12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana


For the past couple of years, I’ve had the word “Botswana” scribbled on a note above my desk, a place that I’ve been longing to visit for as long as I can remember.

Ever since I was a little girl, I would rip out pages from my parent’s National Geographics depicting lions on the hunt or Jane Goodall with the chimps, my curiosity piqued; even then, I had the desire to travel to these places and experience their wonders for myself. A few years ago, I visited South Africa for the first time, and I was hooked.

I have been counting down until I could return to Africa.

My curiosity was and is immense for Africa, and was fizzing with excitement to return, this time traveling to Botswana with De Beers Group. Yes, those De Beers. The diamond ones.

botswana travel

botswana travel

While going on safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana had been a dream of mine since I was little, deep down, I knew there was much more to learn about this unique part of Africa. I’ve been itching to dig deeper on my travels, and share stories and cover beyond the expected.

We all know that Africa is so much more than lions and gazelle. A complex and profound part of the world, I was eager to explore it through an entirely new lens – community, people, economics.

Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane in Gaborone, I realized that nearly all of my preconceptions about Botswana were off-base. But that’s why we travel, and I never forget that.

botswana travel

botswana travel

Botswana is special. Really special. And its uniqueness comes directly from something you might not expect – diamonds.

The cradle of humankind, the ancestral home of humanity, is right here in Botswana, and it is the people here who have made all the difference. Kind and welcoming, they have moved me tremendously. As I listened to their stories of how many opportunities they’ve had (thanks, in part, to De Beers Group and its partnership with the government of Botswana), I could feel the sand shifting beneath my feet of everything I thought I knew.

Botswana taught me so many things, and now it’ll sit firmly in my psyche as a place of exceptional education for me. Here are some of the most surprising things I learned while exploring Botswana – enjoy!

botswana travel

botswana travel

1.  Botswana is one of the world’s biggest producers of diamonds

While diamonds have been discovered all over the world, from South Africa to Russia, Botswana is undoubtedly at the heart of the diamond world. In fact, Botswana is one of the world’s largest producer of diamonds by value, contributing around 20% of the total world production of diamonds.

Botswana also contributes 60-70% of De Beers Group’s total diamonds, and diamonds count for nearly half of the government’s value.

Did you know that diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13?

botswana travel

botswana travel

2. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world.

The Okavango Delta has topped the bucket lists of most travelers enamored with wildlife who dream of safaris in Africa.

Perched at the geographical heart of southern Africa, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the closest thing to Eden left on the planet.

As crystal clear waters trickle down thousands of kilometers from wet highlands of Angola, they disperse almost finger-like out into the hot sands of the famous Kalahari desert. Here, classic Africa wildlife thrives in the largest wetland in the world.

Though right now the Delta is sitting in a drought, which is why it looks so dry.

botswana travel

botswana travel

3. The growing economy of Botswana is powerful

Fifty years ago, Botswana was one of the poorest places on the planet.

With only a couple of kilometers of paved roads, three secondary schools nationwide, and only one doctor for every 48,000 people, you don’t need me to tell you that the future seemed tough, and the outlook for many was bleak.

Then in 1967, a year after gaining independence, the first diamonds were discovered in Botswana, and everything changed. Instead of descending into chaos like you might have imagined (me), Botswana flourished.

De Beers Group partnered with the people of Botswana, setting up a 50/50 partnership called Debswana to mine diamonds. Not only that, but 15% of the whole company is now owned by the government of Botswana too – wow! So for the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been invested back into the economy here.

81 cents of every dollar from the partnership with De Beers Group in Botswana goes straight back to the country’s economy. In effect, the people of Botswana own part of De Beers Group. Let that sink in for a second.

Now, Botswana is considered to be an upper-middle-income country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its GDP has grown 500 times since 1960, and Botswana is in the top 5 countries with the highest increasing GDPs per capita. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

4. Botswana’s currency means rain

When 84% of a country is covered in a sandy desert, there is one word that reigns above the rest – rain or pula.

Pula is so significant to the people of Botswana that it also is the currency. After all, what is more critical here than rain?

Pula is also used as a greeting that means welcome, farewell, blessings, and cheers, among other uses. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

5. Botswana is home to the world’s largest African elephant population

Honestly, is there anything better than watching elephants in the wild? Especially babies?

Nope, didn’t think so.

botswana travel

botswana travel

6. It’s not a cheap tourist destination

Botswana is by far the most expensive country to go on safari in Africa.

Botswana is not the cheapest tourist destination to travel to. However, their policy is “High quality, low impact,” reducing visitor numbers by bringing in those willing to shell out for it. Appealing to those who want to enjoy a wildlife safari without the tourist crowds that are so common in many other national parks, Botswana is worth every dollar.

Conservation is vital in Botswana, and it’s been a global leader in a national commitment to protecting wild spaces. Approximately 38% of Botswana’s territory is protected as national parks, sanctuaries, reserves, and wildlife management areas.

Botswana has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, with more than 25% of the land area set aside for parks and reserves to conserve the national heritage.

botswana travel

botswana travel

7. Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa

Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa, according to the findings of the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Ranking 34 out of 180 countries, Botswana has consistently ranked high in terms of least corruption, outpacing even countries in Europe.

botswana travel

botswana travel

8. The value of diamonds in Botswana is both ethical and priceless

Diamonds represent up to a third of Botswana’s GDP and are an inevitable fact of life here. Botswana is peaceful, and all diamonds mined here are conflict-free.

Around 13,000 people in Botswana are employed directly through the partnership between De Beers Group and the Government of Botswana. With tens of thousands more supported through the supply chain of diamonds, and through the spending on employees and suppliers within the economy. In fact, around one in every 20 jobs in Botswana stem back to De Beers Group’s partnership with the government.

Even the first lady of Botswana was once an employee of Debswana, De Beers Group’s mining partnership with the government.

botswana travel

botswana travel

9. Zebras are Botswana’s national animal

Zebras were chosen as the national animal of Botswana for the most beautiful reasons. Seemingly harmless and lovable, they’re popular with the people of Botswana and are full of symbols for this unique country.

Zebras, with their iconic black and white stripes, signify the racial harmony in Botswana. These stripes join on the face of the zebra to form a diamond shape – remarkable given the role diamonds have played in Botswana’s development.

When Botswana became independent in 1966, the black and white stripes on the new flag were primarily influenced by the zebra, and the stripes were meant to represent the harmony between people of different races and ethnicities in Botswana.

botswana travel

botswana travel

10. Though maybe termites should be the national animal

Back in the ‘60s and ’70s, scientists discovered minerals from kimberlite, a type of rock that hosts diamonds, on the surface of the Kalahari Desert. But how did diamond minerals that dwell 40 meters below the surface of the earth come to see the light of day?

Termites dug them up while looking for water, building large mounds they call home. Termites led to the discovery of the Jwaneng mine – considered to be the richest diamond mine in the world.

Team Termite!

botswana travel

botswana travel

11. There’s no room for tribalism in Botswana

As I was flying from Botswana, editing photos, and listening to podcasts, This American Life started to share the most exciting story about Botswana’s progressive democracy. To combat tribalism, Botswana requires all civil servants to move to a different tribal area from their own for a few years. Holy crap! I’ve never heard anything like this.

While I’m far from educated enough to A. have an opinion on this and B. fully understand the nuances of something so complicated as tribalism in Africa, here’s the gist of what I’ve learned.

Post-colonial Africa is complicated, and a standard narrative is that after independence, ethnic violence ensues. When Botswana became independent 50 years ago, they were afraid that tribalism would rip the new nation apart so they did everything they could to create a feeling of one country and to avoid the patriotism of tribes, even forcing civil servants and teachers to live outside of their “tribal” areas.

botswana travel

botswana travel

12. Botswana is home to some of the kindest people

While in Botswana, I was always impressed by the kindness and friendliness of locals.

I saw and heard firsthand so many compelling stories from the people that live there. I learned so much about how diamonds have changed lives here. I could really see how De Beers Group has spent decades working on building a long-term positive legacy and creating a future for the people of Botswana.

The story of Botswana is fascinating, and the people are amazing. Now, when can I come back?

