New Zealand Birding Tours
New Zealand or Aotearoa, in the language of the Māori, who are the indigenous people of the region, is an island country in the southwest Pacific Ocean. There are two main islands: North Island and South Island (Te Ika-a-Māui and Te Waipounamu, respectively), and over 600 smaller islands, the largest of these being Stewart Island, with other well-known islands, amongst birders, being Tiritiri Matangi Island, Ulva Island, Little Barrier Island, and Kapiti Island. Our once-in-a-lifetime New Zealand: Birding Extravaganza tour visits all three major islands as well as several of the smaller, offshore islands. New Zealand is approximately 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) to the east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) to the south of the islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Antarctica is 3,822 miles (6,151 kilometers) south of New Zealand. In addition to the above, New Zealand ‘proper’ also consists of the following island groups: Chatham Islands, Kermadec Islands, Three Kings Islands, and New Zealand Subantarctic Islands.
New Zealand is so remote that it was not actually settled by humans (Polynesians) until between c.1280 and 1350 AD, who developed the Māori culture (this compared to Australia, where humans are known to have been present for 65,000 years). The first European sighted the country in 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the United Kingdom and the Māori, declaring British sovereignty over the islands and the country became a colony within the British Empire, then a dominion, and finally gained independence in 1947 with the British monarch remaining the head of state.
The country is approximately 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) long and 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide and has a massive 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometers) of coast. New Zealand is one of the most scenically spectacular places on the planet. South Island is particularly impressive and is divided down its length by the massive snow-capped and glacier-covered Southern Alps, which has 18 peaks reaching over 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) and is also home to Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot. Mount Cook (Aoraki) is the highest point in New Zealand at 12,218 feet (3,724 meters). The southwestern part of South Island is known as Fiordland, here you find giant and deep fiords (such as Milford Sound). While North Island is not as spectacular as South Island, it is more volcanic in nature with Mount Ruapehu being the highest mountain at 9,177 feet (2,797 meters).