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Sustainable Tourism

Top 15 sustainable travel experiences in New Zealand

  • 4 minutes

@albatrosscentre

Responsible holidays, places to visit

Discover tours where the wildlife is protected and cherished. Sustainable tourism, responsible guides are part and parcel of experiences where the visitors are caged, not the wildlife. New Zealand fur seals, penguins, ocean-going gannets, native parrots and endangered lizards, nurseries for the national icon, the kiwi, and the pinup poster duck on the $10 note, whio or blue duck.

@gannetbeachadventures
@gannetbeachadventures
  1. GANNET TOURS AT CAPE KIDNAPPERS – HAWKE’S BAY

GANNET BEACH ADVENTURES – + A VINTAGE TRACTOR

Observe thousands of gannets nesting on top of each other at Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay. It’s very noisy and has a distinctive whiff from the poop of guzzling fledgelings. It is sheer unalloyed fun to be part of the audience watching massive 1.8 metre wingspan ocean birds launch into the sky in search of food for hungry infants. Gannet Beach Adventures has created a fun way to enjoy getting there. Jump on the back of a trailer being towed by a vintage tractor with a running commentary. You bounce along as you travel the beach. However it is very immersive as you are traveling along the beach, past geological formations where fossils lie and through shallow water. There is a short sharp (30 minute) climb to the main colony.

GANNET SAFARI – if you would prefer a more comfortable way to travel to the gannet colony on Cape Kidnappers. Gannet Safaris Overland offers a cushioned alternative on-board their air-conditioned minibus. The tour does not travel on the ‘beach road.’

Both tours offer an opportunity for all fitness levels to enjoy an encounter with gannets. Both tour operators are ecotourism certified. Season late September to early March.

  1. RUGGEDY RANGE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE – STEWART ISLAND

Rakiura Stewart Island is a hot spot for birders and, for most of the gorgeous birds in the bush, we are not sure of the species or the name. Ruggedy Range wilderness experience manages the naming of birds with quiet expertise leaving visitors to relish the diversity of birds and wildlife on Rakiura Island. Tours on Rakiura are usually on foot allowing you to get tantalizingly close to both rare and native birds, including the island’s famously high concentration of wild kiwi. There are multiple day hiking tours for the dedicated birder and lover of the outdoors.

Rakiura great walk, New Zealand @ruggedyrange
Rakiura great walk @ruggedyrange
@ekotoursdolphinwatch
@ekotoursdolphinwatch
  1. E-KO TOURS DOLPHIN AND WILDLIFE CRUISE – MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS

Remember the harrowing story of Willy, the dolphin in captivity with his own ‘free Willy’ campaign. E-KO award winning tour of the Marlborough Sounds is reassuringly focused on wildlife welfare. The calm sheltered Queen Charlotte Sound and Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary is the destination. The cruise will pass Hector’s, common, bottlenose and dusky dolphins en route with a chance to swim in the dolphins habitat. There are several options for visitors. Perhaps your interests are predator free islands with guides adding an in depth commentary or simply immersing yourself in the marine world.

  1. CATLINS SCENIC & WILDLIFE TOURS

Catlins Scenic and Wildlife Tours is part of Gill and Lyndon McKenzie’s Mohua Park Eco Accommodation. A safari destination in the Catlins that is a MUST-GO for wildlife lovers.

Joining a sunrise tour with Catlins Scenic and Wildlife Tours will put you in a good position to witness yellow-eyed penguins preparing for a day at sea. The habitat is on private land meaning visitors are privileged to be in an otherwise inaccessible penguin habitat. For a touch of adrenaline embark on a Catlins Coastal ATV Experience over rolling farmland, coastal trails and get to view the Catlins with a local expert. Combined with comfortable accommodation this is an unmissable Catlins experience.

Sea lions bathing on the beach at Waipapa point, Catlins, New Zealand
Sea lions bathing on the beach at Waipapa point, Catlins
Little blue penguin, Hauraki Gulf, Auckland, New Zealand
Little blue penguin, Hauraki Gulf
  1. HAURAKI GULF ISLANDS – AUCKLAND

Sail away from the urban bustle into the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf. There are historic settlements, regenerating bush and plenty of wildlife, especially birds to gladden the heart of any conservation visitor. Discover a natural predator barrier* the ocean creating sanctuaries for New Zealand’s native flora and fauna to flourish. It’s up to visitors to ensure pests are not re-introduced as they disembark from private vessels or public ferries.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Remote quiet places where you can camp or stay in a heritage bungalow
  • Soak in the serenity of an island with its views of twinkling Auckland in the distance
  • Swim, snorkel, climb volcanic summits and spend time listening to bird song
  • Volunteer or donate supporting ongoing projects

*Rats can swim and are an ongoing problem for the islands.