Did you know any of this about Botswana? What did you know about diamonds before? Are you Team Termite too? Spill!

botswana travel

botswana travel

Many thanks to De Beers Group for hosting me in Botswana, like always I’m keeping it real. All opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post 12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red


One of my favorite parts about the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island is my proximity to glaciers. Growing up in suburban Virginia, I never really experienced mountains of this scale before – and now I’m hooked.

Living in Wanaka, the heart of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and a peaceful lakeside mountain town, I’ve spent a lot of time in our neighboring national park – Mt. Aspiring.

Mount Aspiring National Park is a magical mix of remote high country wilderness, big mountains, and stunning river valleys. Home to over a hundred glaciers, it’s a place straight from the Lord of the Rings – literally. Every time I explore Mt. Aspiring, it takes my breath away.

But a new phenomenon has arrived in New Zealand – for the past couple of weeks, the smoke and dust from the unprecedented bushfires in Australia have arrived in New Zealand.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

I was away from Wanaka when I started to see posts from all my Wanaka friends on social media about their cars coated with thick red dust. It seems the devastating effects of the immense wildfires in Australia have made their way here.

As hundreds of uncontrolled fires burn across New South Wales and the Queensland coastlines in Australia, the wind has carried the smoke, ash, and dust thousands of kilometers across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

For days our usually clear skies were hazy, a bizarre thing to witness.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As the sky turned an ominous yellow haze, the smoke blanketed towns all across the South Island before eventually clearing up a few days later as the winds changed.

We carried on with our normalcy and routines, luckily free from the horrors of fires (at present). But as I journeyed back into Mt. Aspiring National Park last Friday, I noticed something unusual.

Why did the glaciers appear to be red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Hopping on a last-minute scenic helicopter flight with Wanaka Helicopters out to see the glaciers around Mt. Aspiring, I was fizzing with excitement as I piled into the front seat on one of those calm, spring mornings.

We’ve had a crazy amount of rain this springtime in Wanaka, so much rain in fact that the lake is high. Normally quite dry on this side of the mountains, everyone is worried the town might flood this week as more rain is on the way.

Right now is the perfect time for a scenic flight around Wanaka, and it’s definitely the most colorful time of year. The valleys are bright green with all of the rainfall, and there is still snow on the mountaintops. For photographers like me, we froth on these colors.

australia fire new zealand

As the snow melts and the mountains are pounded with massive rainfalls, hundreds of temporary waterfalls gush down from the glaciers in a scene out of a movie. It doesn’t look real.

Taking off from the Wanaka airport on a morning Amazing Aspiring scenic heli flight, conditions were just magical. No wind, blue skies, and warm air, spring was in the air, and I was itching to take in my favorite mountains again.

Zooming out over the town and down the iconic Matukituki Valley, I could see the river was pumping, and the lake was high, while the stunning peak of Mt. Aspiring twinkled in the distance.

And as we got closer and closer towards the first of the mighty glaciers, I pulled my sunglasses off to wipe them. Did I see things, or did the snow look, well, a bit red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

From far away, the glaciers looked almost dirty, a sooty look they often get at the end of a hot summer as the ice melts and rock tumbles down onto the ice in certain places. But it was springtime, and the snows were beginning to melt. What’s the deal?

Chatting with the pilot, I realized this phenomenon was tied to the raging wildfires plaguing the east coast of Australia. The recent westerlies brought a red haze and smoke across the pond here to New Zealand.

As the dust settled across the South Island, it coated our glaciers in a layer of red too.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

How crazy is that?

While I’m no scientist, I wonder this layer of red will exist in the ice to tell the story of the bushfires in a thousand years? The same way we could see the ash layers from ancient volcanic eruptions around the world now?

Curious. Curious.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As a frequent visitor to Mt. Aspiring, and flying as often as I can around these big mountains I call home, it was unusual and exciting to see something rare and different. How crazy is it that we can see the impact of fires in Australia here in New Zealand?!

It’s pretty remarkable to see the impact of the fires from so far away.

Our glaciers don’t need any more battles as they are already truly endangered; it puts the impact of climate change into even more stark reality we can’t ignore.

This will cause our glaciers to melt even faster due to the obstruction of the ice-albedo effect – where shiny glaciers reflect energy into space. Someone correct me, but this is how I understand it to work; the red dust is now covering the usually reflective glacial ice, causing the glaciers to melt faster. Ah, science!

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Cue the anti-climate change propaganda. Though I would be heartily surprised if there were any non-science believers still on my blog.

The higher temperatures caused by climate change allows for more dryness and worse fire seasons in Australia especially. Greenhouse gas emissions have a direct impact on increased temperatures, which equates to increased dryness.

Climate change definitely makes bushfires worse.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Nothing really puts into perspective both the immensity of our mountains quite like a helicopter flight. It shows just how fragile they are. Especially when you see the impact of something so massive here in New Zealand.

I want everyone to be able to experience the joy and euphoria that comes from these wild spaces. I want to preserve our glaciers for generations to come. It breaks my heart to see the devastation both directly in Australia but also high on our precious mountains here in New Zealand.

Good luck to everyone working hard to stop this.

Have you ever seen anything like this? Have you experienced the effects of wildfires before? I’m curious, share if you don’t mind.

australia fire new zealand

Many thanks to Wanaka Helicopters for showing me around my favorite mountains. Like always, I’m keeping it real – as if you could expect less from me!

The post Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana


For the past couple of years, I’ve had the word “Botswana” scribbled on a note above my desk, a place that I’ve been longing to visit for as long as I can remember.

Ever since I was a little girl, I would rip out pages from my parent’s National Geographics depicting lions on the hunt or Jane Goodall with the chimps, my curiosity piqued; even then, I had the desire to travel to these places and experience their wonders for myself. A few years ago, I visited South Africa for the first time, and I was hooked.

I have been counting down until I could return to Africa.

My curiosity was and is immense for Africa, and was fizzing with excitement to return, this time traveling to Botswana with De Beers Group. Yes, those De Beers. The diamond ones.

botswana travel

botswana travel

While going on safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana had been a dream of mine since I was little, deep down, I knew there was much more to learn about this unique part of Africa. I’ve been itching to dig deeper on my travels, and share stories and cover beyond the expected.

We all know that Africa is so much more than lions and gazelle. A complex and profound part of the world, I was eager to explore it through an entirely new lens – community, people, economics.

Almost as soon as I stepped off the plane in Gaborone, I realized that nearly all of my preconceptions about Botswana were off-base. But that’s why we travel, and I never forget that.

botswana travel

botswana travel

Botswana is special. Really special. And its uniqueness comes directly from something you might not expect – diamonds.

The cradle of humankind, the ancestral home of humanity, is right here in Botswana, and it is the people here who have made all the difference. Kind and welcoming, they have moved me tremendously. As I listened to their stories of how many opportunities they’ve had (thanks, in part, to De Beers Group and its partnership with the government of Botswana), I could feel the sand shifting beneath my feet of everything I thought I knew.

Botswana taught me so many things, and now it’ll sit firmly in my psyche as a place of exceptional education for me. Here are some of the most surprising things I learned while exploring Botswana – enjoy!

botswana travel

botswana travel

1.  Botswana is one of the world’s biggest producers of diamonds

While diamonds have been discovered all over the world, from South Africa to Russia, Botswana is undoubtedly at the heart of the diamond world. In fact, Botswana is one of the world’s largest producer of diamonds by value, contributing around 20% of the total world production of diamonds.

Botswana also contributes 60-70% of De Beers Group’s total diamonds, and diamonds count for nearly half of the government’s value.

Did you know that diamond revenues enable every child in Botswana to receive free education up to the age of 13?

botswana travel

botswana travel

2. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world.

The Okavango Delta has topped the bucket lists of most travelers enamored with wildlife who dream of safaris in Africa.

Perched at the geographical heart of southern Africa, Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the closest thing to Eden left on the planet.

As crystal clear waters trickle down thousands of kilometers from wet highlands of Angola, they disperse almost finger-like out into the hot sands of the famous Kalahari desert. Here, classic Africa wildlife thrives in the largest wetland in the world.

Though right now the Delta is sitting in a drought, which is why it looks so dry.

botswana travel

botswana travel

3. The growing economy of Botswana is powerful

Fifty years ago, Botswana was one of the poorest places on the planet.

With only a couple of kilometers of paved roads, three secondary schools nationwide, and only one doctor for every 48,000 people, you don’t need me to tell you that the future seemed tough, and the outlook for many was bleak.

