New Zealand Natural History & Gondwanan Connections
Thursday 28 November to Sunday 15 December 2022
The natural history of New Zealand began when the landmass Zealandia broke away from the supercontinent Gondwana in the Cretaceous period, around 85-70 million years ago. The break-up of Gondwana left the resulting continents with a shared ecology. Since this separation, the New Zealand biota and landscape has evolved in near-isolation, moving northwards and changing both in relief and climate. The present biota of New Zealand includes descendants of Gondwanan lineages, predominantly plants such as the podocarps and the southern beeches, but also distinctive insects, birds, frogs and the tuatara, the sole surviving member of an ancient reptile lineage. This tour has been designed to maximise our chances of experiencing New Zealand’s amazing wildlife and ancient plants and is offered in two parts: one predominantly in the north island and finishing in Christchurch and the extension which takes in the South Island including Stewart an Ulva Islands. Or you can choose to take both sections at a discounted price.
Main tour New Zealand.
Day 1. Mon 28 Nov 22. Arrive Auckland.
Day 2. Tue 29 Nov 22. Tiritiri Matangi Island: endangered birds, Wetapunga and Coastal Meterosideros.
Day 3. Wed 30 Nov 22. Waitakere Ranges: Ancient Kauri forest.
Day 4. Thu 1 Dec 22. Auckland to Taupo: Ancient fern allies and geothermal/volcanic activity.
Day 5. Fri 2 Dec 22. Taupo to Whakapapa: Dinosaur Gondwanan forests and Peripatus.
Day 6. Sat 3 Dec 22. Whakapapa: Volcanoes and sub-alpine Nothofagus Southern Beech forest.
Day 7. Sun 4 Dec 22. Whakapapa to Wellington and Ferry to South Island.
Day 8. Mon 5 Dec 22. Kahurangi National Park: Beech Forests and Giant Powelliphanta Land Snails.
Day 9. Tue 6 Dec 22. St Arnaud- Blackbirch- Kaikoura: Alpine Cushion flora.
Day 10. Wed 7 Dec 22. Kaikoura: Seabird and Sperm Whale watching excursions.
Day 11. Thu 8 Dec 20. Kaikoura to Christchurch and depart.
South Island New Zealand extension:
Day 11. Thu 8 Dec 22. Kaikoura-Christchurch to Lake Ohau: Glacial Lakes/montane Arid Tussocklands.
Day 12. Fri 9 Dec 22. Aoraki Mt Cook National Park: Alpine Flora.
Day 13. Sat 10 Dec 22. Central Otago Schist landscape: Geckos, Skinks.
Day 14. Sun 11 Dec 22. Fiordland World Heritage Area: Milford Sound and Sub-Antarctic Beech Forest.
Day 15. Mon 12 Dec 22. Rakuira National Park: Brown Kiwi.
Day 16. Tue 13 Dec 22. Stewart and Ulva Islands: Ferns and Albatross.
Day 17. Wed 14 Dec 22. Otago Peninsula: Catlins Coastal Podocarp Forests to Dunedin.
Day 18. Thu 15 Dec 22. Dunedin and depart.
B- breakfast, L- lunch and D- dinner.
Main tour New Zealand.
Day 1. Monday 28 November 2022. Arrive Auckland.
Today is an arrival day. We will transfer to our hotel in Auckland where we will meet our local New Zealand guide over a welcome dinner and have a chat about the details of the adventure ahead. Accommodation: Auckland hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.
Day 2. Tuesday 29 November 2022. Tiritiri Matangi Island: Endangered birds, Giant Wetapunga and Coastal Metrosideros Forest.
This morning we will take the ferry to one of New Zealand’s most iconic conservation successes, Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf. This island is home to a variety of endangered endemic bird species such as North Island Saddleback, Takahe, Brown Teal, Red-crowned Parakeet and Stitchbird, that have been successfully reintroduced as part of New Zealand’s re-wilding program. The opportunities for photography are tremendous and the island is an excellent example of just what can be achieved by conservation volunteers involved in a major revegetation project. Once farmed, the island is now an open sanctuary that has been extensively replanted, with some areas of original forest remaining. We will have the chance to visit the superb coastal Pohutukawa (Metrosideros) forest to search for birds and the largest of the NZ Weta (endemic New Zealand giant flightless crickets), the Wetapunga (Deinacridia heterocantha). There is even a slight chance of viewing an endangered Tuatara today. The Tuatara most resemble lizards but are the sole surviving member of an ancient order of reptiles which originated in the Triassic Period around 240 million years ago. We will return to Auckland mid-afternoon. Accommodation: Auckland hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 3. Wednesday 30 November 2022. Waitakere Ranges: Ancient Kauri Forest – Family Araucariaceae.
