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Introduction to New Zealand
Introduction to New ZealandUnique Scenic Activities
In no other country in the world could so many unique scenes be enjoyed within one day. From the sub-tropical and lush bush of Northland, to the beauty of Mitre Peak in Fiordland National Park, once described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World'. This country is truly 'God's Own' with a surprise around every corner with its ever-changing contrasts.
New Zealand consists of 2 main islands, each of which offers their own unique attractions.
In the North Island, you'll find Auckland, New Zealand's largest city and major international gateway. From Auckland, you can travel either to the sub tropical north with its golden beaches where you can swim with dolphins and visit magnificent forests of huge kauri and giant ferns or south to the geysers and Maori culture of Rotorua.
Past bush fringed lakes and steaming volcanoes; some of the largest planted forests on earth and on to the cosmopolitan capital of Wellington.
Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island, where you can experience the wonder of whale watching, jet boating and river rafting. Walk on glaciers, through natural bush or simply wander some of the most beautiful, rugged tracks on earth. Discover vast beech forests, bungy jump in Queenstown or visit other exciting and interesting places.
Wildlife and Nature
Isolated from other land masses, New Zealand is abundant in native wildlife, with unique and often rare species of plants, birds and insects found nowhere else. The best known of these is the flightless Kiwi, which is also the name given to New Zealanders. Other native birds include the kea (mountain parrot), the kaka, the tui and the yellow-eyed penguin. Many seabirds live on New Zealand's shores including albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels and penguins.
New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where you can be up close to a whale, swim with dolphins and view the gracefulness of the Southern Royal Albatross, all in the same day.
The tuatara, an ancient reptile with a lineage extending back to the age of the dinosaurs, is found only in New Zealand. There are no snakes or poisonous creatures except for the very rare coastal katipo spider.
New Zealand's native forests are warm-temperate, evergreen rain forest of podocarps (rimu, totara, matai and kahikatea) with associated evergreen tree species and giant tree ferns. There are many flowering plants and trees unique to New Zealand such as the kowhai, rata and the pohutukawa tree.
Art and Culture
Rich in the native Maori peoples' arts and crafts (especially centered around Rotorua), New Zealand also shares a strong contemporary art scene, with national art galleries in Auckland and Wellington. The focal point of the nation's art and culture is shared with the world at 'Te Papa' The National Museum of New Zealand in Wellington, displaying all that is New Zealand in culture and identity.
New Zealand is home to the Tangata Whenua (people of the land), the Maori. It is believed that the Polynesian navigator, Kupe was the first man to sight New Zealand around 950AD and then returned home to tell of his findings. Around 1350AD seven great migratory canoes (whaka) sailed from Hawaiki to New Zealand.
They called the country Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud, and quickly adapted to the cooler climate and spread throughout the country. Here they developed a culture quite distinct from the rest of the Pacific since the long distances and treacherous ocean conditions discouraged return voyages.
The Maori have a close kinship with their environment, with legends and gods representing certain spheres, such as Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest) and Tangaroa (God of the Sea), who are remembered through song and dance.
Ancient Maori traditions and artforms have become precious taonga (treasures) of the modern Maori. Status and prestige are gained from ancestors who contribute to the living by giving spiritual strength and guidance to those who call on them. It is for this reason that traditional artforms such as the carved walking sticks, greenstone necklaces and bone carvings are treated with respect, as they carry the spirit of the original owners.
The whakapapa (family tree) is retold in the intricate carvings on every marae. The marae, or meeting house is still today the main focus for ceremony and community identity. Visitors are welcomed onto the marae with a strict formal protocol and traditional welcome which includes the haka (challenge) and a hongi (pressing of noses). You may have the opportunity to sample kai (food), cooked in a hangi (feast steamed in an earth oven).
You will be able to experience Maori culture all over New Zealand, but in particular at Rotorua. Waitangi, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, the Auckland Museum and the National Marae in Christchurch also offer insights into the Maori cultural heritage.
Food and Wine
New Zealand has long been recognised for its great wines of international standard, but is also quickly developing a strong reputation for our restaurants and fresh food, developing a unique style of cuisine.
New Zealand has a relatively short history compared to the rest of the world. However due to our isolation in the middle of the South Pacific, New Zealand has quickly become world renowned for its innovation in technology and sport. Not only the holders of the proudest cup in yachting circles, 'The America's Cup', but New Zealand can also boast the first man to climb Mount Everest, and arguably the first manned powered flight in the world, before the Wright brothers. New Zealand also maintains a strong Maori history, which has been kept alive since the days of Captain Cook's arrival on our fair shores over 150 years ago.
The Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, sighted and named New Zealand in 1642, but it was not until 1769 that Captain James Cook charted the coastline and explored the country. Whalers and traders began to arrive on New Zealand's shores soon after Captain Cook.
The first European setters arrived in the early nineteenth century at the Bay of Islands and established missionary stations in the area. Mass immigration occurred shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
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