Then in 1967, a year after gaining independence, the first diamonds were discovered in Botswana, and everything changed. Instead of descending into chaos like you might have imagined (me), Botswana flourished.

De Beers Group partnered with the people of Botswana, setting up a 50/50 partnership called Debswana to mine diamonds. Not only that, but 15% of the whole company is now owned by the government of Botswana too – wow! So for the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been invested back into the economy here.

81 cents of every dollar from the partnership with De Beers Group in Botswana goes straight back to the country’s economy. In effect, the people of Botswana own part of De Beers Group. Let that sink in for a second.

Now, Botswana is considered to be an upper-middle-income country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its GDP has grown 500 times since 1960, and Botswana is in the top 5 countries with the highest increasing GDPs per capita. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

4. Botswana’s currency means rain

When 84% of a country is covered in a sandy desert, there is one word that reigns above the rest – rain or pula.

Pula is so significant to the people of Botswana that it also is the currency. After all, what is more critical here than rain?

Pula is also used as a greeting that means welcome, farewell, blessings, and cheers, among other uses. 

botswana travel

botswana travel

5. Botswana is home to the world’s largest African elephant population

Honestly, is there anything better than watching elephants in the wild? Especially babies?

Nope, didn’t think so.

botswana travel

botswana travel

6. It’s not a cheap tourist destination

Botswana is by far the most expensive country to go on safari in Africa.

Botswana is not the cheapest tourist destination to travel to. However, their policy is “High quality, low impact,” reducing visitor numbers by bringing in those willing to shell out for it. Appealing to those who want to enjoy a wildlife safari without the tourist crowds that are so common in many other national parks, Botswana is worth every dollar.

Conservation is vital in Botswana, and it’s been a global leader in a national commitment to protecting wild spaces. Approximately 38% of Botswana’s territory is protected as national parks, sanctuaries, reserves, and wildlife management areas.

Botswana has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, with more than 25% of the land area set aside for parks and reserves to conserve the national heritage.

botswana travel

botswana travel

7. Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa

Botswana is the least corrupt country in Africa, according to the findings of the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Ranking 34 out of 180 countries, Botswana has consistently ranked high in terms of least corruption, outpacing even countries in Europe.

botswana travel

botswana travel

8. The value of diamonds in Botswana is both ethical and priceless

Diamonds represent up to a third of Botswana’s GDP and are an inevitable fact of life here. Botswana is peaceful, and all diamonds mined here are conflict-free.

Around 13,000 people in Botswana are employed directly through the partnership between De Beers Group and the Government of Botswana. With tens of thousands more supported through the supply chain of diamonds, and through the spending on employees and suppliers within the economy. In fact, around one in every 20 jobs in Botswana stem back to De Beers Group’s partnership with the government.

Even the first lady of Botswana was once an employee of Debswana, De Beers Group’s mining partnership with the government.

botswana travel

botswana travel

9. Zebras are Botswana’s national animal

Zebras were chosen as the national animal of Botswana for the most beautiful reasons. Seemingly harmless and lovable, they’re popular with the people of Botswana and are full of symbols for this unique country.

Zebras, with their iconic black and white stripes, signify the racial harmony in Botswana. These stripes join on the face of the zebra to form a diamond shape – remarkable given the role diamonds have played in Botswana’s development.

When Botswana became independent in 1966, the black and white stripes on the new flag were primarily influenced by the zebra, and the stripes were meant to represent the harmony between people of different races and ethnicities in Botswana.

botswana travel

botswana travel

10. Though maybe termites should be the national animal

Back in the ‘60s and ’70s, scientists discovered minerals from kimberlite, a type of rock that hosts diamonds, on the surface of the Kalahari Desert. But how did diamond minerals that dwell 40 meters below the surface of the earth come to see the light of day?

Termites dug them up while looking for water, building large mounds they call home. Termites led to the discovery of the Jwaneng mine – considered to be the richest diamond mine in the world.

Team Termite!

botswana travel

botswana travel

11. There’s no room for tribalism in Botswana

As I was flying from Botswana, editing photos, and listening to podcasts, This American Life started to share the most exciting story about Botswana’s progressive democracy. To combat tribalism, Botswana requires all civil servants to move to a different tribal area from their own for a few years. Holy crap! I’ve never heard anything like this.

While I’m far from educated enough to A. have an opinion on this and B. fully understand the nuances of something so complicated as tribalism in Africa, here’s the gist of what I’ve learned.

Post-colonial Africa is complicated, and a standard narrative is that after independence, ethnic violence ensues. When Botswana became independent 50 years ago, they were afraid that tribalism would rip the new nation apart so they did everything they could to create a feeling of one country and to avoid the patriotism of tribes, even forcing civil servants and teachers to live outside of their “tribal” areas.

botswana travel

botswana travel

12. Botswana is home to some of the kindest people

While in Botswana, I was always impressed by the kindness and friendliness of locals.

I saw and heard firsthand so many compelling stories from the people that live there. I learned so much about how diamonds have changed lives here. I could really see how De Beers Group has spent decades working on building a long-term positive legacy and creating a future for the people of Botswana.

The story of Botswana is fascinating, and the people are amazing. Now, when can I come back?

Did you know any of this about Botswana? What did you know about diamonds before? Are you Team Termite too? Spill!

botswana travel

botswana travel

Many thanks to De Beers Group for hosting me in Botswana, like always I’m keeping it real. All opinions are my own like you could expect less from me!

The post 12 surprising things I learned while in Botswana appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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How to be an adventurous traveler when you’re not all that hardcore


The older I get, the more self-aware I become, and the more comfortable I get in my skin. About. Damn. Time.

And after a decade of world adventures, I’ve come to realize quite a few things about my style of travel in particular. While I love adventure and exploring and trying new things, I’m not all that hardcore. Not remotely.

Sure, go ahead and laugh. The original “Adventuress” isn’t that much of an adventurer in the literal sense anymore. You won’t find me taking skydiving lessons, skiing off cliffs, or biking around the world. That’s not my style, and it’s definitely not been since I hit my 30’s.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

world adventures

world adventures

While the extreme world adventures that you might imagine don’t appeal to me anymore, that doesn’t mean I don’t love adventure travel. My definition of experience has just changed quite a bit the more I grow up.

It’s funny, to my hardcore adventurous friends, I’m super vanilla, but to a lot of people, I seem extreme. It’s all about perception!

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is that adventure travel doesn’t have to be hardcore – it could just mean trying something new and exciting.

world adventures

world adventures

To me, adventure travel is for everyone, and it’s all about how you define it.

For me, I find much more purpose these days in taking on a big challenge on my travels, to test myself and sense of adventure, and then revel in achieving it. I’m not one for any big adrenaline rushes anymore or looking for quick thrills.

Give me a good old hike or session in the snow and call me happy. My world adventures are not stopping any time soon.

Here are some of my best tips for adventure travel when you’re like me, and you’re not really all that hardcore – enjoy!

How to be an adventuress

world adventures

world adventures

Take the plunge

Scuba diving can be a fantastic excuse to visit some of the globe’s best most scenic destinations. Recreational diving is one of my favorite past times, and I’ve been diving around the world, from right here in New Zealand to Bali and the Maldives. 

But if diving’s not your thing, snorkeling is a great alternative, and often heaps cheaper.

There are loads of tropical spots that offer boat trips to reefs and islands where you can see spectacular fish and reefs – just for inspiration, check out the Phi Phi islands and Koh Tao in Thailand. There’s the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, so many places in the Seychelles, and Hawaii, and last but not least, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands. 

world adventures

world adventures

Sign up for a safari

If you’re a fan of wildlife like me, there is nothing better than going on safari. 

Traveling to safari lodges in Africa tops the bucket list of many and with good reason – it’s pretty damn amazing. The ultimate “softcore” adventure, most safaris take you around in a 4WD vehicle for game viewings, not requiring any serious physical strengths.

Of course, there are self-drive, walking, boating, and riding safaris, too, but the traditional way is usually in an old tricked out Landrover.

Having just returned from a few days of safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, my mind has been blown away again.

world adventures

world adventures

Catch a wave

If you’ve never surfed and thought you couldn’t, why not give it a whirl with some surf lessons. It’s quite the workout but super fun. 