  1. ROTOKARE NIGHT TOURS AT ROTOKARE SCENIC RESERVE – TARANAKI

Rotokare By Night” is a seasonal series of Night Tours that showcase the Reserve in a way you’ll have never experienced before. Join experienced tour guides on a journey into the dark, exploring New Zealand’s native forests after sundown. Meet beady-eyed moreporks, hear scuttling wēta on the forest floor, discover hidden treasures in our glow worm hideouts, smell kiwi poop upon the air, and spotlight for tuna (eels) and banded kōkopu in our meandering streams. The tour is amazing with the night sounds echoing in your ears long after the tour has finished.

Rotokare night tours, New Zealand @rotokare
Rotokare night tours @rotokare
Oamaru Blue Penguin, New Zealand @Penguins
Oamaru Blue Penguin @Penguins
  1. ŌAMARU BLUE PENGUIN COLONY

A town got together and decided their neighbours needed some help. The tiny penguins at 33cm height waddle ashore and have the Oamaru Blue Penguin Trust looking after their welfare. It is a regular routine to return to their nests in the twilight and visitors are invited to join

Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony. Volunteers and observe Oamuru’s favourite locals.

  1. THE NATIONAL KIWI HATCHERY – ROTORUA

Your experience starts and finishes with kiwi eggs. Visit the largest kiwi hatchery in the country. At National Kiwi Hatchery  See conservation in action. The National Kiwi Hatchery is the national leader in kiwi husbandry, egg incubation systems, hatching techniques and kiwi chick rearing. When you join one of the experiences, you’ll get to see kiwi eggs being incubated, the hatching process and newly hatched kiwi chicks

@nationalkiwihatcheryaotearoa
@nationalkiwihatcheryaotearoa
Project Island Song, Urupukapuka, New Zealand @wildernessnz
Project Island Song, Urupukapuka @wildernessnz
  1. BAY OF ISLANDS, URUPUKAPUKA

Discover an island where bird song has returned. Urupukapuka Island is where you will find Project Island Song, a wildlife sanctuary committed to restoring New Zealand’s native birdsong, note by note. Through native tree planting, biosecurity measures and species protection, the project has reintroduced native birds to seven of the main islands including toutouwai (North Island Robin), tīeke (North Island Saddleback) and kākāriki. Hop on a ferry from Paihia or Russell or join ECO-CRUZ for an in depth exploration of the Bay of Islands from, where else but under sail.

  1. SANCTUARY MOUNTAIN – WAIKATO, NORTH ISLAND

With a 47km pest-proof fence, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is officially New Zealand’s largest ecological “island”; a wildlife haven that will impress birding experts and novices alike. A 30-minute drive from Cambridge, the natural oasis is rich with native trees and ferns that hundreds of bird populations call home. Freely explore the dense forest using their network of walking tracks, including a 16m-high Canopy Tower, or book a tour for the full experience.

Kaka, Sanctuary Mountain, New Zealand
Kaka, Sanctuary Mountain
Trout Centre, blue duck, New Zealand
Blue duck
  1. TONGARIRO RIVER RAFTING BLUE DUCK EXPERIENCE

There is something mystical about whio, blue duck. The duck is fussy. Whio demand clean, fast moving water and prefer rapids with the Tongariro River fitting the bill. With an experienced local guide you will navigate the same exciting Grade 3 Tongariro River rapids as the regular Tongariro White Water Rafting trip. The difference is the pit stops along remote stretches of the riverbank that are only accessible by raft. Here, you will take part in the Blue Duck Project by walking the trapping lines and helping to check predator traps. The gas powered, automatic traps are easy to handle, and you will learn how to make sure they are all charged and set to go. A unique, hands-on NZ eco-adventure: helping to protect the rare and endangered Whio (Blue Duck) population from predators while rafting the beautiful Tongariro River.

  1. THE ROYAL ALBATROSS CENTRE  – DUNEDIN, OTAGO

The Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin is home to the world’s only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross. These magnificent birds, with their 3m wingspan, are visually impressive and endearing knock-kneed as they bump into an ungainly landing. Albatross can spend years at sea, roaming enormous distances in search of food. As a not-for-profit charitable trust, a portion of your entry ticket to the Royal Albatross Centre goes directly to protecting the albatross.

