Top 5 ecotourism destinations in NZ
As the world becomes more interested in conserving our natural resources and landscapes – all the while still being extremely attracted to fantastic travel opportunities – ecotourism is quickly becoming an exciting, growing industry.
Habitat Tours is one of countless ecotourism operators here in New Zealand, so here are five of our favourite destinations around the country to enjoy tours, scenery and wildlife.
1. The Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track is one of many of the country’s ‘Great Walks’. It’s one of the reasons why keen hikers travel from around the globe to set foot on our precious walkways dotted all over the country.
While it’s hard to choose just one, the Routeburn in Otago is a special place for many reasons. It takes just 2-4 days and is 32 kilometres one way, offering spectacular mountain views of the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks. It’s also where you might be lucky enough to spot a rare yellowhead (mohua) bird, although you’re guaranteed to enjoy views of blue alpine lakes, beech forest and snow-capped mountains in the cooler months.
2. Rotoroa Wildlife Sanctuary
This wildlife sanctuary is one of dozens from around New Zealand, but being so close to home, it’s hard to ignore this gorgeous, eco-friendly destination just out of Auckland.
Auckland Zoo was part of setting this island up as a sanctuary, where it recently released its 300th kiwi into the wild. The sanctuary itself is due to see 20 species of our native fauna introduced within the next 10 years, and any visit here made extra special by the museum and exhibition centre.
3. Kaikoura Cruise
Ecotourism in New Zealand is by no means limited to what you can find on land. There are plenty of cruises and boat available around the country to show you just how diverse we are both on the land and off it.
In Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, you’ll find one of our most treasured cruise destinations. This is because it’s one of the best places in New Zealand – and arguably the world – to go whale watching. The company here has won numerous awards such as the Australasian Responsible Tourism Award thanks to their initiatives in ecotourism. All that, and you get to spot fantastic creatures such as sperm whales, New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins and albatross. At this time of the year there are even humpback whales passing through.
4. Waitomo glowworm caves
Of all the glowworm caves in New Zealand, Waitomo is arguably the most famous. This species of glowworm is unique to New Zealand, so no matter where you see them, you’ll fall in love with their constellation-like appearance and magical atmosphere.
What’s special about Waitomo is that the caves themselves have an incredible historical and geological significance to the country, and you’ll get the full explanation from your tour guide on this trip.
5. The Mount John Observatory
On one of our recent night-time tours to Tawharanui, one of our guests commented on the incredible night sky over New Zealand. Clear, crisp, and spectacular, the sky is just another phenomenal ecotourism destination – only, you’ll have to keep your feet on the ground.
Take a trip to the world’s largest International Dark Sky reserve at Lake Tekapo in the South Island. You can either simply stand under the stars in this exceptionally clear area, or take it a step further with a visit to the Mt. John Observatory, which gives you the power to observe as many as 50 million stars in a single night.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist