In the mid-nineties we began running small guided hiking tours around the South Island of New Zealand, helping to get folks off the beaten track and into the wilderness. Joining the dots between hiking trails, we'd pass through small, traditional kiwi towns, often opting to stay the night to introduce our guests to the New Zealand way of life. We wouldn't still be running adventure tours if we hadn't taken the time to acknowledge and support these small communities. After all, it's communities like Okarito, Braemar Station, Makarora and Manapouri that make our trips special and unique.
Another classic kiwi village is Arthur's Pass, in the heart of the Southern Alps of the South Island. This stunning village presented us with a unique opportunity when we were looking for new ways to give back to the communities of NZ that have given our travellers so much over the years. We were looking for an initiative that would benefit the local community, as well as the future of our country as a whole. The Arthur's Pass Kea Project (operating under the Kea Conservation Trust) did just that, with a focus on education and participation to conserve the endangered kea - an alpine parrot close to many New Zealander's hearts. So we jumped at the opportunity, and we're proud to say we're playing a key role in supporting the future of this important New Zealand character.
Arthur's Pass Kea Project
This is a major initiative that Active Adventures is proud to be a part of. Kea are a protected bird, endemic to New Zealand, found in the alpine environments of our South Island. They're the world's only alpine parrot and studies have proven them to be one of the most intelligent birds. Unfortunately, kea numbers are declining as they're facing ever-increasing threats from human-related activity, and predators.
The Arthur's Pass area includes a national park, some local ski fields and a small alpine village nestled in the Southern Alps. The area is characterised by large scree slopes, steep gorges and wide braided rivers, which straddle the main divide, and are the ‘back bone’ of the South Island. Many visitors pass through this area when travelling from Christchurch on the east coast to the wild west coast. The area is a mecca for seeing kea, attracting thousands of New Zealand and international tourists each year specifically to see this clever bird.
The Arthur's Pass Kea Project aims to provide people with a better understanding of kea while also encouraging visitors to partake in kea population monitoring through 'citizen science' - ultimately contributing towards enhanced conservation of kea. There are three main parts to the programme:
1. A concerted kea banding programme to build up the number of kea that are banded in the greater Arthur’s Pass area (for monitoring and educational purposes)
2. Development of kea advocacy/educational material for new information display boards, a pamphlet fact sheet, as well as a website and mobile phone App so that visitors can learn more about kea in general, and about the specific birds that visit the Arthur’s Pass area
3. Establishing a system to capture kea monitoring information from the public and incorporation into the national kea database. Initially this will be via a form visitors can fill out and drop in a collection box or post back, then ultimately it will be through an app, making your contribution simple and easy.
How to support the Kea Conservation Trust
More about kea
Kea are found throughout the alpine parts of the South Island, including popular spots like like Franz Josef, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and Fiordland National Park. Therefore it's highly likely that you'll see this bird when you join us on any of our South Island trips. Our Tui, Manuka, Kea and Weka trips all go through Arthur's Pass specifically, so they offer a great opportunity to see kea in their natural habitat and to learn about them through the conservation project.
Kea are not found in the North Island, although fossil evidence suggests a population lived there over 10,000 years ago. To survive in the harsh alpine environment of the South Island, kea have become inquisitive and nomadic social birds - characteristics which help them to find and utilise new food sources. Being so inquisitive and social, is also part of what makes them so attractive, as it's easy to see them up close and witness their quirky behaviour.
Other NZ initiatives
As you can imagine, we have a lot of outdoor equipment, such as tents, packs and sleeping bags. We upgrade this gear as necessary, to keep you nice and comfortable in the backcountry, and we donate our second hand equipment to schools in Christchurch. You could consider it an investment in our future Active Adventures guides!
Also, during the busy months we're operating many trips throughout New Zealand and whilst we plan our food requirements to 'military sophistication', we sometimes have a little leftover at the end of a tour. Our logistics team in Christchurch deliver this food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as non perishable items to the Salvation Army.
Community involvement elsewhere
We began operating trips in Nepal in 2011 and from the beginning we've supported the Himalayan Trust, donating a portion of every trip to support the incredible work founded by Sir Edmund Hillary. In 2015 the Gorkha earthquake devastated numerous parts of Nepal, throwing the country into turmoil. Our trekking groups were extremely fortunate to be unscathed, though it has affected our team deeply. Prior to the earthquake, our senior trip leader Dan Keys, together with support from other Kiwi and Nepalese guides, founded Active Hearts Himalaya - a charity that began as a small token of appreciation for the kindness and generosity our Nepal friends have shown. Immediately following the earthquake the charity refocused to provide emergency relief to the communities where our Nepal team come from.