Fancy a bird’s-eye view over 1,300 hectares of Ecuadorian rainforest? The new Dragonfly gondola at Mashpi Lodge promises a jaw-dropping experience…
Mashpi Lodge, a founding member of National Geographic’s ‘Unique Lodges of the World’, has created a special way for its guests to explore the incredible wildlife of the Mashpi Rainforest Reserve. The new Dragonfly gondola, an ‘open’ cable-car gliding 200m above ground, will take passengers on a two kilometre trip through the cloud forest accompanied by a guide.
There are three separate ‘on or off’ points located at differing altitudes so guests can choose whether to combine a ride on The Dragonfly with a testing hike through the forest, or to take the full two-hour return trip for a more relaxing experience (although perhaps not for vertigo sufferers!). The whole experience promises to reveal hidden waterfalls, swimming holes, walking trails and some amazing monkeys, birds and plantlife.
Mashpi’s sustainability ethos means The Dragonfly was carefully constructed over a period of 18 months largely by hand and without the use of any heavy machinery, to ensure minimal impact to the reserve and its wildlife. Much like the lodge itself, The Dragonfly is powered by renewable energy and designed to blend seamlessly and silently into the surrounding forest.
Mashpi Lodge – A “cocoon in the clouds”
Eco retreat Mashpi Lodge is described as a “cocoon in the clouds” – the 22 luxurious rooms are set within a striking contemporary structure with floor-to-ceiling glass allowing for magnificent views of the surrounding rainforest and mountains.
A paradise for nature lovers, the award-winning Lodge features an immersive Life Centre where wildlife enthusiasts can learn more about the reserve’s inhabitants including 500 species of bird, as well as butterflies, frogs and monkeys. The Hummingbird Viewpoint offers avid birders an unrivalled setting for bird-watching, featuring a shelter with seating and feeders for the birds strung from its roof.
Mashpi’s ‘Sky Bike’ (a fun idea) is another thrilling way to explore the canopy up close – pedal your way along a cable stretched between the trees, and enjoy panoramic views across the forest from the 26m-high Observation Tower.
There’s a real buzz (ahem…) around King’s Cross right now – take this new tech-enhanced walk around the city’s regenerated area to find out why…
On a sunny Sunday in King’s Cross last week, we tried out the BeeTrail app, created by social enterprise The Honey Club. With a mission to create the largest bee-friendly network in the world, The Honey Club encourages people to get involved with helping vulnerable bee communities in our cities and beyond. This new app, free for iPhone or Android, is part of that mission.
The Bee Trail app takes you on a 45min walk around some of the ‘buzziest’ spots in King’s Cross. Starting at restaurant The German Gymnasium, into Granary Square, down to the canalside, up to the community gardens, past the outdoor swimming pond and ending at the fantastic Skip Garden – the walk takes in eight stops. Turn on your Bluetooth and at each stop the app will automatically ‘unlock’ the next stage (or you can manually type in a code found at each check-in point).
Each stop unlocks a few pages of fascinating bee facts and more about how London’s biodiversity supports the bee population. We learnt a few new things including the stunning fact that there are around 250 different species of bee in the UK!
Several of the stops prompt a ‘bee count’ task – start the app timer and count how many honeybees, solitary bees and two types of bumblebee you can spot within 30 seconds (a pictorial ID guide is provided if your bee knowledge is a bit rusty). On our sunny afternoon, some of these spots were surprisingly light on bees, except for two hotspots literally humming with activity. All counts are recorded as part of a wider survey on bee populations, so your ‘game’ is also a very useful bit of research.
As a thank you, each completed count unlocks rewards in the form of vouchers for discounts or freebies from some of our favourite places in the area including Dishoom, Caravan, The Grain Store, The Skip Garden, German Gymnasium, The Greek Larder, Rotunda and The Lighterman. We recommend ‘eating and drinking’ your way along the trail as you win your reward vouchers (not filling up on lunch beforehand like us – although vouchers are valid until 4th September). As an aside, do make sure you take your time at The Skip Garden – this excellent community garden has been made almost entirely with reclaimed, salvaged and recycled materials. They grow their own produce and have a cute little cafe serving great coffee and cake (and they have a covetable outdoor pizza oven!).
