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New Zealand Nature Explorer

A Small-Group Nature Adventure Amid the Scenic Splendors of the South Island
Day 1: Christchurch, New Zealand
Our New Zealand adventure tour begins on arrival in Christchurch, where we'll meet for an orientation dinner this evening. For those who arrive early, you may wish to join your Expedition Leader for an optional outing to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and Canterbury Museum.

Days 2 & 3: Kaikoura
Head to sea from the fishing village of Kaikoura, an outstanding place to view marine mammals. We may see sperm whales, orcas, New Zealand fur seals and rare Hector’s dolphins found only in New Zealand. The next day we take a boat ride in search of five different species of albatross. Later, we are invited into the home of a Kaikoura Maori family, gaining insight into the traditions, values and contemporary life of these indigenous people.

Days 4 & 5: Arthur’s Pass
Traveling inland to the Craigieburn Range, we find endemic scree plants, giant weta insects and dramatic views of Castle Hill Basin. Our destination is Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge, a deluxe ecolodge on a working sheep farm set amid mountain beech forest. We’ll enjoy short hikes and activities around the lodge, including forest walks and a visit to a braided glacial river.

Days 6 & 7: Westland National Park / Fox Glacier
In Westland National Park, vast icefields of the Southern Alps spawn glaciers that wind like frozen highways nearly to the ocean, their terminal moraines ending in primeval rainforest. In this unusual mix of habitats we find the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea. We visit Fox Glacier, in the shadow of New Zealand’s tallest peak, Mount Cook. At Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki, rainforest walks and paddling excursions invite relaxation.

Day 8: Lake Wanaka
Traversing moss-draped beech forest, we cross Haast Pass into the heart of the Southern Lakes high country. Our destination, the vast blue expanse of Lake Wanaka, is the portal to Mount Aspiring National Park. In the Maori language, Wanaka means “renewal of the soul,” exactly what our time here offers.

Day 9: Sheep Country / Te Anau
Along the Crown Range Road, vistas of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Range unfold. In the Mataura Valley we visit a working high-country sheep station. We’ll observe mustering and shearing and watch the renowned sheepdogs at work as our farm family hosts explain wool production. Continuing to the Fiordland World Heritage Area, we overnight in the lakeside resort town of Te Anau.

Day 10: Fiordland National Park / Milford Sound
Fiordland National Park is a mythical-looking land of pyramid peaks and sheer rock walls, waterfalls and drifting mists, beneath a perpetual cap of snow and ice. On a cruise through the steep-walled fjords of Milford Sound, we look for fur seals, crested penguins and bottlenose dolphins.

Days 11 & 12: Stewart Island
From Invercargill we fly to idyllic Stewart Island. Much of the island lies within the new Rakiura National Park, whose Maori name means “Land of Glowing Skies.” Its lush forests shelter many native plants, which we discover on short hikes through the unique habitat. We’ll also hope to spy the elusive brown kiwi on a guided night walk. On neighboring Ulva Island, a short boat ride away, we explore pristine trails and beaches, observing rare bird species that no longer exist on the main islands.

Day 13: Catlins / Dunedin
Fly back to Invercargill and the little-visited Catlins region, where rainforest fringes the bluffs and isolated beaches teem with fur seals, sea lions and elephant seals. From Dunedin, we take a cruise in Otago Harbor, timing it for the evening return of the giant northern royal albatross to its colony at Taiaroa Head.

Day 14: Dunedin / Home
Today, our New Zealand adventure tour comes to an end.  If time permits, explore this delightful Victorian city on your own before transferring to the airport for flights home.

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