Don’t worry about feeling silly – you’re bound to be learning alongside other first-timers.

Or, if you’re committed, consider a women’s surf camp – a great bonding experience and a different way to see a country. Good options include Bali, Australia, Hawaii, Portugal, India, Nicaragua, and Morocco. Women’s surf camps and retreats are becoming increasingly popular. 

world adventures

world adventures

Sail into the sunset

The very friendly sport of sailing is open to all levels of ability and can be done in so many areas around the globe.

For instance, in Australia, there’s a tradition on Wednesday afternoons where many yacht clubs invite would-be sailors to join them for a sail and possibly a race, usually for free.

Or if you’ve dreamed of sailing around gorgeous coastlines and dropping anchor at deserted islands, there are plenty of sailing holidays where you can do as much or as little as you like – check out the Greek islands, Croatia, Australia’s Whitsundays, the Caribbean, and New Zealand. 

world adventures

world adventures

Guided adventure trips

It’s one thing to have an idea for an adventure, then go out and acquire all of the necessary skills to be able to do it safely. For me, I much prefer to go on guided adventures with an expert, someone who has certified guiding experience, which can both show me a fantastic time and keep me safe as.

From rafting the mighty Landsborough River here in New Zealand to guided via ferratas in the Dolomites in Italy, there’s always a guided adventure to be had!

world adventures

world adventures

Stand up paddle-boarding somewhere special

Stand-up paddling, or SUP as it’s known, is one of the fastest-growing watersports.

After some initial wobbles, most people find they can stand up and begin paddling on calm waters – surf may take a little extra mastery. It’s a great way to get fit and explore a landscape (coastal and rivers) on water.

Doing it in a group makes it friendly, too, and I’ve often joined in on guided SUP missions while traveling. Check out your options in Australia, the Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Slovenia.

Here in New Zealand, you’ll find me out on the lake and coast on my Moana inflatable SUP board, which I love to take out and about.

world adventures

world adventures

Take a hike

Walking holidays are graded for all levels of fitness. Above all, hiking is great for solo travelers as you can get to know people in a relaxed setting.

The possibilities are endless from short hikes just about anywhere to more extended expeditions such as the Camino Trail that passes through France, Spain, and Portugal.

In addition to other hotspots include hiking New Zealand, Peru, Japan, and Iceland.

Active Adventures runs guided hiking adventures around the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.

world adventures

world adventures

It’s snow time

Never tried skiing or snowboarding, never fear – that’s what ski school is for.

Prepare to have fun and a few tumbles, with days punctuated with hot chocolate and spectacular winter scenery. It’s always ski season somewhere in the world. The US, Canada, Japan, Europe are all exceptional during the northern hemisphere’s winter, while New Zealand is the place to go from June to September.

If skiing or snowboarding isn’t up your alley, consider cross-country skiing in Scandinavia or Austria.

world adventures

world adventures

Hop on your bike!

Not fit, but love to pedal? No worries. Cycling opens up the world adventures to all.

There are cycling trips for all levels, from touring vineyards in France to meandering through the rice paddies in Vietnam. From tackling hilly rides in Sri Lanka, cycling is a great way to see the country and boosts your fitness levels too.

Some cities are bike-friendly too. Check out bike hire or have an urban cycling adventure on one of the free bikes offered in places like Geneva and Zurich. You can also take part in bike-sharing schemes in Paris, London, Dublin, Melbourne, and Mexico City. 

Now with the popularity of e-bikes, cycling holidays have never been more accessible – phew!

world adventures

world adventures

Guided expedition trips

If you don’t want to stick to one kind of activity, there are adventure tours that combine it all. From trekking, kayaking, cycling, temples, and wildlife, even with accommodation ranging from camping to homestays to luxury lodges. 

One of my favorite guided expeditions was to ride horses in Mongolia, a trip that truly changed my life.

A week in Cuba could see you hiking to waterfalls, taking salsas lessons, and soaking up the atmosphere in Havana. Or, if exploring markets, beaches, and temples is your thing, Cambodia or Thailand could be the go. Intrepid Travel has some great options, including trips just for women. 

Join an expedition ship to Svalbard, the Antarctic, or even New Zealand’s subantarctic.

world adventures

world adventures

There are so many world adventures waiting for you out there. In fact, there is something for everyone and every budget. It all depends on you.

From easy hikes in your backyard to a holiday spent on the high seas, adventure travel is out there. Rewarding and life-changing, I can’t get enough of it, and I enjoy watching my travels evolve as I grow older.

For me, the only question is, what’s next?

How do you define adventure travel? Are you a fan of getting out and challenging yourself when on the road too? What are your favorite world adventures – spill!

world adventures

The post How to be an adventurous traveler when you’re not all that hardcore appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red


One of my favorite parts about the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island is my proximity to glaciers. Growing up in suburban Virginia, I never really experienced mountains of this scale before – and now I’m hooked.

Living in Wanaka, the heart of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and a peaceful lakeside mountain town, I’ve spent a lot of time in our neighboring national park – Mt. Aspiring.

Mount Aspiring National Park is a magical mix of remote high country wilderness, big mountains, and stunning river valleys. Home to over a hundred glaciers, it’s a place straight from the Lord of the Rings – literally. Every time I explore Mt. Aspiring, it takes my breath away.

But a new phenomenon has arrived in New Zealand – for the past couple of weeks, the smoke and dust from the unprecedented bushfires in Australia have arrived in New Zealand.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

I was away from Wanaka when I started to see posts from all my Wanaka friends on social media about their cars coated with thick red dust. It seems the devastating effects of the immense wildfires in Australia have made their way here.

As hundreds of uncontrolled fires burn across New South Wales and the Queensland coastlines in Australia, the wind has carried the smoke, ash, and dust thousands of kilometers across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

For days our usually clear skies were hazy, a bizarre thing to witness.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As the sky turned an ominous yellow haze, the smoke blanketed towns all across the South Island before eventually clearing up a few days later as the winds changed.

We carried on with our normalcy and routines, luckily free from the horrors of fires (at present). But as I journeyed back into Mt. Aspiring National Park last Friday, I noticed something unusual.

Why did the glaciers appear to be red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Hopping on a last-minute scenic helicopter flight with Wanaka Helicopters out to see the glaciers around Mt. Aspiring, I was fizzing with excitement as I piled into the front seat on one of those calm, spring mornings.

We’ve had a crazy amount of rain this springtime in Wanaka, so much rain in fact that the lake is high. Normally quite dry on this side of the mountains, everyone is worried the town might flood this week as more rain is on the way.

Right now is the perfect time for a scenic flight around Wanaka, and it’s definitely the most colorful time of year. The valleys are bright green with all of the rainfall, and there is still snow on the mountaintops. For photographers like me, we froth on these colors.

australia fire new zealand

As the snow melts and the mountains are pounded with massive rainfalls, hundreds of temporary waterfalls gush down from the glaciers in a scene out of a movie. It doesn’t look real.

Taking off from the Wanaka airport on a morning Amazing Aspiring scenic heli flight, conditions were just magical. No wind, blue skies, and warm air, spring was in the air, and I was itching to take in my favorite mountains again.

Zooming out over the town and down the iconic Matukituki Valley, I could see the river was pumping, and the lake was high, while the stunning peak of Mt. Aspiring twinkled in the distance.

And as we got closer and closer towards the first of the mighty glaciers, I pulled my sunglasses off to wipe them. Did I see things, or did the snow look, well, a bit red?

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

From far away, the glaciers looked almost dirty, a sooty look they often get at the end of a hot summer as the ice melts and rock tumbles down onto the ice in certain places. But it was springtime, and the snows were beginning to melt. What’s the deal?

Chatting with the pilot, I realized this phenomenon was tied to the raging wildfires plaguing the east coast of Australia. The recent westerlies brought a red haze and smoke across the pond here to New Zealand.

As the dust settled across the South Island, it coated our glaciers in a layer of red too.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

How crazy is that?

While I’m no scientist, I wonder this layer of red will exist in the ice to tell the story of the bushfires in a thousand years? The same way we could see the ash layers from ancient volcanic eruptions around the world now?

Curious. Curious.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

As a frequent visitor to Mt. Aspiring, and flying as often as I can around these big mountains I call home, it was unusual and exciting to see something rare and different. How crazy is it that we can see the impact of fires in Australia here in New Zealand?!