Exploring the redevelopment of King’s Cross, with its influx of new restaurants, bars and event spaces, you can’t help but be impressed with the fact that nature has not been forgotten in this part of the capital. Flowerbeds and window boxes full of bee-friendly plants are found all over the place – along lavender-scented pathways, within playgrounds, and lining the outdoor dining areas of restaurants. It’s a buzzy slice of nature in the city.
The Bee Trail runs until 4th September 2016 – download the app for free at www.beetrail.co.uk.
Move over glamorous yurts with your flat-screen TVs, real glamping is about going off-grid, getting back to nature and leaving all mod cons behind – welcome to Eco Camp UK…
There’s nothing like arriving at a beautiful campsite knowing that you don’t have to spend the next two hours grappling with tent poles and blowing up airbeds. At Eco Camp’s Wild Boar Wood campsite, in the heart of Sussex, all the hard work has been done for you. Just step inside your kitted-out and cosy bell tent within your own woodland clearing, and you’re already camping without having to lift a finger!
A hidden woodland home
Well, it’s not entirely without effort (but that’s all part of the fun). Wild Boar Wood campsite is hidden (literally – directions are only given to guests) within a small wood in the middle of farmland, just outside the village of Horsted Keynes and Ashdown Forest. On arrival, campsite wardens Pete and Amy meet you at the car park with huge wheelbarrows ready to take all of your luggage down the track and into the campsite.
The wood is very pretty – bluebells carpet the ground during springtime – and wildlife takes priority at this sustainable site. Several bell tents are dotted around, each with their own fire pit and eating area. We were there in during a quiet mid-week but the campsite does get busy at weekends and during holidays, although most tents are quite private from neighbouring campers.
Furnished bell tents and campfires
The campsite boasts flushing loos and hot water ‘bucket showers’, plus washing up facilities. As expected, everyone is encouraged to use water (especially hot water) wisely, and make use of the recycling and composting bins. A small shed houses information and maps about the local area, plus lots of books to borrow during your stay. Amy and Pete are incredibly helpful and friendly, and live on-site in their own caravan. They’re happy to chat about the bird life and other wildlife their share their woodland home with (and help light a fire if, like us, those bush craft skills desert you!).
Our bell tent was furnished with a double memory foam mattress, spare beds (although we moved in our own travel cot), crockery, cutlery and cooking equipment, wind-up torches and lamps. The ‘dining’ area was large with a fire pit for cooking plus a small camp stove, table and chairs – the area was sheltered with a tarpaulin (useful as we experienced some light showers during our stay, although not that noticeable through the tree canopy).
There are several farm shops nearby so you can purchase local meats, vegetables and diary products (plenty of choice for the campfire).
A heritage railway to visit
One surprise treat found at this camp’s location, is the heritage Bluebell Railway. Steam trains run daily along the track at the far side of an adjoining field – give them a wave from the campsite and you may even get a ‘toot’ back! The Bluebell Railway stations (of Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes) are a short drive away. You can buy a ticket to ride the train, or (as we did) purchase a station-only ticket (just £3 for adults) and watch old steam trains arriving and departing. Old locomotives are also available to view inside the station sheds.
The surrounding area is all bucolic countryside, farmland and forest so perfect for country walks and basic exploring. Ashdown Forest is famous as the setting for Winnie the Pooh – you can even find ‘Pooh bridge’ to play a game of authentic ‘Pooh Sticks’.
A bell tent at Wild Boar Wood in mid-week costs £65 for two people per night, rising to £90 at weekends (extra child £12 per night, under 3s go free). For booking and more information visit www.ecocampuk.co.uk.
While Jamaica is well known for its stunning beaches and reggae vibes, the island has a lot to offer the eco traveller…
Here are three top picks:
Something interesting to see and do…
As the home of Rastafarianism, few experiences are as unique, or immersive, as a visit to Jamaica’s Rastafari Indigenous Village. This is one of the best ways to learn about the life, skills and experiences of Rastafari people. Visitors can take a tour of the village, participate in organic farming, learn to make traditional crafts and receive music lessons.
Something delicious to eat…
Next up, it’s time to explore the very best natural foods that Jamaica has to offer. One of the big trends in rural food right now is the ‘farm to table’ experience, and a trip to Stush in the Bushis a great example of this. Set on a 15 acre organic farm in the cool hills of St Ann, things move slowly here, and everything is connected to the earth.
