New Zealand has 14 national parks and more than five million hectares
a third of New Zealand protected in parks and reserves. They embody
an incredible variety of landscape and vegetation for so small a country.
From the mangrove-fringed tidal inlets of Northland to the snow-capped
volcanoes of the central plateau, from the forests of the Te Urewera to the
majestic fiords, glaciers and mountains of the south, this land is unique.
Much of New Zealand's flora is endemic and its extent is enormous: giant
gum-producing kauri and kohekohe forests; rainforest dominated by rimu,
beech, tawa, matai and rata; ferns and flax; alpine and subalpine herb
fields; and scrub and tussock. One of the most noticeable plants is the
pohutukawa (known as the New Zealand Christmas tree) which detonates with
brilliant red flowers around December. About 10 to 15% of the total land
area of New Zealand is covered with native flora, the bulk protected in
national parks and reserves.
Plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth can be found here. There are
unlimited opportunities for outdoor enjoyment, ranging from water skiing to
snow skiing and snowboarding, from diving and snorkelling to mountain
climbing, from kayaking to mountain biking, from tramping to trout fishing.
But most of all New Zealand's national parks offer the chance to enjoy an
unspoiled primeval landscape, where humans have had only minimal impact.
New Zealand's separation from other land masses for more than 100 million
years has allowed many ancient plants and animals to survive and evolve in
isolation. Complementing unique flora and fauna is a landscape that contains
an unrivalled variety of landforms. In a couple of days drive it is possible
to see everything from mountain ranges to sandy beaches, lush rainforests,
glaciers and fiords and active volcanoes.
New Zealand Flora Lush and Diverse
New Zealands high rainfall and many sunshine hours give the country a
lush and diverse flora with 80 percent of the trees, ferns, and
flowering plants being native. From the kauri forests of the far north to
the mountain beech forests and alpine tussock of the Southern Alps, youll
find fascinating plants and trees in every region. Youll be awed by
the majestic evergreen native forests that include rimu, totara, many
varieties of beech, and the largest native tree of them all, the giant
kauri. Underneath the trees youll find a dense and luxurious
undergrowth including countless native shrubs, a variety of ferns, and many
mosses and lichens.
The yellow flowers of the kowhai tree are some of the prettiest youll
ever see, and if you visit the North Island, you wont be far from the
beautiful pohutukawa tree. Its bright red flowers bloom in December, giving
it the title of New Zealands Christmas tree.
Over 20 percent of New Zealand is covered in national parks, forest areas
and reserves. Our 13 national parks contain an incredible variety of
unspoiled landscape and vegetation. Administered and maintained by the
Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai, these parks provide opportunity
for a wide variety of activities including hiking, mountain biking, skiing
and snowboarding, kayaking and trout fishing. Most national parks have
excellent hiking tracks and camping facilities, including nearly 1000 huts
throughout the country.
New Zealands Fauna Unique
About 80-100 million years ago, New Zealand drifted away from the massive
supercontinent of Gondwanaland into the South Pacific. Since then, a unique
flora and fauna has evolved, with a large number of beautiful native birds
and plants, as well as direct descendants of prehistoric wildlife, including
the tuatara, weta, and giant snail. As Time magazine said, New Zealand is an
ultimate storehouse for discontinued zoological models
New Zealands national symbol is a nocturnal flightless bird with
nostrils on the end of its large beak. It is now endangered, and difficult
to see in the wild. However, there are a number of kiwi houses
at zoos and wildlife parks. While they may look cute, kiwi can be fierce and
Whales and Dolphins
New Zealand has abundant and diverse marine life, and whale watching and
swimming with dolphins are two of New Zealands most highly recommended
tourist experiences. The small (up to 1.4m) Hectors dolphin is the
worlds rarest dolphin and only found in New Zealand waters. There are
a number of spots in the South Island where you can see Hectors
dolphins close up.
New Zealands moa was the only wingless bird ever known. The giant
moa, one of eleven species of moa, was also the tallest known, standing up
to 3 metres (9 feet). Many moa bones and skeletons have been found in small
caves which the hapless moa fell into. Maori hunted moa, and it is believed
the birds became extinct around 400 years ago.
Other well-known New Zealand native birds include the kea (native parrot),
weka, takahe, tui, and morepork owl. The playful kea is one of the most
intelligent birds in the world and will happily attack a car in order to
steal a windscreen wiper or other bits of rubber! The loveable weka is a
flightless bird with a penchant for shiny objects, while the takahe has a
beautiful indigo plumage and bright red beak. The takahe was believed to be
extinct until it was sensationally rediscovered in 1948 by New
Zealand ornithologist Dr G.B. Orbell. Like many of New Zealands native
birds, the tui has a beautiful song, and a white parsons collar.
The morepork owl is so named because of the sound of its call, often heard
at night. Its Maori name, ruru, is also named after its call.
Watchers Paradise :Kaikoura
Kaikoura has one of the greatest number of different types of seabirds
within a small area than anywhere along the New Zealand coastline. The list
of seabirds below have been sighted in an area from Kaikoura Peninsula south
to a distance of 10 miles off the Conway rivermouth- roughly a triangular
area. Most of the information on albatrosses and petrels was collected from
the fishing grounds of the Virgo. One of the reasons for such a large number
of different types of seabirds is the presence of a deepwater trench close
inshore and upwellings of cold nutrient rich water over the shallower
coastal waters (supporting flocks of tens of thousands Huttons Shearwaters
which breed in the nearby Seaward Kaikoura mountains). Click on the
thumbnail photo for more information on each bird specie
Five varieties of the great albatross can be seen off Kaikoura. Wandering
Albatross, Antipodean Albatross, Gibson's Albatross, Northern Royal
Albatross and Southern Royal Albatross
Up to eight varieties of the smaller albatross (sometimes referred to as
mollymawks) can be seen in the waters off kaikoura
Seven varieties; Fleshfooted, Bullers, Sooty, Short-tailed, Fluttering,
Hutton's and little shearwater.
Fourteen varieties. Some of these include Westland, Common, Diving, White
chinned, Cape Pigeon, Antarctic Fulmar, Southern Giant, Northern Giant,
Fairy Prion and Wilson's Storm Petrel.