It’s pretty remarkable to see the impact of the fires from so far away.

Our glaciers don’t need any more battles as they are already truly endangered; it puts the impact of climate change into even more stark reality we can’t ignore.

This will cause our glaciers to melt even faster due to the obstruction of the ice-albedo effect – where shiny glaciers reflect energy into space. Someone correct me, but this is how I understand it to work; the red dust is now covering the usually reflective glacial ice, causing the glaciers to melt faster. Ah, science!

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Cue the anti-climate change propaganda. Though I would be heartily surprised if there were any non-science believers still on my blog.

The higher temperatures caused by climate change allows for more dryness and worse fire seasons in Australia especially. Greenhouse gas emissions have a direct impact on increased temperatures, which equates to increased dryness.

Climate change definitely makes bushfires worse.

australia fire new zealand

australia fire new zealand

Nothing really puts into perspective both the immensity of our mountains quite like a helicopter flight. It shows just how fragile they are. Especially when you see the impact of something so massive here in New Zealand.

I want everyone to be able to experience the joy and euphoria that comes from these wild spaces. I want to preserve our glaciers for generations to come. It breaks my heart to see the devastation both directly in Australia but also high on our precious mountains here in New Zealand.

Good luck to everyone working hard to stop this.

Have you ever seen anything like this? Have you experienced the effects of wildfires before? I’m curious, share if you don’t mind.

australia fire new zealand

Many thanks to Wanaka Helicopters for showing me around my favorite mountains. Like always, I’m keeping it real – as if you could expect less from me!

The post Australia’s wildfires are turning New Zealand’s glaciers red appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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How to be an adventurous traveler when you’re not all that hardcore


The older I get, the more self-aware I become, and the more comfortable I get in my skin. About. Damn. Time.

And after a decade of world adventures, I’ve come to realize quite a few things about my style of travel in particular. While I love adventure and exploring and trying new things, I’m not all that hardcore. Not remotely.

Sure, go ahead and laugh. The original “Adventuress” isn’t that much of an adventurer in the literal sense anymore. You won’t find me taking skydiving lessons, skiing off cliffs, or biking around the world. That’s not my style, and it’s definitely not been since I hit my 30’s.

What no one tells you about adventure travel

world adventures

world adventures

While the extreme world adventures that you might imagine don’t appeal to me anymore, that doesn’t mean I don’t love adventure travel. My definition of experience has just changed quite a bit the more I grow up.

It’s funny, to my hardcore adventurous friends, I’m super vanilla, but to a lot of people, I seem extreme. It’s all about perception!

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned over the years is that adventure travel doesn’t have to be hardcore – it could just mean trying something new and exciting.

world adventures

world adventures

To me, adventure travel is for everyone, and it’s all about how you define it.

For me, I find much more purpose these days in taking on a big challenge on my travels, to test myself and sense of adventure, and then revel in achieving it. I’m not one for any big adrenaline rushes anymore or looking for quick thrills.

Give me a good old hike or session in the snow and call me happy. My world adventures are not stopping any time soon.

Here are some of my best tips for adventure travel when you’re like me, and you’re not really all that hardcore – enjoy!

How to be an adventuress

world adventures

world adventures

Take the plunge

Scuba diving can be a fantastic excuse to visit some of the globe’s best most scenic destinations. Recreational diving is one of my favorite past times, and I’ve been diving around the world, from right here in New Zealand to Bali and the Maldives. 

But if diving’s not your thing, snorkeling is a great alternative, and often heaps cheaper.

There are loads of tropical spots that offer boat trips to reefs and islands where you can see spectacular fish and reefs – just for inspiration, check out the Phi Phi islands and Koh Tao in Thailand. There’s the Yasawa Islands in Fiji, so many places in the Seychelles, and Hawaii, and last but not least, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands. 

world adventures

world adventures

Sign up for a safari

If you’re a fan of wildlife like me, there is nothing better than going on safari. 

Traveling to safari lodges in Africa tops the bucket list of many and with good reason – it’s pretty damn amazing. The ultimate “softcore” adventure, most safaris take you around in a 4WD vehicle for game viewings, not requiring any serious physical strengths.

Of course, there are self-drive, walking, boating, and riding safaris, too, but the traditional way is usually in an old tricked out Landrover.

Having just returned from a few days of safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, my mind has been blown away again.

world adventures

world adventures

Catch a wave

If you’ve never surfed and thought you couldn’t, why not give it a whirl with some surf lessons. It’s quite the workout but super fun. 

Don’t worry about feeling silly – you’re bound to be learning alongside other first-timers.

Or, if you’re committed, consider a women’s surf camp – a great bonding experience and a different way to see a country. Good options include Bali, Australia, Hawaii, Portugal, India, Nicaragua, and Morocco. Women’s surf camps and retreats are becoming increasingly popular. 

world adventures

world adventures

Sail into the sunset

The very friendly sport of sailing is open to all levels of ability and can be done in so many areas around the globe.

For instance, in Australia, there’s a tradition on Wednesday afternoons where many yacht clubs invite would-be sailors to join them for a sail and possibly a race, usually for free.

Or if you’ve dreamed of sailing around gorgeous coastlines and dropping anchor at deserted islands, there are plenty of sailing holidays where you can do as much or as little as you like – check out the Greek islands, Croatia, Australia’s Whitsundays, the Caribbean, and New Zealand. 

world adventures

world adventures

Guided adventure trips

It’s one thing to have an idea for an adventure, then go out and acquire all of the necessary skills to be able to do it safely. For me, I much prefer to go on guided adventures with an expert, someone who has certified guiding experience, which can both show me a fantastic time and keep me safe as.

From rafting the mighty Landsborough River here in New Zealand to guided via ferratas in the Dolomites in Italy, there’s always a guided adventure to be had!

world adventures

world adventures

Stand up paddle-boarding somewhere special

Stand-up paddling, or SUP as it’s known, is one of the fastest-growing watersports.

After some initial wobbles, most people find they can stand up and begin paddling on calm waters – surf may take a little extra mastery. It’s a great way to get fit and explore a landscape (coastal and rivers) on water.

Doing it in a group makes it friendly, too, and I’ve often joined in on guided SUP missions while traveling. Check out your options in Australia, the Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Slovenia.

Here in New Zealand, you’ll find me out on the lake and coast on my Moana inflatable SUP board, which I love to take out and about.

world adventures

world adventures

Take a hike

Walking holidays are graded for all levels of fitness. Above all, hiking is great for solo travelers as you can get to know people in a relaxed setting.

The possibilities are endless from short hikes just about anywhere to more extended expeditions such as the Camino Trail that passes through France, Spain, and Portugal.

In addition to other hotspots include hiking New Zealand, Peru, Japan, and Iceland.

Active Adventures runs guided hiking adventures around the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.

world adventures

world adventures

It’s snow time

Never tried skiing or snowboarding, never fear – that’s what ski school is for.

Prepare to have fun and a few tumbles, with days punctuated with hot chocolate and spectacular winter scenery. It’s always ski season somewhere in the world. The US, Canada, Japan, Europe are all exceptional during the northern hemisphere’s winter, while New Zealand is the place to go from June to September.

If skiing or snowboarding isn’t up your alley, consider cross-country skiing in Scandinavia or Austria.

world adventures

world adventures

Hop on your bike!

Not fit, but love to pedal? No worries. Cycling opens up the world adventures to all.

There are cycling trips for all levels, from touring vineyards in France to meandering through the rice paddies in Vietnam. From tackling hilly rides in Sri Lanka, cycling is a great way to see the country and boosts your fitness levels too.

Some cities are bike-friendly too. Check out bike hire or have an urban cycling adventure on one of the free bikes offered in places like Geneva and Zurich. You can also take part in bike-sharing schemes in Paris, London, Dublin, Melbourne, and Mexico City. 

Now with the popularity of e-bikes, cycling holidays have never been more accessible – phew!

world adventures

world adventures

Guided expedition trips

If you don’t want to stick to one kind of activity, there are adventure tours that combine it all. From trekking, kayaking, cycling, temples, and wildlife, even with accommodation ranging from camping to homestays to luxury lodges. 

One of my favorite guided expeditions was to ride horses in Mongolia, a trip that truly changed my life.