Today we will visit the majestic ancient kauri - Agathis australis - forests in the Waitakere Ranges. Once widespread in the north, just 150 hectares of pristine forest remain, containing some of the world's largest trees. A gentle walk here provides an excellent introduction to NZ's lowland forests (giant tree ferns (Cyathea medullaris), southern palms (Rhopalostylis spp), and a wonderful array of fern species. Later today we shall continue westward to the Muriwai coast and visit an Australasian Gannet colony. We will return to Auckland late this afternoon.
Accommodation: Auckland hotel (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 4. Thursday 1 December 2022. Auckland to Taupo: Ancient Fern Allies and Geothermal/volcanic Activity.
This morning we leave Auckland. Continuing 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 NZ's geothermal activity. Many of the thermal regions are now major tourist attractions which has alas been to their detriment. A few, however, remain relatively natural geothermal wonderlands. 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. Primeval plant groups such as Psilotum, and Lycopodium abound in these areas. The valley is also home to a variety of sub-tropical fern species found only in NZ, within metres of the steam vents. This evening we will stay in Taupo in the centre of the north Island of NZ.
Accommodation: Taupo (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 5. Friday 2 December 2022. Taupo to Whakapapa: Dinosaur Gondwanan forests and Peripatus.
Lush rain forest surrounded the plateau until wholesale forest clearance began with European settlement. Now only relatively small tracts remain. Today we visit one of the finest tracts of podocarp rain forest (comprised of Dacrydium, Podocarpus, Darcycarpus, and Prumnopitys) in the country to study the intricacies and complexities of this, the predominant forest type in New Zealand. These forests are the so-called 'dinosaur forests' that have changed little over 100 million years and are typical of the forest cover of Gondwana. The Rimu-dominated (Dacrydium cupressinum) forest here is perhaps the finest in the country. We study the podocarp forest communities in detail, with morning and afternoon walks through Pureora. Magnificent tracts of abundant tree ferns (species of Cyathea and Dicksonia) will fascinate. We will also search for Peripatus (Velvet Worms). These amazing creatures are of immense palaeontological interest, as they exhibit relatively many characteristics that are perceived as original or "primitive" and help reconstruct the ancestral arthropod (members of the phylum that include insects, crustaceans, and arachnids). We then travel into Tongariro National Park, the first national park in NZ which is comprised of three high volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park and situated immediately to the south of Lake Taupo. We will spend some time on the slopes of the highest peak, Ruapehu, in Whakapapa. Accommodation: Whakapapa (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 6. Saturday 3 December 2022. Whakapapa: Volcanoes and sub-alpine Nothofagus Southern Beech forest.
With lava and/or mud flows having occurred in recent years off both Ruapehu and nearby Ngauruhoe, the vicinity is an excellent one in which to study the impact of volcanism on subalpine and montane vegetation. Today's explorations will include opportunities to study the sub-alpine shrublands, alpine herbs, and montane/sub-alpine NZ Southern Beech forests. Sub-alpine Gondwanan conifers such as Podocarpus, Halocarpus, Lepidothamnus and Phyllocladus) will also be seen here. There will also be an opportunity to search for the endangered Blue Duck while in this region.
Accommodation: Whakapapa (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 7. Sunday 4 December 2022. Whakapapa to Wellington and Ferry to South Island.
This morning we continue south to NZ's capital city, Wellington. We will embark on a three-hour ferry crossing to Picton in the South Island. This afternoon's crossing is a delightful one, as the sailing takes us first through Wellington Harbour, then across a short stretch of Cook Strait before the final hour is spent travelling up the drowned valleys of the Marlborough Sounds. The scenery is spectacular, and we will also look for Little Blue Penguins on the water. We will then take a late afternoon drive to Nelson Lakes National Park, before stopping at Saint Arnaud.
Accommodation: St Arnaud (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 8. Monday 5 December 2022. Kahurangi National Park: Southern Beech Forests and Giant Powelliphanta Land Snails.
Today we travel down the Motueka Valley and to North-west Nelson. The Graham Valley provides the easiest access to the recently formed Kahurangi National Park. This national park is perhaps the botanically most diverse in the country: Red, Silver, Black and Mountain Southern Beeches (Nothofagus species) predominate and Mountain cedar (Libocedrus) forest appears at higher altitude. Enjoy relaxing or more taxing walks into the Mount Arthur region and the surrounding tablelands. We will also be searching for Giant Weta and giant carnivorous land snails (genus Powelliphanta) in this area. Late this afternoon we will return to St Arnaud. Accommodation: St Arnaud (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 9. Tuesday 6 December 2022. St Arnaud- Blackbirch- Kaikoura: Alpine Cushion flora.
