I’ve been tagged! For an adventurous game of blog tag, that is. That’s right, Tripbase is putting together a series of posts on travel secrets. I’m a big fan of tag, so I’ll gladly accept this challenge!
Being a proponent of the motto ‘Go big or go home’, my first trip away was to New Zealand. After 23 hours on a plane (3/4 of which was spent listening to James Blunt concerts on loop – Lord save me), I found myself in what I can only describe as ‘a postcard on Earth’.
Put it this way – you could give a monkey a camera and set him free in New Zealand, and within a week he would return with the most gorgeous pictures you’ve ever seen. The landscape writes itself. As a zoologist, naturalist and writer, I was in heaven.
My 3 Wild Secrets to exploring this stunning destination? Read on, Frodo.
#1. Risk your life (in the presence of a trained professional).
A good place to do this is at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Glowworm cave exploring sounds like a nice, safe adventure doesn’t it? That’s exactly what I thought when a feisty little tour guide named Snappy was describing our task. (Looking back, her name should have tipped me off).
I’ll let you in on a secret – when black water rafting to see glowworms, there is no raft. Instead, you are given an inner tube and propelled into the deep, black abyss of glow worm caves. You are told to hang onto your partners hand (if you don’t, you could actually float away) and that the water is quite cold, so don’t be surprised if you lose feeling in your hands. Yes, the very hands that are meant to keep you attached to your peers. Excellent.
The most harrowing part of the adventure is reaching an underground waterfall. Here, you are told to “turn around, face your butt (contained in said inner tube) away from the falls, and jump off backwards”. Of course, you can’t actually see the falls because of the inky blackness, nor can you judge exactly how high you are jumping from. At this point I was considering how quickly one must get medical attention after a concussion. What do you do? You take a deep breath, listen to Snappy and jump! I promise, this adventure is one for the books!
Why it’s worth it: Glowworms are nature’s reply to the constellations in the sky.
Franz Josef Glacier is one of a handful of temperate glaciers in the world. This means it’s situated in a rainforest, but is somehow still a frozen block of ice that can be seen all year round. This is one not to miss on your trip to NZ, because of its sheer awesomeness. I mean that in terms of its actual size, and also its badass-ness.
Whenever you glacier hop, you’re given a pair of metal spike attachments for your boots. These will not only make you feel like a superhero, but will help you out immensely in those moments of sheer terror. (Did I mention I have a bit of a fear of heights?)
While climbing Franz Josef, you will learn you have muscles in places you only dreamed of. This glacier is a bit of an optical illusion – while climbing (and looking only at the white in front of you), you don’t realize how high you are. It is only when you arrive at the top and look out over the landscape that it hits you. For me, this realization was a mix of awe and ‘oh $#!t how am I going to get down?!’. Luckily, you have your superhero boots on and are free to enjoy the view.
Why it’s worth it: The paradox of being surrounded by snow while feeling hot is out of this world.
During my entire month-long stay in New Zealand, few places rivaled the natural beauty of Abel Tasman National Park. Here you are free to canoe, sea kayak, hike and generally traipse about feeling fantastic to have survived your previous adventures. As New Zealand’s smallest National Park, Abel Tasman is like the Mona Lisa of parks – it captivates everybody with its beauty, but is actually smaller than you’d expect.
It is also a great place to take some time and explore the local flora and fauna. New Zealand is home to many endemic species – those that live there and only there – so grab your camera (bring extra batteries and memory cards) and shoot to your heart’s content. Close by and not-to-miss is also a Sculpture Park and natural garden center, with mind-blowingly beautiful natural artwork like this:
Why it’s worth it: Two words: Photo Ops.
There you have it! I’d love to hear about your travel adventures, so leave your secrets in the comments! Kia Ora and stay wild!