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The raw and wild power of the remote Auckland Islands


The more and more I travel the world, the more I’ve come to realize how much I value and adore going off the grid, voyaging to far shores few have been to and seeing places that barely exist on social media, if not at all.

Trust me; there are still so many spots out there.

These wild places beckon to me, they call to my soul, and they are the spots that fill my heart with pure joy, a joy I can’t even share because there definitely isn’t wifi around.

Does that sound like somewhere right up your alley? Or do you prefer to read about it from the comforts of home? No shaming whatsoever. As an ambitious adventurer full of fear, I devour plenty of stories that I would never in a million years attempt on my own. I get it.

Who doesn’t love a good story?

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

Last year over the Christmas holidays, which is summertime down in New Zealand where I live, I had the incredible opportunity to journey to the bottom of the world with Heritage Expeditions, back to the subantarctic, but this time on the Pacific side of the map – instead of from South America.

A Christchurch-based expedition company, Heritage Expeditions, and I go way back. These guys are badass. Pioneers in conservation tourism, they have been leading the charge over the past decade in responsibly sharing our precious places, encouraging us to be guardians of the natural world.

And I can safely say, there is nowhere better to see this than in the New Zealand subantarctic.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands


If you were to head south from the bottom of New Zealand’s South Island – past Stewart Island, many probably know that you’ll eventually end up in Antarctica.

But before landing on the icy white continent – you’ll first encounter a series of rugged, windswept, uninhabited desolate islands home to a lot of birds. Including the Auckland Islands travel here will blow your mind.

Many might find that description unappealing, but I can tell you, THEY ARE SO AMAZING! Wild weather? Rugged and remote? No people? All the birds?

Does it get any better than that? Don’t think so.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

A few years ago, I traveled to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, which are subantarctic islands on the South American side, and I felt with the profound and somewhat surprising revelation that I think I like the subantarctic islands better.

Why? Because for me, I enjoyed the wildlife there more. And it’s less white, less icy. I prefer the colors you see there, and it’s a place few ever visit.

Along with the Snares, Campbell Island, and Macquarie Island (Australian managed), on my trip south last year with Heritage Expeditions, we also visited the Auckland Islands – our trip was the Galapagos of the Subantarctic.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

The Auckland Islands are roughly 465 kilometers due south of Bluff, where the ship departs from.

They are the largest of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, with a combined area of 57,000 hectares or 220 square miles, according to Google – but don’t quote me on that. I have little to no comprehension of size and scale whatsoever.

The Auckland Islands are big but not that big, none of the subantarctic islands are enormous. I imagine this is because they are constantly battered by gale-force winds which have whittled them down – but that’s pure conjecture on my part.

Moving on!

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

The big-but-not-too-big Auckland Islands are home to a massive variety of plants and wildlife, as well as having a rich human history that failed spectacularly many times.

Leave it to the birds.

What’s cool is that the Auckland Islands is considered to be the furthest south wayfaring Polynesians traveled to, with evidence of ovens and middens on Enderby Island from the 13th to 14th centuries before disappearing.

In about 1842, a settlement of Māori and Mōriori tried to establish themselves here too.


You only have to spend about an hour down here to understand that the weather patterns are grim, grimmer, and less grim. In fact, there were so many shipwrecks down here, eventually castaway depots were left along with wild pigs to feed shipwrecked sailors until they could be rescued again.

Eventually, humans returned in the 19th century to decimate both the seal and whale populations, with attempted settlements that, surprise! Failed.

Only the pigs and pests survived.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

While on the ship, I plowed through many of the stories and diaries from early explorers, sealers, and attempted farmers down here, and I just couldn’t even believe anyone would have given it a go. It’s so remote and wild; it would have taken a powerful person even to try.

Like I say, they don’t make men like they used to, eh?!

Even rugged up in my expensive Goretex and merino layers, I could feel the weather here. You’ve got to be prepared. But it’s important to remember that this wild landscape is what has allowed too many incredible creatures to thrive, like the albatross who need high wind.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

No humans inhabit the Auckland Islands these days, no matter how many times I pester the Department of Conservation to let me go down and set up shop. I’m just saying, and I could totally live there and be happy.

Sign. Me. Up.

What makes the Auckland Islands so unique from the other islands is its sheer biodiversity and abundance of very cool, enormous plants.


The subantarctic has an incredible phenomenon called megaherbs – which is what you might expect – huge flowering plants that exist nowhere else on earth. How cool is that?

It’s undoubtedly one of the first things I noticed wandering around the boardwalks and beaches of the island. The plants were big, way big, like Jurassic Park big.

Some of the plants we would frequently see are the Ross Lily, Anisotome latifolia, Dracophyllum, along with a beautiful and gnarly southern Rata forest. Enderby Island has kilometers of boardwalk built across it to protect the native fauna from being disturbed, and it certainly made our walks around much more accessible.

