Trek Notes - New Zealand

North Island Safari

Grade: Medium – River crossings, some rocky terrain.  
Meeting Point: 7.00am Auckland Visitors Centres

Wednesday. Join tour in Auckland
2 hours hiking
We have a short briefing by our guide before driving south to Rotorua where we do a big food shop. Rotorua is also an optional pick-up point - by arrangement. A little further south we stop beside a forest lake for picnic lunch and to organise and pack our backpacks for the hike into Whirinaki Forest Park. This Park covers an area of 60 000 hectares and is famous for its Jurassic-like rain forest – these podocarp trees are an ancient off shoot of the conifer family and evolved before the flowering plants. It is thought that forests like this once covered the super-continent of Gondwanaland over 150 million years ago. Our first hike is an easy one, on a track through native beech forest, to a simple forest hut beside a river. While we cook our meal there is time to relax and your guide will brief you on what to expect over the coming 9 days. Introduction night.

Thursday. Whirinaki 6 hours hiking
This morning we continue along the valley track for 1.5 hours. From here we hike up a side river through a beautiful gorge (learning river crossing techniques) to the next hut/camp. We stop for lunch on the way and often we have a quick swim in the cascades - crystal clear water you can drink. This remote wilderness is completely off the tourist trail. We often see rare blue duck, robins, and hear kaka (a large bush parrot). An evening campfire, and time to enjoy the surrounds. 

DAY 3  
Friday. Whirinaki 5 hours hiking  

Our hike takes us out through cascading creeks on a rougher trail. We hike over a small pass into the world renowned Whirinaki rain forest of weeping ferns and forest giants. We are met at the track exit mid-day before driving to the Rotorua area. This amazing area is festooned with thermal activity. On the way we have a swim in a natural hot river hidden in bush - complete with a small waterfall. In the evening there is an option to see a traditional Maori concert performed at the Te Tawa Ngahere Pa (village) by Tamaki Tours.We camp beside one of Rotorua’s beautiful old crater lakes.  

DAY 4  
Saturday. Rotorua 5 hrs kayaking
Up early to kayak on Lake Tarawera, an ancient crater lake with beautiful sand beaches surrounded by forests. This area is rich in Maori history. We paddle past the site of a Maori village which was buried under the ash from the 1886 Mt Tarawera eruption. We paddle through numerous steaming thermal springs along the lake edge. At lunch we also soak in a hot stream in the bush. Drive south to a thermal area before vehicle-camping beside the impressive aqua-blue waters of the Waikato River.  

Day 5  
Sunday. Taupo 1.5 hours hiking
A leisurely breakfast before heading a short distance south to the clear waters of Lake Taupo for some swimming and relaxing. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand - a 600 sq km volcanic caldera crater created when the largest volcanic explosion known to human-kind erupted in 186 AD. After lunch we drive to Tongariro National Park. Established in 1887, it is New Zealand’s first National Park, gifted to the people of New Zealand by a Maori chief who saw this as a way of protecting the tapu (respect, sacredness, preciousness) of this land – in particular the summits of the active volcanoes.We have an afternoon hike across alpine grasslands between these volcanoes to a hut set in native beech forest beside a bubbling stream (in warm weather we usually camp nearby).  

DAY 6  
Monday. Tongariro World Heritage Area 4 hours hiking  

We explore this area of beech forests, springs, and desert landscapes before hiking to the next hut/camp on this remote side of Tongariro National Park. The volcanoes in the park rumble from time to time: the most recent was in Sept 1995 when Mt Ruapehu, the highest mountain in the Park at 2,797m spewed clouds of ash and steam. Another much younger volcano, Mt Ngauruhoe is almost perfectly symmetrical and stands 2,291m.All around this scarlet moonscape are turquoise and green-blue crater lakes, adding their surreal colours to the landscape.

DAY 7  
Tuesday. Tongariro National Park 6 hours hiking
We hike gently up through a moon valley of contorted lava flows and ash fields before a steep climb up the last steep section to the emerald lakes – our usual lunch stop. We cross this diverse volcanic plateau - lava valleys, scarlet moonscapes, steaming explosion craters, before descending on the western side. In good conditions there is an option to climb one of the volcanic peaks. An evening drive takes us to a simple river-side lodge near the Park. We cook a big meal and relax after hot showers.  

