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Geography

Not everyone knows where New Zealand is?! If you don't, well, read on and hopefully we'll give you a geographical understanding as well as provide some context as to how our spectacular little country got to where it is today in the Pacific Ocean.

Where is New Zealand?

New Zealand (or Aotearoa as it is known in the Maori language) is an elongated group of islands in the Southwest Pacific. Our neighbor Australia (that very flat, independent continent) lies about 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) to the west across the Tasman Sea. That's slightly more than the length of the state of California and, interestingly, roughly the distance a cruise missile can travel! To the north are the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and so on. About 1500 miles (2500 kilometers) south of us is Antarctica – far enough for us to have warm summers, but close enough to have the odd, and usually somewhat confused, Emperor penguin wash up on one of our sandy beaches. In fact, a few years ago we even had a reasonably large iceberg float past us. We couldn't resist claiming it as our own so we flew a celebrity sheep named ‘Shrek' out to the iceberg to have his wool shorn on the ice.

Anyway, out to the east of us… nothing. Literally, for about 5000 miles (8000 kilometers) there are only albatrosses, whales and Easter Island until you get to South America. But it wasn't always like this.

New Zealand was once part of the super-continent of Gondwana, which also included most of the rest of the Southern Hemisphere: South America, Antarctica, Africa, Madagascar, Australia, India and even the Arabian Peninsula. Thankfully, during the early Jurassic period, Gondwana began to split up and New Zealand gradually drifted off to its current spot.

For a long time, New Zealand almost disappeared – it was just a handful of tiny little islands with most of the land submerged under the sea. But then about 20 million years ago, the country started to be pushed up by geologic forces and nowadays the Southern Alps are among the fastest-rising mountains in the world – at a rate of about 5mm a year – quite a comeback!

We say 'thankfully' Gondwana split up because having Australia as a neighbor across the Tasman is one thing, but having them within walking distance would be quite another. Imagine what would happen if the two countries were connected! We would lose our greatest sporting rivalry, have to negotiate many a poisonous reptile or spider and potentially even sing Waltzing Matilda. Besides, the All Blacks doing the Haka with a touch of yellow and green wouldn't be a good look. 

So, for about 80 million years, New Zealand has been mainly surrounded by great oceans, which let our flora and fauna evolve into a unique and slightly odd mix. Flightless birds were able to flourish without predatory mammals and each was able to fill an interesting ecological function. For instance, Takahe birds ate grass whilst Moa and Kakapo browsed the forest and Kiwi birds ate the insects.

'The Land of the Long White Cloud' (named after the often cloud-shrouded Southern Alps) wasn't inhabited by any humans until Polynesians landed by way of huge ocean-going canoes (waka) sometime between 1100AD and 1350AD. To put that it into historical context, the animals ruled the land in these parts until well after William Wallace was roaming Scotland in the movie Braveheart!

Nowadays, New Zealand is an adventurer's playground – mountains, rivers, rainforest, glaciers, lakes and simply extraordinary coastline all contained in a little country about the size of California.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16031 reviews)

    New Zealand and Kiwis are the Best!

    It would be difficult to overstate how impressed I was with our Active Adventure tour. Mel and Claire were absolutely incredible!! Steve was great too, but he was only with us for the hike up and back from the Aspiring Hut. Plus, he was weighed down by a rock he so generously carried up the hill for Mel.
    Anyway, Mel and Claire made Active Adventures (and New Zealand) look so good! They were EVERYTHING I could hope for: friendly, funny, knowledgeable, professional, hard-working, kind, easy-going, energetic, .... Thank you for one of the best 2-week periods of my entire life!
    Mike Schimpf Review Image
    – California, United States
    Kea, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16031 reviews)

    Exceeded all expectations

    Our Rimu trip truly exceeded all expectations. Our Active guides, Rachael and Gary were wonderful guides with so much knowledge to share with us about the New Zealand culture, wildlife, history, and geography that we encountered along the way. This was truly an adventure of a lifetime that my son and I will always treasure.
    Mia Byrne Review Image
    – Michigan, United States
    Rimu, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16031 reviews)

    Worth every penny!

    This was an amazing trip - highly recommended! Our guides, Koru and Liana, were great - kept us moving and active in all kinds of weather and conditions. Some of the planned tour had to be modified due to weather - it does rain a lot - but no regrets at all. We got a taste of New Zealand on beautiful days, rainy days, and once in rain, sleet and hurricane force winds, but we were always well cared for and felt like we'd seen New Zealand in all of it's majesty. The hiking was strenuous enough to feel like a challenge and leave us tired and a bit sore most days, but never too difficult. The Siberia Valley part of the trip was just spectacular! Koru's knowledge of New Zealand's native plants and animals, history, Maori heritage, and Lord of the Rings stories were particularly fascinating. Would love to go again!
    Bob Martin Review Image
    – South Carolina, United States
    Tui, December 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16031 reviews)

    Rimu nov. 27 - dec. 10 '17

    This trip was unsurpassed by any other I've ever been a part of! Ben and Emma seemed like family to us with their wonderful cooking, extreme knowledge of the island and extraordinary skill as guides made every step of every hike better than the last!
    I have not stopped singing the praises of Active Adventures to my like minded friends since returning!
    You really 'knocked this one out of the park'!
    Bob Anderson Review Image
    – Georgia, United States
    Rimu, January 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16031 reviews)

    Terrific Tui

    What a great route and selection of activities! Informative and fun guides, well-managed accommodations, and good eats! A wonderful tour and experience.
    Matthew Gonser Review Image
    – Hawaii, United States
    Tui, January 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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