I couldn’t help but send a massive thank you to the team of people who installed them – it would not have been an easy feat. I salute you.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

There are vast numbers of seabirds on the Auckland Islands, despite feral cats and pigs feasting on them until somehow conservation groups raise enough money to eradicate them. Any millionaire philanthropists looking for a project which might be reading this – hit me up!

A vital breeding ground for many birds in the Southern Ocean, the Auckland Islands are home to white-capped albatross and millions of sooty shearwaters.

The Auckland Islands are also home to the largest breeding population of wandering albatross – which are one of my favorites. They are beautiful creatures, and we were lucky enough to observe them dotted amongst the hills and soaring over our heads.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

The Auckland Islands are also home to the highest proportion of the rare yellow-eyed penguins breeding here, the rarest penguins on earth.

We saw so many while exploring the islands, and it made my heart sing to see them here, somewhat thriving where they are in decline in mainland New Zealand.

Some of the other land birds on the Auckland Islands are the Auckland Island snipe, the Auckland Island teal, tomtit, the red-fronted and yellow-crowned parakeets, tūī, bellbirds, pipits, and even falcons.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

Did you know the Hooker’s Sea Lion, which is the world’s rarest sea lion breeds on the Auckland Islands?

I spent a lot of time sitting and quietly observing a breeding sea lion colony while on Enderby Island – and trust me – I’ll never be the same again.

Life, death, birth, sex, dinner, poo, blood, we saw it all. Repeatedly. I left filled with knowledge and the sincere gratitude not to have been born a sea lion female because that just sucks.

Fun fact – a breeding sea lion colony is called a harem. I can attest to the accuracy of this title.

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

auckland islands travel

So what’s the current state of the Auckland Islands? Well, let me update you.

Animal pests introduced by humans over the last 200 years have inflicted severe ecological damage to the Auckland Islands in many ways, but luckily that might change.

Following the successful eradication of mice from Antipodes Island, DOC is currently investigating the feasibility of eradicating pigs, cats, and mice from Auckland Island to achieve mammalian pest-free status for the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands. This would be SO COOL.

In the meantime, if you’re keen to get down to the subantarctic like me, and see this incredible place for yourself, hop on one of Heritage Expedition’s trips as it’s pretty much the only way to get down to places like the Auckland Islands.

Have you heard of the Auckland islands? Is this the kind of place you would visit too? Do you love wild landscapes like me? Share!

auckland islands travel

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post The raw and wild power of the remote Auckland Islands appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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20 photos that will inspire you to visit the Waikato, New Zealand


I’m so excited for springtime and warmer days here in New Zealand, and there’s nowhere better to experience it than up in the Waikato region of the North Island. Waikato travel will blow you away.

Lush and bucolic, with rolling green hills dotted with lambs and cows, beneath a bright blue sky, it’s no wonder this is the heart of New Zealand’s farm culture. I love watching everything bloom and finally being warm after months of frosts and snow down south where I call home.

Before we even land at the tiny Hamilton Airport, I’m struck by how green and fresh it seems here. Just south of Auckland lies the Waikato, an area I’ve visited many times but was excited to come back to again. A land of lush pastures, it’s not really surprising to any that Peter Jackson chose this area for the hobbits to call home in the Lord of the Rings films.

Spring here is as impressive as you can imagine, and I want to begin my story by sharing some of my favorite photos from a recent trip up north with you all before digging a little deeper. Enjoy!

waikato travel

waikato travel

waikato travel

Get to know Hamilton

The city of Hamilton is nestled on the banks of the mighty Waikato River on New Zealand’s North Island, and it is known for its walks, gardens, cafes, and nightlife. It’s also known as the Tron. Please, someone, tell me why. I have to know.

One thing I really loved about Hamilton on my Waikato travel was walking along the river, which seems to be the beating heart of the city. I can tell a lot of work has gone into making the riverfront epic, a fun spot to chill downtown. With lots of fun places to eat and explore, I couldn’t get enough.

And then as I was wandering, wearing my first short-sleeve dress this spring (yay it’s so warm!), I stumbled across this incredible mural of a kārearea (native NZ falcon) ❤️ , and I squealed with delight! And unabashed #birdnerd with a penchant for street art that decorates the walls of understated spots, all of my boxes were ticked as I spent a few days exploring Hamilton.

This mural “A Love Story” is based on a local, oral whakataukī (proverb) of a kārearea carrying two twins, Reipae and Reitu, from the Waikato to Whangarei for marriage. Painted by two renowned Auckland artists, Charlie and Janine Williams, it’s an exceptional price sharing a bit of local Māori narratives to the world. Have you seen it?

waikato travel

waikato travel

Dinner at the Chilli House is a must – a local Hamilton institution

Nothing beats spring at the Hamilton Gardens, especially in the early morning before the world wakes up. These gardens are pretty famous in New Zealand – and for a good reason – they’re fantastic!