Join Chris, the owner, for a walk of the farm. He’ll talk about his ancestral origins, when plants were medicine, and the earth’s bounty was the only source of food. You’ll sample herbs, spices, fruits, birds, flowers and ornamentals, and even get to plant a tree. And, after taking in the sweeping views of Jamaica’s north coast, you can sit down to a lovingly prepared meal featuring freshly made preserves, sauces, dressings and breads.
Somewhere lovely to rest…
Finally, after so much exertion, what’s needed is a visit to the Zimbali Retreats, for some much needed R&R. Located in a tropical mountain valley, complete with river and spring, this farm retreat has achieved almost 100% off-grid status.
Amid more than 500 fruit trees, guests enjoy modern technology infused with an ancient and natural way of life. There are a range of properties to choose from each with their own distinct personality. All are surrounded by the beauty and peacefulness of nature.
Frankly, the hardest part is choosing whether to kick back, relax and do nothing, or explore and sample the 700 odd varieties of fruit available, from pineapple to banana to plantain…
The gentle twittering of the dawn chorus is a lovely way to welcome a new day. But even if you live in a noisy metropolis, you can now wake-up to the sound of real birdsong wherever you are…
BBC Radio 3 will be featuring birdsong throughout May and June as part of its foray into ‘slow radio’. Air-time will be given over to slower-paced, nature-inspired output designed to encourage listeners to pause and appreciate the simple sounds of life. A new feature, Breakfast Birdsong, will air each weekend as part of the Sunday breakfast show between 7-9am.
Breakfast Birdsong will begin with the introduction of a bird (such as the nightingale, cuckoo or warbler), followed by the chance to hear a recording of that bird in the wild and paired with a piece of music. Listeners are promised at least one minute or more of pure birdsong during each programme.
BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction and World on 3 will present a special collaboration with singer and folksong collector Sam Lee in a series exploring what happens when one of nature’s finest singers, the nightingale, meets human artistic creation. Every spring, during the months of April and May, the woods of Sussex resound with the songs of the nightingale. Sam Lee and his musical colleagues venture into the woods to make music with the nightingales, creating a series of completely new, nature-inspired compositions for the Radio 3 audience. The late-night sessions will be broadcast from Tuesday 10 – Friday 13 May and alongside Sam Lee (13 May) will feature Alice Zawadzki (vocals and fiddle, 10 May), Rachel Musson (saxophone, 11 May) and Hyelim Kim (taegum, 12 May).
Later in the summer, Radio 3 returns to the Aldeburgh Festival and will broadcast a complete performance of Messiaen’s birdsong-inspired Catalogue d’Oiseaux (Sunday 19 June). Performed by the festival’s Artistic Director Pierre-Laurent Aimard across four concerts set alongside the myriad real-life birdsong of the Suffolk coast, the piece will be arranged so that the birds depicted are heard as close as possible to the times of day associated with their song, from the pre-dawn chorus before first light at 4:30am over the reedbeds at Snape Maltings to a pre-dusk performance amidst the teeming wildlife of the RSPB Minsmere nature reserve and a late-night concert recorded in full darkness. Complementing the performance, Tom Service takes ornithological matters as his starting point in The Listening Service, for an exploration of the way composers use birdsong in music (5pm, Sunday 19 June).
Fancy a trip to The Humps, a visit to Herm or a jaunt on Jethou?
Herm, Jethou and The Humps (a collection of sandbanks off the north-east corner of Herm), part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the English Channel, have, this month, been formally designated as a Ramsar site under The Convention on Wetlands. This puts them on the map as a great destination for nature tourists.
The new site joins the Bailiwick’s three existing Ramsar sites in Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The status gives international recognition of the special environmental, cultural and heritage characteristics of wetlands to ensure the conservation of key species and habitats.
The various marine and land habitats on and around Herm support a rich diversity of flora and fauna including important breeding areas for sea bird species such as the Lesser black backed gull, Puffin and Shag. In addition, Herm Common has an excellent cultural heritage, with numerous archaeological remains.
Visiting Herm – how to get there and where to stay
Herm Island lies three miles off the east coast of Guernsey and is reached by catamaran from St Peter Port, Guernsey with Trident Ferries (www.traveltrident.com). The trip takes 20 minutes. Timetables vary depending on time of year with eight departures a day in peak season in July and August. Standard return fare is £12.50 per adult, £6.50 per child and £1.50 per infant. Tickets are purchased at the wooden kiosk in St Peter Port harbour.