A week in Cuba could see you hiking to waterfalls, taking salsas lessons, and soaking up the atmosphere in Havana. Or, if exploring markets, beaches, and temples is your thing, Cambodia or Thailand could be the go. Intrepid Travel has some great options, including trips just for women. 

Join an expedition ship to Svalbard, the Antarctic, or even New Zealand’s subantarctic.

world adventures

world adventures

There are so many world adventures waiting for you out there. In fact, there is something for everyone and every budget. It all depends on you.

From easy hikes in your backyard to a holiday spent on the high seas, adventure travel is out there. Rewarding and life-changing, I can’t get enough of it, and I enjoy watching my travels evolve as I grow older.

For me, the only question is, what’s next?

How do you define adventure travel? Are you a fan of getting out and challenging yourself when on the road too? What are your favorite world adventures – spill!

world adventures

The post How to be an adventurous traveler when you’re not all that hardcore appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island


In August 2013 ago I took the plunge and hopped on a one-way flight to New Zealand. Six years later, residency and a newfound love for this pacific island nation, and I haven’t looked back since. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in those six years exploring the two islands that make up this magical part of the world and have gotten to know it pretty well. From climbing big mountains to road tripping through old farm country to eating at my favorite spots and getting lost all along the way, I’ve been lucky enough to discover some fantastic corners of New Zealand.

It’s a place I never tire of traveling around, and I love returning to old haunts again and again, especially on the South Island where I call home.

new zealand south island must do

If you’re looking to visit New Zealand for yourself (which you definitely should), be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get around.

And don’t miss the South Island in all its epic glory. A wild land of ice mountains, turquoise lakes, and gnarly haunted forests home to exotic birds and a few locals too, the South Island is a place that will blow you away. 

With a much smaller population than the North Island, and with much more dramatic scenery, the South Island beckons those looking to get off the grid in a place that seems somewhat otherworldly.

Here are my best tips after years of spots that are must-visits on the South Island. Enjoy!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

1. Go hiking in Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka

Wanaka is number one for me because it’s where I call home, and I’m unashamedly biased.

A beautiful little mountain town on the edge of a stunning blue lake an hour from the adventure capital herself, Queenstown, Wanaka was New Zealand’s best-kept secret until the lid got blown off. If you play your cards right, you might never leave. 

The gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park, home to some legendary hikes

new zealand south island must do

2. Get extreme in Queenstown

You can’t come to the South Island and not check out Queenstown, the adventure capital of Aotearoa.

The birthplace of bungee jumping, there is no shortage of high places to throw yourself off of in the name of adventure. Unabashedly touristy, Queenstown earns its accolades with epic views, big mountains, blue lakes, and experiences everywhere. 

I recommend the Shotover Canyon Swing for a pants-shittingly scary but fun experience, though less scary than a bungy (in my honest opinion) or a stunning zip-trek adventure overlooking the lake with Zip-Trek Eco Tours.

new zealand south island must do

3. Go look for penguins in the Catlins

The Catlins is a remote corner of the South Island of New Zealand, along the southeastern coastline, and it’s long been the seaside getaway of us Wanaka locals.

Sleepy holiday homes are scattered about the wild beaches, and the wind is often so strong here that the trees grow sideways!

But perhaps what I love the most about the Catlins is that it’s home to some of my favorite rare birds – the yellow-eyed penguins. You can safely watch them come ashore at sunset in Curio Bay, one of my favorite getaway spots.

new zealand south island must do

4. Go offline in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is often lauded as one of the many wonders of the world, and you don’t have to spend long there to understand that appeal.

Perhaps one of the remotest corners of New Zealand, Fiordland is home to some of the most epic scenery and a place none regret visiting.

If you have the time, my advice would be to pack up the car and spend a couple of days down in Milford Sound, go kayaking, on a boat cruise and take in some of the many hikes and walks along the famous Milford Road.

new zealand south island must do

5. Wake up in solitude in Doubtful sound

While Milford Sound is the gem of Fiordland, Doubtful is probably my more favorite spot. Peaceful and quiet, it’s a bit harder to get to and more overlooked than the shinier Milford.

Which is precisely why I love it!

Without a doubt, one of the absolute must-dos while exploring New Zealand is an overnight boat cruise in Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys. Book in quick, they sell out fast. It’s worth every penny.

new zealand south island must do

6. Dig the Jurassic Park vibes in Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park

The west coast of the South Island is one of my favorite places in all of New Zealand, and I don’t say that lightly. Six hundred kilometers long and home to few, it’s nothing short of wild, wet, and rugged. I love the isolation here.

On the west coast, you’ll find big mountains that drop down to temperate rainforests and thundering beaches, with Jurassic Park vibes galore.

Call in for a stop at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks further north and book in to do New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track.

new zealand south island must do

7. Explore where the mountains meet the sea in Kaikoura

Kaikoura has long been a beloved spot of New Zealand and has recovered significantly since it was shaken about by a big earthquake in 2016, changing the entire coastline.

Here huge mountains drop down to the sea, and then with a deep-sea trench right off the coastline, makes Kaikoura a perfect place to experience incredible marine life.

From whale watching to swimming with dolphins (responsibly of course) to looking for albatross and visiting fur seal colonies, Kaikoura is a pretty fantastic spot worth dropping in on any trip around the South Island.

new zealand south island must do

8. Sip all the Pinot Noir wine around Central Otago

Central Otago is a different region than what you might expect on the South Island, home to vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, and tussock-clad hills, not to mention world-class Pinot Noir – come to me!

Dry and rugged, Central was once a booming gold-mining region in the 1800s only to dwindle to a quieter food-producing and wine-growing region today. With dry, hot summers and dry cold winters, it’s perfect conditions for grape-growing and harvests.

I love exploring Central Otago in the autumn (mid-late April to early May) and also in October when their annual food and wine celebration, Eat. Taste. Central is kicking!

new zealand south island must do

9. Dip your toes into the Blue Pools on the Haast Pass, if you dare

New Zealand has no shortage of crystal bright blue water thanks to the glaciers that feed the mountain rivers and lakes – for now.

But if one spot tops the rest, it has to be the infamous Blue Pools on the Haast Pass in between Wanaka and the West Coast.

So bright and blue you can see straight to the bottom of the river, on a hot summer’s day it certainly looks inviting – but remember that it comes straight off a glacier, and you can tell. Not to mention the minute you strip down and show some skin, you’ll likely be eaten alive by sandflies.

new zealand south island must do

10. Hunt for street art in Dunedin

Dunedin claims the title for one of my favorite cities in New Zealand, hidden away on the bottom of the South Island. A comfortable place to escape to, I love being by the sea, and the grungy, but bespoke scene speaks to my soul.

I’m always on the lookout for the fantastic street art decorating the walls of the city, and it’s a great way to get to know Dunedin.

Every time I visit Dunedin, something new has popped up, and I think I fall in love with it even more. It’s an excellent base for exploring the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.

new zealand south island must do

11. Go for a helicopter ride and hike on Fox glacier

My all-time favorite activity is to do a heli-hike on Fox Glacier, one of New Zealand’s great wonders.

One of the only glaciers in the world that winds its way down from the mountains, like a river of ice into a temperate rainforest, Fox Glacier is one of New Zealand’s great gems.

The township of Fox itself is also pretty unique, with plenty of walks and beaches nearby, it’s a place I always enjoy visiting.

new zealand south island must do

12. Watch the sunset along the Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are one of New Zealand’s geological marvels. These huge egg-shaped boulders dot the beach outside the sleepy seaside town of Moeraki on the east coast of the South Island.

To me, they instead look like dragon eggs, and their mystery is appealing.

Moeraki itself is small and quaint, and a favorite spot of mine to escape to, especially for a meal or two at Fleur’s Place, one of the best restaurants in New Zealand.

new zealand south island must do

13. Marvel at New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook

Experience the beauty of New Zealand’s highest peak by heading on an inland road-trip to Mt. Cook village, deep in the heart of the South Island.

A behemoth of a mountain, Mt. Cook, while often shrouded in cloud, is stunning when he finally shows his face. The scenic drive along the neon blue lake Pukaki towards the town will take your breath away, especially on a windless day when the mountain can reflect in the waters.