The journey today takes us back east. A study of NZ alpine scree and rock outcrop vegetation begins with a trip to the summit of Blackbirch. Here giant vegetable sheep abound amidst a dry cushion flora, that includes dwarf alpine creeping conifers. Scree plants (Notothlaspis, Leptinella), rock outcrop species, herb field daisies, and cushion plants (Phyllachne, Anistome, Raoulia and Haastia) are featured today. If the plants do not take your breath away the panoramic views are sure to! Mid-afternoon we return again to sea level and continue to Kaikoura. Accommodation: Kaikoura (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 10. Wednesday 7 December 2022. Kaikoura: Pelagic Seabirds and Sperm Whale Watching.
Today we have the opportunity to take some boat excursions out of Kaikoura. Due to the depth of the Kaikoura canyon just offshore, we can reach water 4,000 m deep within half an hour, allowing us to really get amongst the seabirds and cetaceans. Early this morning we will have the option of taking a 2 ½ hour pelagic seabird excursion. Although the species list varies throughout the year, in any season we can expect to see up to 15 species of seabirds, including at least 3-4 species of albatross, normally as close as 5-6 feet away. Species include northern and southern Royal, New Zealand Wandering, Black-browed, Campbell, White-capped, and Salvin’s albatross. We also have the chance to see a variety of petrels, northern giant-petrel, and the endemic Hutton’s shearwater, which breeds in the spectacular mountains behind Kaikoura. The area is also renowned for Dusky, Hector’s and Common dolphins, and we may see these along the way. After an early lunch we will join another boat expedition (around 2 hours in duration) to see Sperm Whales which are present year-round and inhabit the deep water just off the coast.
Accommodation: Kaikoura (en suite rooms) as for last night Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 11. Thursday 8 December 2022. Kaikoura to Christchurch and depart.
This morning we head along the rugged and moody Kaikoura coast to Christchurch (drive time of around 3 hours) where we will say goodbye to those people who wish to finish their tour.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.
SOUTH ISLAND EXTENSION BEGINS
Day 11. Thursday 8 December 2022. Christchurch to Lake Ohau: Glacial Lakes and montane Arid Tussocklands.
For those continuing on or joining us in Christchurch, we will travel to the Canterbury Plains and beyond where the raw young mountains of the Southern Alps beckon. We then travel to the sharply contrasting Mackenzie Country - a vast dry intermontane basin with three large glacial lakes. Near the northernmost lake there should be time for those wishing to take an optional flight (not included in tour price) over Mount Cook National Park and the highest peaks and glaciers of the Southern Alps before we arrive at Lake Ohau. Accommodation: Lake Ohau (en suite rooms). Meals included: L, D.
Day 12. Friday 9 December 2022. Aoraki Mt Cook National Park: Alpine Flora.
We will spend today exploring the renowned Mount Cook National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site). At the foot of Mt Cook (the highest mountain in New Zealand) lies the spectacular Hooker Valley. The walk along the trail enables us to study the changes in vegetation on successive moraines as the Hooker then Mueller Glaciers are reached. Giant Mt Cook buttercups, golden Spaniards and subalpine shrubs abound amidst unforgettable landscapes. An alternative for the more energetic is to walk up the Sealy Range to Sealy Tarns. Several alpine communities are walked through en route with tussockland, herb field, and outcrop plants most conspicuous. Late examples of the famed Mt Cook 'lily' (actually a buttercup) may be found up here. We will descend past Lake Pukaki and return to Ohau late afternoon.
Accommodation: Lake Ohau (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 13. Saturday 10 December 2022. Central Otago Schist landscape: Geckos, Skinks.
This morning we leave the Mackenzie Basin and the Waitaki Valley and cross the Lindis Pass – the gateway to Central Otago. Inland 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 and a variety of lizards. To the west of Queenstown lies the Fiordland World Heritage Area. At times stunning, at others awesome, and in places even tranquil, this area encompasses New Zealand's largest national park. Recent glacially gouged valleys and lakes nestled between range upon range of mountains characterise the landscape. We devote the next two days to gaining a greater understanding of the processes that have shaped this, the grandest and most rugged part of New Zealand. Today after travelling to Lake Te Anau on the eastern edge of the park we continue into the Eglinton Valley, a valley famed for its superb red beech (Nothofagus fusca) forests and the array of forest birds therein.