The four star White House Hotel is Herm’s only hotel which is renowned for good food and wine in a beautiful setting (also worth noting is that the hotel boasts no clocks or televisions so you can really escape!). Room rates start at £128.00 per adult per night, including breakfast and dinner.
For further information on Guernsey including accommodation and things to do, visit www.visitguernsey.com
Love your morning cup of fairtrade coffee? Now you can visit the actual producers on these brand new tours to Latin America with responsible travel specialists Sumak Travel. Founder Felipe Zalamea explains what to expect on their new Fair Trade Adventures…
It is pretty simple to find fair trade coffee or bananas in a supermarket, or fair trade handicrafts online. But it’s still quite difficult for a conscious traveller to find genuine fair trade holidays. From the very beginning, fair trade principles have been at the core of our social business model. When we met with Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation last year, we thought it was the time to go for it: a series of fair trade small group tours to Latin America. So we joined forces to create new and exciting travel experiences, Fair Trade Adventures.
These innovative tours give travellers the rare opportunity to meet many of the outstanding people behind popular fair trade products, such as the artisans behind beautiful handicrafts and the farmers behind the organic coffee you drink every morning.
12 days in Peru, Costa Rica and Columbia
Travellers will also visit iconic destinations such as Machu Picchu, and off-the-beaten path locations that are truly stunning. We are starting with 12-day trips to Peru (departing 22 April), Costa Rica (departing 14 May), Colombia (departing 20 August) and Northern Peru (departing 16 Sept) this year. Download the brochure for the full itineraries.
What to expect on a Fair Trade Adventure
We believe these tours are the perfect mix of adventure, culture, wildlife, iconic destinations and a little rest and relaxation! And if you’re looking forward to staring the day with something other a commute by train, tube or car, we’ve included boat trips, hiking, horse-riding, 4x4s, bicycles, canoeing and a 40m high suspension bridge!
You could…kick-start the day with a cup of freshly-ground Machu Picchu coffee before visiting the Inca citadel itself; take part in artisanal fishing on Lake Titicaca; visit organic farms along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline; venture down the Yorkin River deep into the jungle to meet members of the indigenous Bribri tribe and hear their ancient stories; hop on an immaculate old Willy´s jeep through super-scenic Valle del Cocora, in Colombia’s coffee region; venture completely off the beaten path in Northern Peru to taste the pulp of some of the world’s best cocoas and try your hand at making ceviche and mixing pisco sours; and last but not least, simply chill on pristine white sand beaches.
These tours are not about passively visiting people and places, but actively engaging with them, and returning home feeling enriched and alive again!
Where you’ll be staying, what you’ll be eating
Homestays are an important feature on many of Sumak Travel’s existing tours, and our Fair Trade Adventures are no exception. To find out more about the concept, you can read about homely homestays in Lake Titicaca, on our blog.
You could be staying with Ticos in San Jose, Costa Rica, or the Ashaninka Native Community San Miguel, in the Perené Valley, Peru. You’ll also be able to stay on farms and coffee plantations – and try your hand at milking cows, cutting sugar cane, making artisanal cheese and catching your own fish for dinner! But don’t worry, you can also sit back and enjoy the delights of a traditional Caribbean food, Andean recipes with a modern twist, Puma coffee, banana creams, tropical fruits, and some of the world’s best cocoa.
Supporting and promoting fair tourism
A fair trade approach to tourism is very much needed in the developing world, and in particular in destinations where tourism is the main industry. If you are tired of mass tourism and tourist traps, if you are looking for an unusual holiday where you can meet fantastic people, and if you would like to learn from some of the amazing people behind our fair trade staples, these tours are for you.
We are strong advocates of fair trade and sustainability, and would love to be able to show you that responsible tourism is not only the most rewarding option, but can be the most exciting one too.
The type of activity and variety of experiences included have been chosen to be as inclusive as possible, making the tours great for solo travellers, couples, groups of friends, and families alike. They are 12 to 14 days long, but for those who can stay longer and have more specific interests (bird-watching, hiking, wildlife, adventure sports, beaches etc), we have created special add-ons, that can be easily included too.
From the cloud forest at Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, eco tourism pioneer Inkaterra has an Amazonian adventure in store that the whole family can enjoy…
Most adventure treks suit sprightly adults, gap year kids or fitness junkies. But this seven-night adventure holiday in the Peruvian Amazon is just right for families.
