry intermontane basin with glacial lakes. Here there should be time for those wishing to take an optional flight over Mount Cook National Park.

Day 14 – We explore Mount Cook National Park, walking through the spectacular Hooker Valley, at the foot of Mount Cook.

Day 15 – We had for Central Otago; is a great fragmented schist plateau that now appears as a series of block mountain ranges. A region of climatic extremes, the dry core of New Zealand is also home to a vast array of cushion alpine tussock species.

Day 16 – We explore the Fiordland World Heritage Area; the grandest and most rugged part of New Zealand.

Day 17 – We will explore some of the botanical treasure troves in the Darran Mountains, before travelling to Milford Sound in time for an (optional) afternoon cruise along the sound to the fjord entrance.

Day 18 – We travel onwards to Invercargill from where we take the ferry across the Fouveaux Strait to Stewart Island to explore the forest and coastal tracks.

Day 19 – We take a short boat trip across Paterson Inlet to near-pristine Ulva Island. This evening there is an optional excursion to seek out the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi feeding along the beach.

Day 20 – We fly back to the mainland early afternoon and drive to Dunedin via the Catlins with some of the finest coastal scenery and lowland forests in the country.

Day 21 – We have a free morning to discover some of historic Dunedin’s special attractions before our farewell lunch after which the holiday ends.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders. 

All accommodation is very comfortable and all rooms have private facilities. In most locations it is average to good standard, 3 star equivalent, although higher on occasion.

Flights are not included in the holiday package to allow travellers to make flexible, individually-suited arrangements. Flights can be booked through Sunvil if wished (eg Air New Zealand via Hong Kong/Los Angeles, Emirates Airlines via Dubai/Melbourne). If you would like Sunvil to book your flight, please ring their Travel Agency on 0208 847 3041. Flight costs are dependent on individual requirements at time of booking. The flight will be invoiced and needs to be paid for separately.

The flight from Dunedin to Auckland should be booked with your international flight.

If you wish to extend your holiday, we can arrange accommodation before or after the tour. We will give advice on how to transfer from Auckland airport to our hotel.

We shall be using an air-conditioned coach throughout with ample luggage storage in the trailer, and tea and coffee provisions. The coach will travel on the inter-island ferry with the group. The ferry between North and South Islands is a large rail, freight and passenger ferry taking several hundred cars and passengers. A smaller, passenger ferry (with comfortable indoor seating) takes us across to Stewart Island, while the flight back is on 9 seater Islanders with limited luggage space hence on days 18-20 it will be necessary to travel with small, soft bags, leaving our main luggage in Invercargill.

New Zealand is thirteen hours ahead of UK time.

You must have a valid passport for this trip (valid for at least six months after the end of the holiday). Please note that you need a machine-readable passport in order to pass through the USA. No visa is required to visit New Zealand for up to six months if you hold a UK passport. For holders of other passports it is essential that you check with your embassy or consulate and obtain the necessary documents prior to travel.


New Zealand’s summer months are December to February, bringing high temperatures and sunshine. Days are long and sunny, nights are mild. Summer is an excellent time for walking in the bush and a variety of other outdoor activities. New Zealand has a relaxed lifestyle, so dress will be informal at all times. Bring comfortable clothing and anticipate a similar range of temperatures to Britain – it should be pleasantly warm/hot in the North Island but, as in all mountainous areas, expect some cold and windy weather in the Southern Alps. Rain is possible at all times. Comfortable footwear is essential -as it must be strong enough to withstand rough ground underfoot; walking boots or stout shoes are recommended. Likely temperature range is 10 C to 25 C.

This is a 21-day tour, stopping at several locations, and you therefore need to be generally fit and able to cope with ‘living out of a suitcase’ and frequent journeys between areas.

On some days we will not be walking very far, but on others we will take longer walks. Most walking will be at a slow pace to give us the time to enjoy the plants, scenery and wildlife. If you are a slow walker however, please ring us to discuss whether any of the walks will be problem. We do not do any strenuous hikes but we may be out for a few hours at a time on some days. All walks are
optional and you can choose to enjoy a day around the hotel if you prefer (or half a day if this fits in with the transport arrangements), providing we are not moving on to another location that day.

To see the best of the flowers, it is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up small slopes. Walking boots are essential for all areas out of the towns as the ground can be rocky, especially on the country tracks.

The sun can be VERY strong, even when it is cold or cloudy, and sun protection (hat, sunglasses and sun cream) is essential.

Personal travel insurance providing good medical cover is essential for this trip. Safety advice given by the leaders must be heeded at all times particularly when walking in the countryside. We will send you advice on health and safety issues before the tour. It is essential that, prior to booking, you ring us to discuss any potential fitness or health problems that may affect you on this trip.