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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

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    Outstanding Trip!!

    This trip was especially great because of our guides, Ben and Emma. I cannot say enough good things about those two. They were extremely patient, energetic, and very sincere.
    The trip has a wide variety of activities that allowed us to see and experience most of the South Island, keeping us away from the more congested tourist hangouts. I really felt like we saw the true South Island and not just the tourist trap attractions.
    The only reason I have not given it a 5 star rating is because my wife and I are very active and do very challenging trips that most people would never want to take on. It was not a trip of a lifetime for me only because of that. Take "trip of a lifetime" away from the 5 stars and just have excellent and I would mark that. Excellent trip!!!!
    Dave Mastolier Review Image
    – Alaska, United States
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    A Deep Dive into the Understanding of the Maori Culture

    Having just come from the South Trip we wondered if this trip would be more of the same. It was not. The landscape and activities were different and just as amazing. We learned so much about the history of the country, the Maori people, culture, and their language. The activities were varied and enabled us to experience the beauty of the North Island and all it has to offer.
    Sharon Brownfield Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Kauri, December 2017
  •   4.68 out of 5 (from 244 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
  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)

    Even Cyclone Cook couldn't dampen our fun

    I hopped onto the last half of the Kauri after two weeks on the South Island in the Rimu adventure. It just so happened that we had a cyclone hit the island that week, so everything was very wet, to say the least. But everything still worked out okay! We still did lots of hiking in the rain, which was fun in itself. The views were not the same as they would be on a clear day, but different doesn't mean bad. They were unique, and there were a lot of rainbows thanks to the water. We even did the mountain biking in the downpour, which was hilariously muddy and still a lot of fun. Overall, the people were good, the guides were excellent, the food was fantastic, and the trip was terrific.
    Janine Carbone Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Kauri, April 2017
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)



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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