With over forty years of expertise in sustainable tourism, Inkaterra‘s family adventure, reveals the breathtaking wonders of the Amazon, Sacred Valley of the Incas and meet the mists of the cloud forest at Machu Picchu. The trip also supports local communities through conservation programmes.
What’s in store – rainforest and wildlife
The trip starts deep in the heart of the Southern Amazon rainforest, the biodiversity capital of Peru. What a place to wake-up to a symphony of birdsong and monkeys swinging through the branches overhead. Situated in a 10,000 ha. private reserve, Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica has much to discover – take one of the trekking trails and don’t miss the 344m high canopy walkway leading through the heart of the vast Peruvian rainforest and offering a (literal) bird’s-eye view of the plush forest canopy.
Accommodation – pick your own food at Pueblo Hotel
The adventure continues at Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, high in the Peruvian Andes. Whilst discovering the historic wonders of the region, barbecues, bird-watching and twilight hikes await. Accommodation is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel set in farmland, home to an organic plantation, and shrouded by a majestic cloud forest.
Guests can truly immerse themselves in the local farming community by way of picking their own produce as part of the Earth to Plate concept, the brainchild of executive chef, Rafael Casin. The food guests don’t farm themselves is purchased from the association’s Andean Farm Project, where cutting edge agro-ecological techniques are used to grow organic produce and medicinal plants.
Protecting rare and endangered wildlife
Amidst the clouds, 372 native orchid species, over 200 species of birds and 111 variety of butterflies can be found along the miles of trails that wind through the forest. Also the spectacled bear which is the only bear species in South America – because of their rapidly dwindling numbers the Inkaterra Spectacled Bear Project is essential to sustaining this rare and endangered native species. The Spectacled Bears Rescue Centre works to rehabilitate the bears, and bring them back into their natural habitat whenever possible.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel works closely with Inkaterra Asociación, an organisation that develops scientific, technological and cultural research projects aimed at managing and protecting the biodiversity and local communities of the Peruvian Andes. With strong ties to the local community, the property works with schools by hosting environmental conservation workshops and running fundraising campaigns for local villages.
The final leg – Cusco, capital of the Incan Empire
The last leg of this epic Peruvian adventure brings travellers to Cusco, the vibrant capital of the Incan Empire. Accommodation is baed at Inkaterra La Casona, a renovated 16th century manor located in the heart of the city. After indulging in Andean culture and cuisine, families can revel in the Spanish-colonial ambiance, exploring the ground that was once home to the elite army of the Incas.
Recommended for… Families looking for an adventurous and educational holiday
Be aware that… There is a distance for families to travel between each property
Don’t assume that camping season is over now that summer has gone. Make the most of this burst of autumn sunshine with a quick camping weekend here…
You can fall asleep to the sound of the waves at Cliff House Holiday Park in Suffolk. Located on a clifftop just outside the village of Dunwich and down the road from RSPB reserve Minsmere, this camping and carvanning site is a joy.
Set aside any sniffy preconceptions of the words ‘holiday park’ in the name – although this is a large site which welcomes caravans and motorhomes, it retains a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere without feeling overly commercial or bland (the site is listed in ‘Cool Camping Kids’ which proves its ‘cool’ and family-friendly creds).
You can pitch your tent amongst the trees in this 30-acre woodland setting, or just on the lawn outside the large Cliff House. You’re merely a minute or two away from the sea, accessed via steep steps down to the pebbly beach, with its wide view along the Suffolk coastline to Southwold and Sizewell.
One happy camper family
With all sorts of camper or caravanner welcome, you get a sense of a big eclectic camping family at Cliff House. Categories are roughly grouped together so tent-sleepers won’t be squashed between motorhomes, but a stroll from tent to reception takes in a myriad of outdoor living arrangements – tents (from small to large), campervans (vintage and modern), safari tents (permanently on site), even an Airstream campervan. Many take to decorating their temporary abodes with fairy lights and other glamping gear.
Open fires are welcome so you can toast mashmallows into the small hours if you wish. All the usual facilities you’d expect from a large site are present (shower blocks, washing areas, playground for children) as well as an on-site bar/restaurant and shop.
The surrounding area
This is a beautiful part of the UK coastline (officially an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The area is dotted with pretty and interesting villages and towns including Southwold, Walberswick, Dunwich and Saxmundham. The aforementioned RSPB Minsmere reserve is minutes away and well worth a visit whether you’re a bird watcher or not. Recommended pubs serving great food and local ales include The Ship at Dunwich and The Anchor in Walberswick (who specialise in organic and biodynamic food, wine and beer including their own homegrown produce and guest craft ales).