DAY 8  
Wednesday. Waitomo 1 hr caving
After an early start we drive 2 hours westwards through a hill country farming region to the Waitomo Caves area. The name Waitomo comes from the Maori wai (water) and tomo (shaft). This limestone area is famous for its thousands of caves. We explore a secret river cave - glow worms, waterfalls and limestone formations. Later we drive through the remote Waitomo back-country to the wild west coast, stopping on the way to look at limestone rock formations.We camp beside the beach, swim, and cook our meal on the beach in a hangi (Maori earth oven). In the evening we light a beach fire and enjoy being beside the ocean.

DAY 9  
Thursday. Mt Egmont National Park 1.5 hrs
hiking We spend the morning at the coast; clambering through the bush and exploring the site of an ancient Maori pa (fortified Village), After relaxing, swimming and exploring the cliffs and beaches we drive south to Mt Egmont National Park. This dormant volcano stands at 2518m. Its last eruption was in 1755 and it was smoking when Captain James Cook (British explorer) sailed past in 1769, naming it after the Earl of Egmont. Maori know the mountain as the spirit/god Taranaki. It is a considered a sacred place and the rocks represent his bones and vegetation represents his hair. We do a late afternoon hike through twisted moss covered forest to a cosy alpine hut high on the side of the volcano. From here there are spectacular views of Mt Egmont/Taranaki and across to Tongariro National Park - usually above the evening cloud.

DAY 10  
Friday. Tour ends in Wellington 2-5 hours hiking  

If the mountain conditions are reasonable we get up early to climb up the side of Mt Egmont/Taranaki as far as Fanthams peak. There are commanding views from the summits of this solitary volcano. Late morning we descend on ancient lava flows covered in goblin forest back to the minibus. On the way south we stop at a wild Wanganui beach for lunch, a big sort out of gear and a swim. The drive to Wellington takes us through New Zealand’s flattest plains – it doesn’t last long!. Arrive in Wellington 5-8pm. Head out for an evening meal and farewell drink in our capital city.  

Note: People heading north after the safari – we connect in Stratford with an Auckland bound bus at 1pm. Please advise guide on Day 1 if this is required. Guide can arrange this booking. Cost of bus not included.

Do you have what it takes?  
This is a real New Zealand experience. Tracks can be slippery and rough, and you will get wet boots when we have to cross rivers. At times, we hike off the track, which puts extra stress on your ankles and knees. Please advise us if you have a history of knee or ankle problems. Although you do not need prior hiking experience (except for safaris graded ‘fit’), you do need to be reasonably fit, enthusiastic and prepared for a mental and physical challenge.  

You won’t be left behind! We hike together as a group at a steady pace, stopping for a good lunch and often for snacks. Due to changeable weather conditions and the remoteness of the areas we visit, we insist that the group stay together.

If you are concerned about your fitness, get out and do some day hikes in the weeks prior to the safari (4-5 hrs hiking with a pack). Your body will thank you!

A unique point of difference is that our maximum group size is 12. You will travel with a small and social group of people, sitting around camp fires telling stories and playing games, sleeping under the stars, and relaxing in natural hotpools...  

We spend about half the nights on safari in camps or huts in the mountains away from the vehicle. On the remaining nights, we camp by the vehicle in secluded places. Sometimes, in wet weather we seek out budget accommodation. There are always rivers and lakes to swim in or wash by, and we usually stop at places with hot showers every third or fourth day. We can also heat water for washing when camping by the vehicle.

Your guide will book accommodation for you in a backpacker hostel for the end of the safari. You can also be dropped off at your own pre-booked accommodation.

Domestics are a team effort, from collecting firewood, setting up camp and cooking, to doing the dishes and cleaning the vehicle.  

Food is run on a kitty system so everybody chips in with the buying, preparation and cooking of meals: barbecues, salads, stews, pancakes, pasta, dampers, hangi. Each person’s contribution is about $10 per day. Vegetarian meals are no problem -just advise us when you book.  

We travel in a 10-12 seat minibus towing a trailer with camp equipment and luggage. An average of 2-3 hours is spent driving per day.  

