Go backpacking through many of New Zealand’s North Island wilderness areas. Hike through Jurassic-like podocarp rainforest and follow a river through a beautiful gorge in Whirinaki Forest Park. Kayak across the enchanting Lake Tarawera and soak in thermal streams surrounded by native bush. Go backpacking through a spectacular volcanic wonderland in Tongariro NP and climb to the summit of an active volcano. Find glowworms, waterfalls and limestone formations in a hidden cave. Hike into Mt Egmont NP and climb Fanthams peak at dawn for stunning views of Mt Egmont/Taranaki and across to the distant mountains of Tongariro NP.
Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days
Pack weights of 10-12kgs (22-26 lbs)
On some days Altitude gains of up to 800m (2600ft)
Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings
No multi-day hiking experience necessary
Agility and fitness required
This tour visits an incredible number of hard-to-get-to or hard-to-know-about places. You will explore the volcanic areas of the North Island, climb on the volcanoes and soak in hot-pools, and also visit New Zealand’s best example of mature Jurassic rainforest. Many people are surprised at the extent of wilderness that is hidden in the North Island. Rotorua is not included in our itinerary as this is an attraction that can easily be visited by yourself. On the first day you can be picked up in Rotorua by prior arrangement.
Do we all get involved with camp duties?
Everyone is fully involved with the running of the safari, from collecting firewood, to setting up camp and cooking meals. You are expected to do your share of work. If you are not a great cook, don’t worry – your guide and other people in the group will help you.
Does it matter if I am travelling alone?
Most of the people on safaris are travelling alone. The safaris are strong on group activities and participation including playing outdoor games, going for swims, helping one another to cross rivers, explore caves, and overcome obstacles and challenges. We encourage you to participate in activities, but if it’s not your thing that is also OK. We allow time for people to be by themselves on safari if they need it.
Can I do more than one safari?
Yes. More and more people are doing connecting safaris covering the whole of New Zealand. We really are the hassle-free way to experience New Zealand’s best adventures. Safaris are timed to leave you a couple of days in between trips to get your laundry done, experience some ‘city activities’.
I am travelling and have a lot of stuff that I will not need on the safari – what should I do with it?
You can store it at your accommodation if you plan on returning to the area. Or, you can travel with it on safari. We allow a maximum space of 120 litres per person (1 large pack plus a daypack). Depending how full the safari is, we may require you to forward excess luggage if you exceed this. During overnight hikes everything is locked securely in the vehicle.
What do I do with my valuables (passport, airline tickets, money, etc.) while we are hiking?
Keep them with you in your hiking pack. We pack all those things in plastic bags to keep them dry and keep them with us while we are hiking.
Can I be picked up at my hostel or accommodation?
No. On safari we try to leave the city early so we can spend more time in the wilderness. It is much easier for everyone to meet at a central location – usually the local Visitors Information Centre – and it doesn’t cost much to get there on a taxi, shuttle or bus (or walking!).
I’m a vegetarian – is that a problem?
Not at all. We often have vegetarians in the group. All the guides are familiar with vegetarian cooking. We also have lots of excellent vegetarian recipes. Sometimes the whole group will cook vegetarian or we may cook a separate vegetarian meal. The hangi is always a mixture of vegetarian and meat foods. We can also cater for other dietary requirements, but please notify us when you book.
What is the weather going to be like?
New Zealand experiences very changeable weather – especially in the remote mountainous regions where we spend most of our time. Some days we can be broiling in 30 degrees and then the next day we could be freezing in a cool southerly from the sub Antarctic. It is best to be prepared for the worst conditions we are likely to expect – see the ‘What To Take’ section. We may get some rain on the trip so a good waterproof raincoat is important.
Will I be fit enough?
Our safaris are graded B, C or D. Read the section ‘Grading and Fitness’ and choose a trip to suit you. If you are concerned about your fitness get out there and do day hikes in the weeks prior to your safari departure.
Who is in my group?
A small group (maximum 11 people), with a range of ages, nationalities and work backgrounds. Seventy percent of people are between 20 and 40, though we have had people from 17 to 72. On average, half are women and half are men. Everyone shares an enthusiasm for outdoor adventure and an appreciation of nature.
How far in advance do I need to book?
The sooner the better for safaris departing in the peak season (November to April). We get many advance bookings so it is important to book early to avoid disappointment. Availability for our trips is updated regularly on our departure dates page.
What type of gear should I buy?
If you intend to do a lot of hiking then it is worth buying quality equipment – good leather hiking boots and hiking clothing. If you think you might not do any more hiking after safari then you could buy cheaper alternatives – just remember that it won’t last as long nor do the job as well. You may also rent certain items from us.
What if I can’t keep up with the rest of the group?
We hike together as a group, stopping often for snacks and a good lunch. Some activities are optional if you feel like having some time out.
Are we going to encounter dangerous animals?
New Zealand does not have any snakes, bears, lions or alligators. We have a small poisonous spider called the katipo that is so rare it was recently made a protected species. At certain times of the summer and autumn, wasps can be a problem in some of our beech forests. If you are allergic to them make sure you carry medication, and tell your guide about it at the beginning of the safari. Otherwise, it is great to climb through the bush and lie in the grass without a thing to worry about.