Testing our camping gear
During our stay we tested a few camping bits and pieces focusing on the essentials of what any trip needs – food, light and a good night’s sleep!
The Coleman Durarest Raised Double airbed (£89.99, www.coleman.eu) provided, possibly, the most comfortable night’s sleep we’ve ever had on an airbed! Thick and sturdy, it properly raised us off the cool, bumpy ground, and most importantly, it stayed up all night for two nights! Packs away into its own little attached pouch, but as always, that was almost impossible once it was deflated!
The Coleman CPX Portable LED Table Lantern (£29.99, www.coleman.eu) was much larger than expected and provided enough light within the tent and outside. The dome shape emits a wide glow which was quite soft. It’s big enough to stand up solidly on a table or any patch of ground, and its handle allows it to be tied to a tent ceiling (watch your head!). Also attractive enough to use back at home in the garden, so double points for that!
The Campingaz 600SG Stove (£139.99, www.campingaz.com) – Now this is a fancy bit of camping kit. No more squeezing everything onto one flame, this portable camping stove has two adjustable burners with two sets of grill and burner parts. This allows you to have one of each at the same time (e.g. grill some freshly caught fish while boiling up the potatoes) or double flame (boil water for coffee alongside some boiled eggs) or double grill (barbecue time!). No more bending down low as this stove stands on tall telescopic legs. Lots of side and middle trays help you position food and utensils while cooking. All in all a great camping stove that would suit any garden-based al fresco cooking when you get home.
This is an ornothologist’s dream but you don’t have to be a serious birder to enjoy this new trip to seek out New Zealand’s rare and endangered bird life…
As an island lying deep in the South Pacific, New Zealand boasts some extraordinary flora and fauna including birds not found anywhere else on the planet. Travel specialists New Zealand In Depth have now launched a brand new 28-night tour in search of the country’s rare and endangered birds.
Keen bird watchers will love it but so will anyone with an interest in wildlife as the trip takes you off the beaten track in search of the nation’s iconic kiwi and also kokako, kakapo, saddleback, mohua and tuatara. As well as the birdlife, the itinerary allows guests to experience New Zealand’s flora and fauna from the sub-tropical north, to the dramatic Fiordland region in the south; not to mention its world famous marine mammals.
The organisers describe it as simply “the best, and most comprehensive, birding experience available in New Zealand”.
Accommodation – supporting local conservation projects
Throughout the tour guests will stay in some incredible places (we love the look of the flash treehouses – see below) from luxury lodges to boutique B&Bs. All have their own projects to protect the local endemic birdlife, so each guest will indirectly be making a positive contribution towards local conservation efforts and predator control programs.
Prices and departures dates
Small groups depart in November 2016, March 2017 and November 2017.
A 28 night New Zealand Self-Drive Bird & Nature Tour with New Zealand In Depth costs from £6,500 per person, not including flights.
The price includes transfers, accommodation on a twin share basis in boutique hotels and luxury lodges, car hire with driving notes and maps, breakfast and some dinners (as per the itinerary – see below), the services of a Tour Director and activities and excursions (see website for more details).
