This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.
New Zealand is at the forefront of environmental consciousness, something that also overlays its tourism industry. With initiatives that allow travellers to preserve its natural wonders while enjoying their trip, New Zealand is an ideal destination for anyone concerned about their carbon footprint at home and abroad.
While we’re not about to travel to our southern cousin’s shores via waka (a traditional Māori canoe), you can start your journey with a little less guilt by offsetting your carbon emissions. The Qantas Future Planet offset program directs all your money to create genuine, lasting environmental and social benefits for communities (they don’t make a cent from the initiative). So you’ll be directly supporting projects that protect wildlife and nourish communities around the world.
Once you’re well and truly on the land of the long white cloud, you can check out some of New Zealand’s most picturesque natural beauties and help keep them beautiful.
Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, is blessed with a deep ocean canyon. The canyon forces water to rise when the tide comes in, bringing with it a variety of sea life who are only too happy to present themselves for you to ooh, ah and take photos.
Here, you can see these beautiful creatures in the wild. Keep an eye out for sperm whales – you might even get to see them devouring giant squid – and dancing dolphins. You’ll also spot albatrosses, fur seals, sharks and crayfish (from which Kaikoura takes its name).
Whale Watch, a Māori-owned company, offers tours and cruises designed to get you as close to the animals as possible. You’d also be supporting an organisation that contributes to ongoing scientific research through detailed record-keeping – they literally identify every whale they see, note its location and any unusual whale behaviour.
Sightings and cruise updates (tours may be cancelled if sea conditions are unfavourable) are updated frequently on the Whale Watch website.
Fiordland National Park, Southern South Island
New Zealand’s oft-Instagrammed scenery is definitely one to cross off your bucket list – and add to your social media feed. Head south to Fiordland National Park to experience some of the best.
Here, you’ll find the famous Lake Te Anau (connecting, of course, to the town of Te Anau), as well as the breathtaking Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds. That’s not an exaggeration – they’re so impressive they might knock the breath right out of you.
Being so far from “civilisation”, the Sounds can be hard to access, so it might be helpful to join a tour group, like Real Journeys, which hosts boat trips that take you right into the Sounds. Real Journeys also encourages travellers to contribute a $1 passenger levy at Doubtful Sound, which goes to the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation. The foundation raises more than $50,000 a year to support conservation measures including dolphin research, protection for endangered birds, and getting rid of wilding pines.
It’s a sustainable way of soaking up the sights and the Sounds (see what we did there?).
Blue Duck Station, Ruapehu
The New Zealand $10 banknote features an image of the whio, an endangered native blue duck. Blue Duck Station offers eco-friendly accommodation in the heart of the Whanganui National Park – it’s remote (over 4 hours’ drive from Auckland or 3.5 hours’ drive from central Wellington), but for good reason. It’s the place to come face to face with whio and other New Zealand creatures, including kiwi, weta, native bats, and fish.
As an added bonus, it has stunning views from every angle – perfect for that “getting back to nature” feeling.
Here, you can geek out on flora, fauna and local history. Then, throw yourself into any one of the many outdoor activities on offer: go on a bush safari, take a helicopter flight, or go horse trekking, jet-boating, kayaking, mountain biking, or hiking. These are all great for immersing yourself in the local wildlife.
You can also volunteer for conservation work: setting and maintaining traps for predators, cleaning lodges, gardening, stock work, and everything in between.
Kapiti Island, Wellington
Kapiti Island is home to one of New Zealand’s oldest and most important nature reserves: the Kapiti Marine Reserve. Head here to learn about local human history and conservation and ecology efforts of the reserve, while getting up close and personal with some endangered native birds.
Join an overnight tour to spot kiwi in their waking hours. Over 1200 little spotted kiwi call this place home – one of the densest kiwi populations in the country. This means they are easier to see than most other places in the wild. You’ll also have the opportunity to see other New Zealand bird species, as several breeds flit around in the bush.
Kapiti Island also holds historic significance for its efforts to restore the island to its natural state. Additionally, the local tangata whenua (Māori people of the land) own a small piece of the island and serve as its kaitiaki (guardians) and its taonga (treasures).
In 2009, the New Zealand Department of Conservation launched an eradication program to rid the island of predators.
If someone told you to close your eyes and imagine a far away place where animals can flourish without predators, you’d probably conjure up something like this. Describing itself as “the world’s first fully fenced urban eco-sanctuary”, Zealandia is an isolated natural area aiming to return the valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state.
Since its creation in 1999, the eco-sanctuary has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife to the area (that’s about one every year – pretty cool!).
Explore the eco-sanctuary by day or night — or both — if you want to see a full range of the animals. As well as going on a tour, you can donate or become a Zealandia member. Or, if you’re really committed, join Zealandia’s volunteer workforce. You can help care and preserve the sanctuary, as well as feed and monitor the animals.
Goat Island, Auckland
Just 90 minutes’ drive north of Auckland is Goat Island. Here you can snorkel, kayak or swim in crystal-clear water, and spot the many varieties of colourful marine life.
The Goat Island Marine Reserve acts as a safe haven for fish, protecting sea life from commercial fishing and pollutants, both of which are present throughout New Zealand’s waters.
Like you, Qantas is passionate about sustainability and creating lasting environmental and social change. 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the Qantas Future Planet program, which enables travellers to offset the impact of flying thousands of kilometres through the air and support community and environmental projects.