5 eco-holiday activities in New Zealand

KNOWN as a country where you can ski down a mountain and then swim in the ocean in the same day, New Zealand is an obvious choice for an eco-holiday.

But don’t let that put you off. Here are 5 diverse activities for nature lovers wishing to explore this Pacific island paradise.

Whale watching in New Zealand

Pic: AP.

Whale watching

180km (110mi) north of Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand you’ll find the town of Kaikoura, a Green Globe certified destination for tourism. Once a whaling and crayfishing town, Kaikoura is now a center for whale watching, eco-tourism and historical interest. The whale watching industry claims a 95% success rate, taking some 100,000 whale watchers out every year to see humpback, beaked, blue, fin, minke, sei, killer, and pilot whales. Whale Watch Kaikoura is a Māori-owned tourist organization which also provides free educational excursions to young students. Read more about it here and here.




Stay in an eco-lodge

Eco-lodges in New Zealand are holiday accommodation that connect closely with surrounding nature. Some operate in tandem with other holistic or nature-centered activities including yoga, hiking and other sustainable vacation activities. Bear in mind that an eco-lodge retreat is generally not a budget holiday, but it does fit into the unusual/alternative category. Eco-lodges are eclectic in style, from ‘hobbit holes’ to tree houses to luxury cabins equipped solar heating and compost toilets to more rugged, ‘earthy’ digs like tepees and earth domes. Check out some examples of New Zealand’s eco-lodges here and here. Read more about the eco-lodge phenomenon in the New Zealand Herald and the Marlborough Express.



Hiking in New Zealand

Hiking in New Zealand. Pic: Jo Lane - www.visitedplanet.com

Hiking and cycling

Do just a little research on New Zealand and you’ll discover that it’s a hiking Mecca with an incredibly beautiful natural environment and plenty of natural parks and landscapes to explore. Options range from the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park to the fjords of the South Island, Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and Asbel Tasman National Park with its beaches and coastal track. If cycling is more your thing, make sure you can handle hills and deal with using roads as opposed to dedicated cycle paths if you are planning on cycling between towns. There are also cycle tour operators who offer guided tours if you need a bit of help along the way.

(DESTINATION: Queenstown, New Zealand)




Take a yoga retreat

If you’re into yoga, like so many people seem to be these days, why not combine it with your holiday? It’s relaxing and healthy and a heck of a lot more enjoyable if you can take your time in a beautiful natural environment as opposed to an urban studio for an hour after work. Parito Coastal Yoga Retreat, located just 2-3 hours south of Auckland, offers a range of packages in a natural, healthy and peaceful environment. For those looking to splurge out doing yoga on a private luxury island there is the Eagles Nest. The ABC of Yoga website has a list of a few New Zealand yoga retreats that I’m sure are all more within the budget of anyone who is not the Sultan of Brunei.



Waitomo Caves, pic: René Slaats (Flickr CC)


Caving, much like the name suggests, involves exploring caves. If you’re imagining crawling through dank, dark, cold cramped caverns full of creepy crawlies, think again. New Zealand was recently listed as one of the top caving destinations in the world by the Mother Nature Network. The most famous cave experience in the country and probably most-visitor friendly is had at Waitomo Caves, which encompasses an area of some 300 caves, including the Glow Worm Caves where one can witness a phosphorescent natural light show courtesy of the local glow worms. The magnificent Cathedral Cavern’s acoustics provide a great venue for opera singers and Aranui cave boasts an impressive array of stalactites, stalagmites and other impressive rock formations. Waitomo is also home to a restored Victorian hotel and offers abseiling cave (the world’s only?) and underground cave tubing excursions (black water rafting).

Read more about it in the Bay of Plenty Times.