Day 1: arrive in Auckland – You will be met and transferred to your accommodation in the city centre. As you land in the City of Sails, your very first glimpse of New Zealand will see you crossing the harbours of Auckland and the green-grassed slopes of dormant volcanoes above this thriving Pacific city. Spend the early afternoon at leisure before an introduction to the world of the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous people, at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Overnight: Auckland
Day 2: Auckland & Tiritiri Matangi Island- Sheltered within the Hauraki Gulf this island sanctuary, reclaimed for nature through countless volunteer hours, is today a spectacle of northern forest and birdlife. You will cross on the ferry to Tiri, as it is affectionately called, for a day to explore the pathways and birdlife of this predator-free island. Overnight: Auckland
Day 3: Auckland & Muriwai Beach- Today you will explore the hidden secrets, the pathways, the wildlife, the headland crowded with Australasian gannets at Muriwai and the beaches of the Waitakere Ranges. Overnight: Auckland
Day 4: Auckland – Lake Taupo – Today you will travel to Turangi on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. Overnight: Turangi
Day 5: Lake Taupo – Today you have four options to choose from: a guided 12 mile hike on the Tongariro Crossing, the best one day walk in New Zealand across volcanic landscapes; a gentle raft down the Tongariro River, home to 10 of the remaining 1400 pairs of blue duck or whio; fishing on the banks of Tongariro River; a leisurely drive around the area to key spots in search of the blue duck and numerous other bird species. Overnight: Turangi
Day 6: Lake Taupo–Paraparaumu–Kapiti Island – An early departure and a 3½ hour journey takes you south to Paraparaumu. On arrival you will transfer by ferry to Kapiti Island for anovernight stay at the eco lodge. The lodge’s wildlife sanctuary programme includes full guiding at the two entry areas and kiwi spotting in the evening. Overnight: Kapiti Island
Day 7: Kapiti Island–Paraparaumu–Wellington – The dawn chorus will wake you for breakfast today, amidst wonderful birdsong and the call of the kaka and kokako. Later you will return to the mainland at Paraparaumu and travel on to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. The afternoon is free to explore at your leisure whilst in the evening you will visit Zealandia, an inner city reserve of international importance, watch as dusk descends and the wildlife changes to morepork and kiwi. Overnight: Wellington
Day 8: Wellington–Marlborough Sounds – Today you will leave the North Island and venture to the majestic South Island. Depart early on the Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton. Join the Seafood Odyssey cruise at Picton Wharf for a wonderful boat trip through the Marlborough Sounds to Bay of Many Coves. On board you will get to enjoy a tasting of fresh Marlborough seafood – Regal salmon, Tio Point oysters and green-lipped mussels. Overnight: Marlborough Sounds
Day 9: Marlborough Sounds – Today you will explore the Marlborough Sounds by kayak, walk on the Queen Charlotte Track or you could just relax at Bay of Many Coves. Alternatively, see the conservation work that the lodge is doing with the blue penguin nesting boxes. Overnight: Marlborough Sounds
Day 10: Marlborough Sounds–Kaikoura – Returning to Picton by water taxi you will take the scenic route down the east coast to Kaikoura where the mountains meet the sea. Kaikoura, renowned as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, is the point at which a deep ocean trench provides a nutrient rich upswell which supports a huge concentration of marine wildlife. Overnight: Kaikoura
Day 11: Kaikoura – Today is a day of exploration in Kaikoura. Early this morning, you will join an Albatross Encounter adventure to explore the world of the albatross. Afterwards you will have time for breakfast in Kaikoura, before joining the Whale Watch guides to see sperm whales in the deep ocean. (Please note this tour is weather dependent so an alternative option would be to swim with dolphins or enjoy a dolphin-watching cruise with Dolphin Encounter or swim with the seals.) Later this afternoon we can enjoy a walk on the Kaikoura Peninsula and experience more wildlife sightings, explore the history of the town at Fyffe Cottage or visit the Maori Pa site and its classical defence system of trenches on the crest of the peninsula. Overnight: Kaikoura
Day 12: Kaikoura–Christchurch – Today you will take the scenic journey to Christchurch, via the Waipara wine region, with opportunity for tastings. Visit Orana Park Wildlife Park as well as The Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust to hear about the special conservation work undertaken. This is a private Trust and visits are limited and exclusive. Overnight: Christchurch
Day 13: Christchurch – Today you will head to Akaroa to see Hector’s dolphins, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world which only breeds in the waters around Banks Peninsula. After lunch there is a visit to the white-flippered penguin colony before returning to Christchurch. These rare penguins that nest only on the Banks Peninsula with around 3,750 breeding pairs. Overnight: Christchurch
Day 14: Christchurch–Hokitika – Today you will have a scenic journey across Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps stopping at Lake Pearson to spot the very rare Australian crested grebe. Short walks at Bealey Valley beech and moss forest for robins, rifleman, silvereye and fantails. Stop at Otira Viaduct Lookout to see kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Continuing across to the west coast and Hokitika. Overnight: Hokitika
