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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

  •   4.48 out of 5 (from 297 reviews)

    Best Guides ever!!!

    We didn't have the best weather on this trip, but Nick and Elder were able to bring out the best in all of us. Their energy was boundless, their cooking was superb, and their humor and good natures made every day a pleasure.
    Sherry Malone Review Image
    – New Mexico, United States
    Weka 13-day, January 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1882 reviews)

    Trip of a life time

    My wife and I planned this trip with some friends to try something new and to maximize the experience of New Zealand. We spent 8 days hiking, biking, and kayaking through the South Island. Every day was action packed with something different to do. We got to try new things, test a few of our limits that we wouldn't have normally done, and learn a few things about local culture along the way. I can't say enough good things about our guides Ben and Liana. They were enthusiastic about everything we did and full of information. They helped us push limits and get the most out of the experiences we had. Everyone I've told about our trip has been wowed by the awesome things we got to see and do.
    Chris Busch Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, January 2018
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1209 reviews)

    This trip exceeded every expectation. Every activity was more exciting than the last, never was there a dull moment. The hikes, especially the hike to Cape Brett and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, were absolutely incredible. Andy and Jo were the perfect team. Andy always kept us occupied with good stories and always had a backup plan if we weren't able to do something on the itinerary. He took the time on hikes to stop and point out unique things that otherwise would have been missed. "Mama Jo" really looked after us and made sure we all had the most amazing time. I have no idea where she found the energy to always be the one running back up the mountain to help carry the backpacks of tired hikers and then get back to the accommodations and cook everybody a delicious dinner. They were more than just tour guides, they were our family. I highly recommend this trip!
    Cassidy Anderson Review Image
    – Vermont, United States
    Kauri, November 2016
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1209 reviews)

    An Outstanding Time!

    The north island deserves more notice than it gets in the press. A different world than the south island, well worth any time you can give it.
    Lissa Jackson Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Kauri, April 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Review of the Kiwi trip

    I chose to visit NZ with Active Adventures because I wanted to experience the South Island from tip to toe in an active fashion. The trip was exactly what I wanted. I loved hiking and kayaking, enjoyed visiting the towns and was swept away by the scenery. I learned a lot about the country's history, geology and mythology from my two guides. And I had fun.
    Barbara Delaney Review Image
    – Maryland, United States
    Kiwi, March 2017



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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