Trek Notes - New Zealand

Tongariro Volcanoes


Grade: Medium – Some off-track, rocky terrain and steep scree.
Meeting Point: 9.00am Whakapapa Department of Conservation Visitor Centre  

Tuesday. Hike starts Whakapapa3 hours hiking

Meet up with your guide and group at the Visitor centre. Your guide will advise you on what to pack – some storage is available for surplus gear. We drive south, stopping to see The Mounds, an incredible series of small hills that tobogganed off the top of nearby Mt Ruapehu (2797m) coming to rest here - 14km away. We do a food shop before leaving the desert highway for a rough vehicle track that leads across volcanic ash to the base of Mt Ruapehu. The 300m ascent to our wee mountain hut, although not steep, crosses rough rocky ground. Perched above a jagged gorge at 2000m we get fantastic views.

Wednesday. Mt Ruapehu8 hours hiking

Hike to a view-point above the lava flows of the Whangaehu Gorge - this outlet from the Crater Lake released lahars (mud-flows) in the 1996 eruption. There are impressive views up this gorge to the many pointed peaks of this active volcano. Note that late spring snow and ice, or bad weather may prevent us from climbing high on the mountain. We return to the hut, collect our packs, and begin our descent through Rangipo Desert. Passing knarled hebe bushes and crossing many dry sand streams the track leads us finally to Ohinepango Springs which gurgle out beneath old lava flows into the beech forest. Hut/camp beside stream

Thursday. Oturere Hut3 or 6 hours hiking 

We traverse under the flanks of the perfect volcanic cone of Mt Ngauruhoe (2291m). We may make an off-track side trip to a remote turquoise-blue lake for lunch/snooze. Frequent puffs of steam, or even smoke, can be seen spiralling out of the craters of the nearby volcanos. We return to the track (and our packs) before continuing to Oturere Hut (1500m) in the late afternoon.

Friday. Hike finishes Whakapapa6 hours hiking

The track follows the Oturere valley, winding through the contorted lava mounds that jut out of the sandy valley floor. Climbing up past emerald lakes to 1900m gives us a view into the vent of Red Crater. This startling crater with its stratum of red orche and charcoal greys last erupted in the early 1900’s. If weather allows we may climb one of the other volcanoes too. The descent to the western side of the park leads down past the lava flows of the 1954 Ngauruhoe eruption and into the now tranquil Mangateopo Valley. We drive back to Whakapapa Visitor Centre usually arriving in the late afternoon.

The Tongariro Volcanoes wilderness hike is in the centre of the North Island. People must make their own arrangements to get to the starting point at Whakapapa Village.

Meeting point: Whakapapa Department of Conservation Visitor Centre foyer. We pack gear and food here. Storage available. Getting to Whakapapa- Daily train Auckland/Wellington to National Park township contact Tranzrail

Accommodation – For accommodation prior and post hike please contact us.

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

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.

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