From Mt. Cook itself, you can take in a variety of day walks, like to the Hooker Valley or a mightier tramp up to Mueller Hut. If you’re after something extraordinary though, hop on a heli-hike or snowshoe up the Tasman Glacier – you won’t regret it!

new zealand south island must do

14. Kayak with the local dolphins in the Abel Tasman

You only have to drive an hour or two in New Zealand for the landscape to change dramatically, and none more so than the top of the South Island.

Before you know it, you’ll arrive at the iconic Abel Tasman National Park, which looks like a tropical Southeast Asian paradise, home to sandy beaches, blue waters, and one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

The sheltered bays of the Abel Tasman are perfect for hiking and kayaking, with plenty of opportunities to see the seals and dolphins who regularly pop in to say hello. My good friend Kyle “Bare Kiwi” kayak guides there in summer (Abel Tasman Kayaks) and is a total legend!

new zealand south island must do

15. Jet-boat up the braided rivers around Glenorchy

Less than an hour from Queenstown on one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand, lies the sleepy adorable town of Glenorchy, and a gateway into the heart of the Southern Alps.

The starting point for many of New Zealand’s great tramps as well as a significant character in the Lord of the Rings films, there are also plenty of adventure activities to choose from in Glenorchy.

My favorite would have to be the Wilderness Jet Boat ride up the Dart River. A crystal clear blue glacial river that’s shallow and braided, the best way to get deep into the national park is by jetboat, a kiwi invention where a jet engine is strapped on the back of a boat that can power it through shallow mountain rivers.

Adventurous and fun, it’s the perfect way to see some of the incredible nature here without hiking for days.

new zealand south island must do

16. Road-trip around the Banks Peninsula

Just outside of Christchurch is a veritable paradise of beautiful bays, quiet beaches, and charming towns along the Banks Peninsula. Made for a road-trip, the drive out to Akaroa on the summit road is stunning, and it’s a place that, while seems rather small on the map, actually holds heaps to explore.

A summer road trip around Akaroa is a New Zealand South Island must-do for sure!

new zealand south island must do

17. Look for kea and waterfalls in Arthur’s pass

Arthur’s Pass is an alpine highway that connects Canterbury and the west coast of the South Island, one of the three mountain passes that traverse the mighty Southern Alps.

Climbing to more than 900 meters through Arthur’s Pass National Park, it’s one of New Zealand’s most stunning stretches of road, with plenty of big hikes, waterfalls, and viewpoints worth stopping and exploring along the way.

You have a good chance of seeing kea, New Zealand’s native alpine parrot along Arthur’s Pass as well, and make sure to stop for a walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall.

new zealand south island must do

18. Visit iconic Arrowtown in autumn

Arrowtown takes the crown for the cutest village in New Zealand.

A charming historic gold-mining settlement tucked in between Wanaka and Queenstown, Arrowtown is an absolute must-visit on a trip to the area. My favorite time to visit is in autumn (our April/May) when all the colorful trees turn gold and orange.

new zealand south island must do

19. Go stargazing in Tekapo

Tekapo has been a hot spot for tourists for as long as I have lived in New Zealand. While it can be packed come summertime, it’s definitely a New Zealand South Island must do.

If you find yourself in Tekapo, don’t skip out on a visit to the Mt John Observatory, where you will witness the clear and vast starlit skies of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.

Here is some of the best stargazing in the world, and with virtually no light pollution, you’ll be blown away by the night skies here. If you’re lucky, you might even see the southern lights twinkling on the horizon.

new zealand south island must do

20. Soar around Lake Heron Station

One thing that makes the South Island so unique is its prevalence of high country sheep stations, beautiful farms that exist in what seems to be some of the most remote corners of New Zealand.

There is none so iconic as Lake Heron Station, a century-old family-run merino sheep station that spans across one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen. The geographical heart of the South Island, Lake Heron, is a stunning freshwater lake that sits at the end of lovely braided rivers dropping down from the Southern Alps.

You can stay out on the farm with the Todhunters in one of their cottages or huts and explore the area, which you will have all to yourself, though the best experience is to join them for a scenic flight around their land and the mountains. Prepare to have your mind blown!

new zealand south island must do

The South Island is magnificent, and it’s home to so many of New Zealand’s greatest wonders.

From thundering waterfalls to iconic mountain peaks, from friendly locals and historic ghost towns to a quirky art scene, it’s hard to pick a favorite spot.

What did I miss? Have you been to New Zealand? What are your must-visit spots on the South Island? Spill in the comments!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

The post 20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island


In August 2013 ago I took the plunge and hopped on a one-way flight to New Zealand. Six years later, residency and a newfound love for this pacific island nation, and I haven’t looked back since. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in those six years exploring the two islands that make up this magical part of the world and have gotten to know it pretty well. From climbing big mountains to road tripping through old farm country to eating at my favorite spots and getting lost all along the way, I’ve been lucky enough to discover some fantastic corners of New Zealand.

It’s a place I never tire of traveling around, and I love returning to old haunts again and again, especially on the South Island where I call home.

new zealand south island must do

If you’re looking to visit New Zealand for yourself (which you definitely should), be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get around.

And don’t miss the South Island in all its epic glory. A wild land of ice mountains, turquoise lakes, and gnarly haunted forests home to exotic birds and a few locals too, the South Island is a place that will blow you away. 

With a much smaller population than the North Island, and with much more dramatic scenery, the South Island beckons those looking to get off the grid in a place that seems somewhat otherworldly.

Here are my best tips after years of spots that are must-visits on the South Island. Enjoy!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

1. Go hiking in Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka

Wanaka is number one for me because it’s where I call home, and I’m unashamedly biased.

A beautiful little mountain town on the edge of a stunning blue lake an hour from the adventure capital herself, Queenstown, Wanaka was New Zealand’s best-kept secret until the lid got blown off. If you play your cards right, you might never leave. 

The gateway to Mt. Aspiring National Park, home to some legendary hikes

new zealand south island must do

2. Get extreme in Queenstown

You can’t come to the South Island and not check out Queenstown, the adventure capital of Aotearoa.

The birthplace of bungee jumping, there is no shortage of high places to throw yourself off of in the name of adventure. Unabashedly touristy, Queenstown earns its accolades with epic views, big mountains, blue lakes, and experiences everywhere. 

I recommend the Shotover Canyon Swing for a pants-shittingly scary but fun experience, though less scary than a bungy (in my honest opinion) or a stunning zip-trek adventure overlooking the lake with Zip-Trek Eco Tours.

new zealand south island must do

3. Go look for penguins in the Catlins

The Catlins is a remote corner of the South Island of New Zealand, along the southeastern coastline, and it’s long been the seaside getaway of us Wanaka locals.

Sleepy holiday homes are scattered about the wild beaches, and the wind is often so strong here that the trees grow sideways!

But perhaps what I love the most about the Catlins is that it’s home to some of my favorite rare birds – the yellow-eyed penguins. You can safely watch them come ashore at sunset in Curio Bay, one of my favorite getaway spots.

new zealand south island must do

4. Go offline in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is often lauded as one of the many wonders of the world, and you don’t have to spend long there to understand that appeal.

Perhaps one of the remotest corners of New Zealand, Fiordland is home to some of the most epic scenery and a place none regret visiting.

If you have the time, my advice would be to pack up the car and spend a couple of days down in Milford Sound, go kayaking, on a boat cruise and take in some of the many hikes and walks along the famous Milford Road.

new zealand south island must do

5. Wake up in solitude in Doubtful sound

While Milford Sound is the gem of Fiordland, Doubtful is probably my more favorite spot. Peaceful and quiet, it’s a bit harder to get to and more overlooked than the shinier Milford.

Which is precisely why I love it!

Without a doubt, one of the absolute must-dos while exploring New Zealand is an overnight boat cruise in Doubtful Sound with Real Journeys. Book in quick, they sell out fast. It’s worth every penny.

new zealand south island must do

6. Dig the Jurassic Park vibes in Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park

The west coast of the South Island is one of my favorite places in all of New Zealand, and I don’t say that lightly. Six hundred kilometers long and home to few, it’s nothing short of wild, wet, and rugged. I love the isolation here.

On the west coast, you’ll find big mountains that drop down to temperate rainforests and thundering beaches, with Jurassic Park vibes galore.