The itinerary given is for our normal route. However, if poor weather conditions prevail or the group has a particular preference, the hikes and itinerary are flexible. Finishing times are approximate only - we can arrive 5pm - 8pm. Please advise, when making a booking, if you have same day onward travel connections.  

New Zealand mountainous areas can experience cold weather, even in summer. Warm clothes are essential (no jeans for hiking). We insist you have the essential items below and reserve the right to make you purchase/hire them before the safari.

Essential Items:  
· hiking boots (not shoes)  
· backpack (at least 50 litres capacity)  
· backpack liner (plastic bag)  
· 3-season sleeping bag  
· waterproof raincoat  
· warm fleece/wool jersey (not cotton)  
· shorts for hiking  
· polypro/thermals – top &and long-johns  
· 3 pairs of socks (they get wet)  
· warm hat or balaclava  
· sunscreen and sunglasses  
· drink bottle (1 litre)  
· spare shoes or sandals  
· flashlight/head lamp  
· insect repellent(sandflies like foreign blood)  
· spare set of clothes  

Optional Items:
Therm-a-rest sleeping mat, gaiters, binoculars, gloves/mittens, earplugs, walking poles, camera.

We Supply: Sleeping mats (dense foam), tents, cooking equipment, plates/cutlery, first aid kit, safety equipment and maps.

Luggage: We allow space for 120 litres per person (one large pack plus one day pack). You may be required to forward excess luggage if you exceed this. Any gear you do not need on hikes can be locked in the vehicle. NZ Nature Safaris accepts no responsibility for security of your luggage. We highly recommend travel insurance.

Equipment Hire: We hire out good quality equipment. Arrange hire gear when you book. Requests for hire equipment must be made at least 5 days before the departure date.  

Your guides have a great enthusiasm for the outdoors and a thorough knowledge of natural history. They are keen to teach you outdoor skills such as river crossing, map reading and campfire cooking. All guides have more than a decade of outdoor experience, and mountain first aid training.  

Will I be fit enough to keep up with the group?

Please read carefully 'Hiking and Fitness Requirements'before choosing your hiking option and grade (medium or fit). Preparation is the key – go hiking carrying a pack, or go to the gym regularly in the weeks prior to your departure.  

What is the weather going to be like?
New Zealand experiences extremely changeable weather.Some days we can be broiling in 30 degrees heat and later in the day freezing in a cool southerly from the sub-Antarctic. Our trips are very flexible and work well in all weather.

Do I really need hiking boots?
Yes! Good hiking boots are essential to protect your feet and provide ankle support. Tracks can be slippery and rough. Sometimes we hike off-track, on rough terrain, involving river crossings.  

It’s summer. Do I really need thermals and a fleece?  
Yes. We can experience extreme weather, even in summer.  

What if I haven't got the right gear?
We can hire to you everything except hiking boots. Order what you need when you book. We also sell NZ Nature Safari fleeces, polyprop thermals.  

What is not included in the price?  
Food kitty and camp fee fund (averages $18/day). This cost is passed directly on - you only pay for what you get. The cost of kayaking ($40-$65), is also not included.  

Can I do more than one safari?
Yes! Our safaris and hikes are designed to connect over the whole of New Zealand – anything from 3 to 37 days! 

I'm a vegetarian - is that a problem?
No problem, we often have vegetarians in the group. Guides are familiar with vegetarian cooking. Please advise when you book.  

Which is the best trip to go on?
The North Island has lots of secrets - volcanoes, lakes and wilderness; the West Coast has grand mountains, canyons, glaciers and rainforest; the Secret South has a lot of alpine areas and wildlife - dolphins, penguins, sea lions and seals. The wilderness hikes and expeditions explore remote areas of our National Parks. You decide!  

What equipment do I need to bring along?
'What To Take' lists the minimum gear requirements. We visit mountainous wilderness areas, which can experience extremes of weather at any time of year. Be prepared!  

I have a lot of extra luggage - what should I do with it?
We allow luggage space of 120 litres per person (1 large pack plus a daypack). We may require you to forward excess luggage. On overnight hikes everything is locked in the vehicle.    

Print   To Top