Accommodation: Te Anau (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 14. Sunday 11 December 2022. Fiordland World Heritage Area: Milford Sound and Sub-Antarctic Southern Beech Forest.
The upper Hollyford Valley through which the famed Milford Road passes contains superb boulder fields and herb fields. The Gertrude Cirque has arguably the finest accessible alpine communities in the country. The day is devoted to discovering this botanical treasure trove (including Aciphylla, Celmisia, Ranunculus and Gentianella) in the Darran Mountains. Studying nature in such awesome surroundings is guaranteed to put all in perspective. Early afternoon we descend to sea level at Milford Sound where we will take a cruise to the fjord entrance before we return early evening to Lake Te Anau.
Accommodation: Te Anau (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 15. Monday 12 December 2022. Rakuira National Park, Stewart Island: Brown Kiwi.
Today we must leave this wild land and cross the southern South Island to travel to Invercargill. We then get the morning ferry across the Fouveaux Strait to New Zealand’s third main Island - Stewart Island. This afternoon we explore of the forest and coastal tracks in the vicinity of the village. Rakuira is New Zealand’s newest National Park, created in 2002. This evening after dinner we will have the opportunity to see the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi feeding in the wild.
Accommodation: Oban, Stewart Island (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 16: Tuesday 13 December 2022. Stewart and Ulva Islands: Ferns and threatened birds. This morning we explore Stewart Island further. Removed from reality on this idyllic hideaway, we discover the grand diversity of life on this, the least modified of the three main islands of New Zealand. This afternoon we take a short boat trip across Paterson Inlet to near-pristine Ulva Island, an open bird sanctuary which has been predator free since 1997. Ulva Island is a sanctuary to threatened wildlife, and 30 saddleback (tieke) were released in May 2000 with 18 Stewart Island Robins (toutouwai) released in October of the same year. We will also hear the songs of bellbird and tui, and the raucous call of the kaka and kakariki. The island’s rich podocarp rainforests are also underlain with carpets of bryophytes, liverworts and orchids (Corybas sp.). We return to Stewart Island late this afternoon.
Accommodation: Oban, Stewart Island (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 17. Wednesday 14 December 2022. Otago Peninsula: Catlins Coastal Podocarp Forests to Dunedin.
We will leave on the ferry in the early morning to enable us to drive to Dunedin via the forgotten corner of New Zealand: The Catlins mixed podocarp forest. The Catlins includes some of the finest coastal scenery and lowland forests in the country. Endemic species inhabit coastal cliffs, below which New Zealand (Long-nosed) fur seals breed. Beyond, lush Gondwanan forests run down to superb sweeping sandy beaches with not a soul in sight. We will arrive in Dunedin late afternoon in time for our farewell dinner.
Accommodation: Dunedin (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 18. Thursday 15 December 2022. Depart Dunedin.
This morning we depart Dunedin for our onward flights back home.
Accommodation: Dunedin (en suite rooms). Meals included: B.
Group size: 6-8 participants + Inala tour leader + local NZ guide:
Main tour New Zealand.
Tour Price: TBA. 2020 price: AU$7,000 per person sharing and single supplement AU$990.
Inclusions: Accommodation (10 nights) as per the itinerary, specialist guide and transport (including airport transfers at Auckland and Christchurch), meals, return ferry fare and entrance fees to Tiritiri Matangi, interisland ferry, National Park fees and whale watching/pelagic seabird excursions
Exclusions: International and domestic airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, tips, laundry, or other items of a personal nature. Also excludes travel insurance (highly recommended).
South Island New Zealand extension:
Tour Price: TBA 2020 price: AU$4,450 per person sharing and single supplement AU$600.
Inclusions: Accommodation (8 nights) as per the itinerary, specialist guide and transport (including airport transfer from Christchurch where required and Dunedin), meals, return ferry/water taxi fares and entrance fees to Stewart and Ulva Islands, National Park fees, Milford Sound cruise on day 14 and kiwi excursion on night 15.
Exclusions: International and domestic airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, tips, laundry, or other items of a personal nature.
Connecting flights between Dunedin and Auckland can be organised for an additional $250 per person.
Total of both sections taken together:
Tour Price: TBA. 2020 price: AU$11,000 per person sharing (save $450 per person) and single supplement AU$1,500 (save $90).
Additional general notes: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. This certainly goes for weather dependent parts of the trip such as pelagics, but even visits to land-based sites listed in the itinerary may be missed and other sites visited instead. We are constantly developing our itineraries, and sometimes we choose alternative sites or activities based on what we determine to be the best for the tour party. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.