Call in for a stop at the famous Punakaiki Pancake Rocks further north and book in to do New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track.

new zealand south island must do

7. Explore where the mountains meet the sea in Kaikoura

Kaikoura has long been a beloved spot of New Zealand and has recovered significantly since it was shaken about by a big earthquake in 2016, changing the entire coastline.

Here huge mountains drop down to the sea, and then with a deep-sea trench right off the coastline, makes Kaikoura a perfect place to experience incredible marine life.

From whale watching to swimming with dolphins (responsibly of course) to looking for albatross and visiting fur seal colonies, Kaikoura is a pretty fantastic spot worth dropping in on any trip around the South Island.

new zealand south island must do

8. Sip all the Pinot Noir wine around Central Otago

Central Otago is a different region than what you might expect on the South Island, home to vast undulating landscapes, rugged snow-capped mountains, clear blue rivers, and tussock-clad hills, not to mention world-class Pinot Noir – come to me!

Dry and rugged, Central was once a booming gold-mining region in the 1800s only to dwindle to a quieter food-producing and wine-growing region today. With dry, hot summers and dry cold winters, it’s perfect conditions for grape-growing and harvests.

I love exploring Central Otago in the autumn (mid-late April to early May) and also in October when their annual food and wine celebration, Eat. Taste. Central is kicking!

new zealand south island must do

9. Dip your toes into the Blue Pools on the Haast Pass, if you dare

New Zealand has no shortage of crystal bright blue water thanks to the glaciers that feed the mountain rivers and lakes – for now.

But if one spot tops the rest, it has to be the infamous Blue Pools on the Haast Pass in between Wanaka and the West Coast.

So bright and blue you can see straight to the bottom of the river, on a hot summer’s day it certainly looks inviting – but remember that it comes straight off a glacier, and you can tell. Not to mention the minute you strip down and show some skin, you’ll likely be eaten alive by sandflies.

new zealand south island must do

10. Hunt for street art in Dunedin

Dunedin claims the title for one of my favorite cities in New Zealand, hidden away on the bottom of the South Island. A comfortable place to escape to, I love being by the sea, and the grungy, but bespoke scene speaks to my soul.

I’m always on the lookout for the fantastic street art decorating the walls of the city, and it’s a great way to get to know Dunedin.

Every time I visit Dunedin, something new has popped up, and I think I fall in love with it even more. It’s an excellent base for exploring the wildlife of the Otago Peninsula.

new zealand south island must do

11. Go for a helicopter ride and hike on Fox glacier

My all-time favorite activity is to do a heli-hike on Fox Glacier, one of New Zealand’s great wonders.

One of the only glaciers in the world that winds its way down from the mountains, like a river of ice into a temperate rainforest, Fox Glacier is one of New Zealand’s great gems.

The township of Fox itself is also pretty unique, with plenty of walks and beaches nearby, it’s a place I always enjoy visiting.

new zealand south island must do

12. Watch the sunset along the Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders are one of New Zealand’s geological marvels. These huge egg-shaped boulders dot the beach outside the sleepy seaside town of Moeraki on the east coast of the South Island.

To me, they instead look like dragon eggs, and their mystery is appealing.

Moeraki itself is small and quaint, and a favorite spot of mine to escape to, especially for a meal or two at Fleur’s Place, one of the best restaurants in New Zealand.

new zealand south island must do

13. Marvel at New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook

Experience the beauty of New Zealand’s highest peak by heading on an inland road-trip to Mt. Cook village, deep in the heart of the South Island.

A behemoth of a mountain, Mt. Cook, while often shrouded in cloud, is stunning when he finally shows his face. The scenic drive along the neon blue lake Pukaki towards the town will take your breath away, especially on a windless day when the mountain can reflect in the waters.

From Mt. Cook itself, you can take in a variety of day walks, like to the Hooker Valley or a mightier tramp up to Mueller Hut. If you’re after something extraordinary though, hop on a heli-hike or snowshoe up the Tasman Glacier – you won’t regret it!

new zealand south island must do

14. Kayak with the local dolphins in the Abel Tasman

You only have to drive an hour or two in New Zealand for the landscape to change dramatically, and none more so than the top of the South Island.

Before you know it, you’ll arrive at the iconic Abel Tasman National Park, which looks like a tropical Southeast Asian paradise, home to sandy beaches, blue waters, and one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

The sheltered bays of the Abel Tasman are perfect for hiking and kayaking, with plenty of opportunities to see the seals and dolphins who regularly pop in to say hello. My good friend Kyle “Bare Kiwi” kayak guides there in summer (Abel Tasman Kayaks) and is a total legend!

new zealand south island must do

15. Jet-boat up the braided rivers around Glenorchy

Less than an hour from Queenstown on one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand, lies the sleepy adorable town of Glenorchy, and a gateway into the heart of the Southern Alps.

The starting point for many of New Zealand’s great tramps as well as a significant character in the Lord of the Rings films, there are also plenty of adventure activities to choose from in Glenorchy.

My favorite would have to be the Wilderness Jet Boat ride up the Dart River. A crystal clear blue glacial river that’s shallow and braided, the best way to get deep into the national park is by jetboat, a kiwi invention where a jet engine is strapped on the back of a boat that can power it through shallow mountain rivers.

Adventurous and fun, it’s the perfect way to see some of the incredible nature here without hiking for days.

new zealand south island must do

16. Road-trip around the Banks Peninsula

Just outside of Christchurch is a veritable paradise of beautiful bays, quiet beaches, and charming towns along the Banks Peninsula. Made for a road-trip, the drive out to Akaroa on the summit road is stunning, and it’s a place that, while seems rather small on the map, actually holds heaps to explore.

A summer road trip around Akaroa is a New Zealand South Island must-do for sure!

new zealand south island must do

17. Look for kea and waterfalls in Arthur’s pass

Arthur’s Pass is an alpine highway that connects Canterbury and the west coast of the South Island, one of the three mountain passes that traverse the mighty Southern Alps.

Climbing to more than 900 meters through Arthur’s Pass National Park, it’s one of New Zealand’s most stunning stretches of road, with plenty of big hikes, waterfalls, and viewpoints worth stopping and exploring along the way.

You have a good chance of seeing kea, New Zealand’s native alpine parrot along Arthur’s Pass as well, and make sure to stop for a walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall.

new zealand south island must do

18. Visit iconic Arrowtown in autumn

Arrowtown takes the crown for the cutest village in New Zealand.

A charming historic gold-mining settlement tucked in between Wanaka and Queenstown, Arrowtown is an absolute must-visit on a trip to the area. My favorite time to visit is in autumn (our April/May) when all the colorful trees turn gold and orange.

new zealand south island must do

19. Go stargazing in Tekapo

Tekapo has been a hot spot for tourists for as long as I have lived in New Zealand. While it can be packed come summertime, it’s definitely a New Zealand South Island must do.

If you find yourself in Tekapo, don’t skip out on a visit to the Mt John Observatory, where you will witness the clear and vast starlit skies of the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.

Here is some of the best stargazing in the world, and with virtually no light pollution, you’ll be blown away by the night skies here. If you’re lucky, you might even see the southern lights twinkling on the horizon.

new zealand south island must do

20. Soar around Lake Heron Station

One thing that makes the South Island so unique is its prevalence of high country sheep stations, beautiful farms that exist in what seems to be some of the most remote corners of New Zealand.

There is none so iconic as Lake Heron Station, a century-old family-run merino sheep station that spans across one of the most beautiful valleys I’ve ever seen. The geographical heart of the South Island, Lake Heron, is a stunning freshwater lake that sits at the end of lovely braided rivers dropping down from the Southern Alps.

You can stay out on the farm with the Todhunters in one of their cottages or huts and explore the area, which you will have all to yourself, though the best experience is to join them for a scenic flight around their land and the mountains. Prepare to have your mind blown!

new zealand south island must do

The South Island is magnificent, and it’s home to so many of New Zealand’s greatest wonders.

From thundering waterfalls to iconic mountain peaks, from friendly locals and historic ghost towns to a quirky art scene, it’s hard to pick a favorite spot.

What did I miss? Have you been to New Zealand? What are your must-visit spots on the South Island? Spill in the comments!

Check out my interactive map for exploring the South Island of New Zealand

new zealand south island must do

The post 20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island 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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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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