Day 15: Hokitika–Okarito – Known as “The Coast”, the narrow strip of land between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Alps hosts an area of wilderness untouched by time and man. Turning off the main highway your overnight stop is in Okarito, a small coastal village created during the gold rush of 1860s, but now home to around 30 holiday baches (holiday homes). Join an evening kiwi spotting tour to see the Okarito kiwi in its natural habitat. Overnight: a bach (kiwi holiday home) in Okarito
Day 16: Okarito – Today you will join a 2 hour nature cruise on the lagoon to explore the waterways and over 70 species of bird including rare white heron and royal spoonbills. After lunch you can relax or join a guided walk to the Trig View Point for stunning views of Mount Cook. Overnight: Okarito Bach (kiwi holiday home)
Day 17: Okarito–Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki – Today your journey continues down the west coast with walks at Lake Matheson and Fox Glacier. At Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki you will meet Dr Gerry McSweeney, scientist and conservationist, to learn about the treasures of the local land and wildlife. You will also learn of the local conservation works. Overnight: Lake Moeraki
Day 18: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki – Today you will take a guided walk in search of Fiordland crested penguins, the world’s second rarest penguin which returns each year to a small number of beaches on the west coast to breed (October and November only). There are many activities available at the Lodge including kayaking, fishing, forest walks or just relaxing. Overnight: Lake Moeraki
Day 19: Lake Moeraki–Queenstown – Today you will travel from Lake Moeraki to Queenstown via the lakeside route past Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Wakatipu with short walks at Ships Creek, Fantail Falls and Blue Pools. Overnight: Queenstown
Day 20: Queenstown – Relaxing day to explore Queenstown. Optional activities include wine tour, 4×4 adventure to Skippers Canyon, Lord of the Rings tour, TSS Earnslaw Steam Boat trip to Walter Peak Farm station. Overnight: Queenstown
Day 21: Queenstown-Te Anau – Today you will travel to Te Anau, the Gateway to Fiordland, stopping at Mavora Lakes for a short walk. Overnight: Te Anau
Day 22: Te Anau – Today you will join Trips & Tramps for a half day guided walk on the Kepler Track. An optional activity is to join a glow worm tour on Lake Te Anau. Overnight: Te Anau
Day 23: Te Anau–Doubtful Sound – Today you will travel into the heart of Fiordland crossing Lake Manapouri and over Wilmot Pass into Doubtful Sound for an overnight cruise with your dedicated and highly experienced nature guide. Explore from the depths of the fiord to the Tasman Sea, watch for resident dolphins, kayak and learn of the unique seabed environment in these waters created by a freshwater layer sitting at the surface. Overnight: on board Fiordland Navigator
Day 24: Manapouri–Stewart Island – You will return to Manapouri by midday and then travel across the South Island to Stewart Island crossing the fertile Southland plains to Invercargill and the port of Bluff. Here we take the ferry to Stewart Island. Rakiura National Park, encompassing the majority of Stewart Island, is New Zealand’s newest park, the township of Oban, nestled around Halfmoon Bay and into Paterson Inlet, is the only village. Overnight: Stewart Island. Evening: kiwi watch programme for Stewart Island Brown Kiwi (alternate activity: talk by local Department of Conservation staff member).
Day 25: Stewart Island–Ulva Island – Ulva Island in Paterson Inlet is iconic for its birdlife, its history and its forest.Walk the pathways across the island, surprise yourself as the path arrives to a beautiful remote white sand beach, and experience saddlebacks that flit across the air and friendly robins watch as you pass. This is a morning to treasure on this very specialreserve and in the afternoon you will join a pelagic birding trip to see Buller’s, Salvin’s, royal and wandering albatross, shearwaters and petrels. Overnight: Stewart Island
Day 26: Stewart Island – Explore Stewart Island with options around boat trips, guided tour of Stewart Island. Overnight: Stewart Island
Day 27: Stewart Island–Catlins Forest Park–Dunedin – An early morning departure today from Stewart Island. You will follow the Southern Scenic Route to the little known Catlins Forest Park. From the Cathedral Caves on the beach to populations of mohua (yellowhead) in the beech forest, your hosts Mary and Fergus will walk with you into the forest sharing their passion for this area. Overnight: Dunedin
Day 28: Dunedin – You will start the day by visiting Orokonui Eco Sanctuary just north of Dunedin for a guided walk. Opportunities to see kaka, takahe, tui,bellbirds, silvereye, fernbird, grey warbler, rifleman, Otago skink, jewelled gecko and tuatara. In the afternoon we head to the Otago Peninsula for the northern royal albatross, yellow–eyed penguins, New Zealand sea lions and cormorants who thrive on the southern ocean up swellings around the Otago Peninsula and we share their home for the day. Overnight: Dunedin
Day 29: depart Dunedin and international flight connection – Today you will travel to Dunedin airport and connect with your international departing flight.