@albatrosscentre
@albatrosscentre
@moutohora
@moutohora
  1. ISLAND SANCTUARY TOUR WHAKATĀNE – BAY OF PLENTY

Moutohorā Island Sanctuary tour highlights:

  • 4-hour guided tour of one of New Zealand’s most protected wildlife sanctuaries
  • 15-minute boat journey to Moutohorā/Whale Island aboard a comfortable catamaran
  • Visit a kekeno/NZ fur seal colony
  • Abundant birdlife including tūturiwhatu/New Zealand dotterel, tīeke/North Island saddleback, kākāriki/red-crowned parakeet, tui and bellbirds
  • Swim at secluded hot water beach Onepū/Sulphur Bay

Moutohora (Whale Island) is home to rare and endangered flora and fauna. The island can only be visited with an official tour provider. Dig in the low tide and enjoy an impromptu spa in the hot spring water welling out of the sand. Observe rare blue penguins nesting in the rocky foreshore as fur seals raise their pups in the vicinity. The small 1.4 km island is a remnant of a complex volcano which has eroded, leaving two peaks. There are hot springs on the island in Sulphur Valley and McEwans Bay. This is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s quiet gems. A tour where you feel good about paying for a ticket. Part of the price goes directly to the Department of Conservation ongoing island projects as well as the Whakatane Coastguard. It is am amazing tour with the major elements wrapped around four hours

  • Marine wildlife
  • Sense of seclusion and privilege as you step onto a predator free island
  • A geothermal treat with hot water welling out of a sandy beach
@moutohora
@moutohora
Hector's Dolphins, New Zealand @Whalewatch
Hector's Dolphins @Whalewatch
  1. HECTORS DOLPHINS – BANKS PENINSULA – CHRISTCHURCH

Akaroa Harbour is home to the rare hectors dolphin. Swim in the dolphins marine world. Black Cat tours do not touch any dolphins, this is a pure natural encounter where we enter and respect Hector’s dolphins environment and behavior. Dolphin Guarantee; see our two tier dolphin guarantee policy for booking reassurance.  Black Cat was the first cruise boat company in the world to get the coveted Green Globe 21, an international programme to ensure best environmental practices. We are also DOC approved and are the only cruise operator in Akaroa to have an Enviro-gold certification from Qualmark. Swimming with Dolphins | Hector’s Dolphin | Black Cat Cruises is a must-go wildlife experience.

  1. GOLF BUFFS – WAIRAKEI INTERNATIONAL GOLF COURSE & SANCTUARY – TAUPO

Imagine a golf course with a robust 5 km ‘Xcluder iron fence’ The barricade means your golf swing could be interrupted by wildlife. The sanctuary has a dedicated kiwi incubation, hatching and brooding centre as well as a safe haven for breeding takahē, guinea fowl, pekin ducks and free-roaming deer. Recently aerial hunters, New Zealand’s falcon,the kārearea (NZ falcon) has taken up residence.

@wairakeigolfsanctuary
@wairakeigolfsanctuary

For tips and ideas about sustainable tourism, responsible travel check out Responsible travel: sustainable tourism in New Zealand.

CHECK Department of Conservation guidelines and advice for Aotearoa New Zealand visitors to get you started on the journey of a holiday where volunteering and having a good time go hand in hand.

 

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

How is an operator assessed as eco-friendly and practicing responsible tourism with cultural and environment paradigms?

In New Zealand there is the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment.The programme is managed by New Zealand’s tourism industry association, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA). It was developed by industry for industry.

The operator has awards for Qualmark, Tourism New Zealand Awards and is an active participant in conservation programmes. The relevant information in this area is usually found on the ecotourism operators’ websites.

Qualmark on behalf of Tourism New Zealand has joined the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) as a destination member. Environmental certification schemes are recognised, yet there is not a definitive certification process yet inthe New Zealand ecotourism industry sphere. Green Globe 21 however, is an international certification scheme that is currently widely employed in New Zealand

WHAT IS ECO-TOURISM IN NEW ZEALAND?

Eco-tourism is cultural and environmental tourism promoting quality of life for the locals, wildlife and conservation of resources. Ecotourism businesses describe themselves as  using sustainable practices.

 

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