Not just any old gardens, the Hamilton Gardens are more of a museum of gardens, dedicated to sharing examples of exquisite gardens around the world. As a new student of plant growing and mildly obsessed with historical botany, I was in heaven. Also, plants make me so happy, and nothing is better than a botanical garden in the spring, am I right?

While in Hamilton, we couldn’t resist a visit to New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong Tea Estate.

As a neurotic lifelong coffee addict, I’ve begun drinking tea more and more in recent years, and I loved learning more and more about the process and careful cultivation of tea. And the intricacy of the tea pouring ritual is beautiful 😊

waikato travel

Me and my merino Allbirds loungers in the gardens – still the best travel shoe I reckon!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Surf’s up in Raglan

Nothing beats a sunset watching the surf in the sleeping seaside town of Raglan in the Waikato! Waikato’s travel here is incredible.

There’s just something special about this place that keeps bringing me back again and again and again. I love watching the sets roll in as locals jostle for the waves. It’s really mesmerizing. Laidback and chill, unpretentious and captivating, warm and lush, Raglan is a place that gets under your skin and stays a while.

You only have to spend a few hours here before you want to kick off your shoes and never leave. Literally. No one wears shoes here, even in winter. And why would you?

Must-dos on any North Island road trip

waikato travel

waikato travel

Bridal Veil Falls outside of Raglan is worth a visit!

waikato travel

Marvel at the glowworm caves in Waitomo

The first time I saw glowworms in New Zealand was over six years ago on an action-packed trip blackwater rafting in the Waitomo Caves.

Gazing up, it felt like I was looking at a universe of blue stars! But as it turns out, I was looking at a ceiling of bright shiny maggots! I love Mother Nature.

Māori call glowworms titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water, and they are carnivorous glowing larvae that drip down a long sticky thread in dark, damp environments that entangle insects they attract with their bright lights! Too cool!

The best and most comfortable place to see them in New Zealand is at the Waitomo Caves, where there are various ways of taking them in from a chill walk or boat to an adventurous day floating through underground rivers!

waikato travel

Get your party on at Hobbiton

I can’t talk about exploring the Waikato travel region and not mention that it’s home to the real-life Hobbiton, where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films were shot. Guy, the Shire, is real and open for visitors. And it’s DELIGHTFUL.

I’ve been many a time to Hobbiton, even when I first moved to New Zealand in 2013. This time, however, I was so excited to return for their annual Hobbit Day, an epic feast and evening party at Hobbiton celebrating International Hobbit Day and Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday. It was actually the most fun!

Hobbiton sure knows how to throw a party, and it’s worth keeping an eye out on their events to try and time your visit when they’ve got something extra special happening.

Even if you don’t love the films as much as me, it’s still a pretty epic place to visit on a trip to New Zealand. The highlight for many, it doesn’t disappoint. Have you been?

An evening feast fit for a queen at Hobbiton

waikato travel

waikato travel

Relax and unwind at Villa Walton in Matamata

If you find yourself exploring on my Waikato travel, you have to stay at a B & B or farm stay at one point or another.

After visiting Hobbiton, try and grab a room at Villa Walton, the most elegant historic homestead in picturesque Matamata, overlooking the Kaimai Ranges.

Established in 1904, the rural boutique accommodation of Villa Walton oozes comfort and charm. With amazing homemade brekkie, great company, beautiful style, and a garden to die for, I was gutted only to spend one night here. I’ll be back for longer next time!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Go for a sunset glowworm paddle at Lake Karapiro

After a big day of exploring, we headed out for a perfect sunset guided kayak tour on the pristine Lake Karapiro, a place I’ve never been to before. What a beautiful part of the country the south Waikato is, idyllic, lush, and peaceful.

As the sun set behind the hills, we made our way towards the Pokaiwhenua Stream, a verdant green canyon straight from a storybook with Lake District Adventures.

After waiting for darkness to fall, we floated back through the narrow, steep canyon, in complete darkness, with nothing but millions of blue glowworms twinkling along the canyon walls and the Milky Way shining above our head!

This was definitely not a moment I will ever forget!

waikato travel

waikato travel

Visit the birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari

The lovely native forest around Maungatautari never ceases to blow me away.

A massive predator-free fenced-in eco-sanctuary in the heart of the Waikato travel – the work they’re doing here to bring back our precious native creatures, like kiwi, is both inspiring and powerful.

Maungatautari is a true ecological ‘island,’ an eco-sanctuary inside one of the world’s longest predator-proof fences that allows beautiful New Zealand birdlife to thrive. Here you can find native wildlife, plants, and great walking trails, and I could easily spend hours and hours wandering in this incredible forest. What a place!

I really enjoyed getting up close and personal with kākā, a native New Zealand parrot, found chattering in the forests. They are lovely, and I always try and listen out for them when I know they are in the area.

waikato travel

waikato travel

waikato travel

Many thanks to the Mighty Waikato for hosting me on the North Island – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me.

The post 20 photos that will inspire you to visit the Waikato, New Zealand appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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