Join tour in Auckland - 7km/2 hours hiking - Whirinaki - 14km/6 hours hiking - Rotorua - 10km/5 hours hiking - Rotorua Lakes - 15km/5 hours kayaking - Taupo - 5km/1.5 hours hiking - Tongariro World Heritage Area - 7km/4 hours hiking - Tongariro National Park - 15km/6 hour hiking - Waitomo - 1km/1 hour caving - Mount Egmont/Taranaki National Park - 3km/1.5 hours hiking - Tour ends Wellington - 6km/2-5 hours hiking
Your guide gives a briefing before driving south to Rotorua where the big food shop takes place. A little further south, stop beside a forest lake for picnic lunch and to organise and pack your backpack for the hike into Whirinaki Forest Park. This park covers an area of 60,000 hectares and is famous for its Jurassic-like rainforest – these podocarp trees are an ancient off-shoot of the conifer family and evolved before the flowering plants. It is thought that forests like this once covered the super-continent of Gondwana over 150 million years ago. Your first hike is an easy one, on a track through native beech forest, to a simple forest hut beside a river. While dinner is prepared there is time to relax and your guide will brief you on what to expect over the coming nine days.
This morning continue along the valley track for about 1.5 hours. Hike up a side river through a beautiful gorge (learning river crossing techniques) to the next hut/camp. Stop for lunch on the way and often there is a chance for a quick swim in the cascades – crystal clear water you can drink. This remote wilderness is completely off the tourist trail. Rare blue ducks and robins can be seen, and kakas (a large bush parrot) heard. An evening campfire, and time to enjoy the surrounds.
Today’s hike takes you out through cascading creeks on a rougher trail. Hike over a small pass into the world-renowned Whirinaki rainforest of weeping ferns and forest giants. Meet a shuttle at the track exit around midday before driving to the Rotorua area. This amazing area is festooned with thermal activity. On the way have a swim in a natural hot river hidden in bush – complete with a small waterfall. Arriving at the accommodation there is time for a shower before turning in for the night.
Up early to kayak ($99* – optional) on Lake Tarawera, an ancient crater lake with beautiful sand beaches surrounded by forests. This area is rich in Maori history. Paddle past the site of a Maori village that was buried under the ash from the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption. There are numerous steaming thermal springs along the lake edge you will paddle through. At lunch you can also soak in a hot stream in the bush. Drive south to a thermal area before vehicle-camping beside the impressive aqua-blue waters of the Waikato River
A leisurely breakfast before heading a short distance south to the clear waters of Lake Taupo for some swimming and relaxing. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand – a 600 sq km volcanic caldera crater created when the largest volcanic explosion known to human-kind erupted in 186 AD. After lunch, continue on to Tongariro National Park. Established in 1887, it is New Zealand’s first National Park, gifted to the people of New Zealand by a far-sighted Maori chief who saw this as a way of protecting the tapu (respect, sacredness, preciousness) of this land – in particular the summits of the active volcanoes. Have an afternoon hike across alpine grasslands between these volcanoes to a hut set in native beech forest beside a bubbling stream (in warm weather you will usually camp nearby).
Explore this area of beech forests, springs, and desert landscapes before hiking to the next hut/camp on this remote side of Tongariro National Park. The volcanoes in the park rumble from time to time: the most recent was in September 2007 when Mount Ruapehu, the highest mountain in the park at 2,797m spewed clouds of ash and steam. Another much younger volcano, Mount Ngauruhoe is almost perfectly symmetrical and stands 2,291m. All around this scarlet moonscape are turquoise and green-blue crater lakes, adding their surreal colours to the landscape.
Traverse the volcanic moonscape of contorted lava flows and ash fields before a steep climb up the last steep section to the emerald lakes – the usual lunch stop. Cross this diverse volcanic plateau – lava valleys, scarlet moonscapes, steaming explosion craters, before descending on the western side. In good conditions, there is an option to climb one of the volcanic peaks. A short drive takes the group to an excellent lodge in a sleepy little farming town. Relax in front of a fire and cook up a big meal after having glorious hot showers. Sometimes the group might check out the classic kiwi “gumboots at the door” rural pub down the road.
After an early start, drive two hours westwards through a hill country farming region to the Waitomo Caves area. The name Waitomo comes from the Maori wai (water) and tomo (shaft). This limestone area is famous for its thousands of caves. Explore a secret river cave – glow worms, waterfalls and limestone formations. Later, drive through the remote Waitomo back-country to the wild west coast, stopping on the way to look at rock formations in limestone scenic reserves. Camp beside the beach, swim, and cook our meal on the beach in a hangi (Maori earth oven). In the evening enjoy being beside the ocean with a beach fire.
Spend the morning at the coast; clambering through the bush and exploring the site of an ancient Maori pa (fortified Village). After relaxing, swimming and exploring the cliffs and beaches drive south to Mount Egmont National Park. Its dormant volcano stands at 2518m and it last erupted in 1755. It was smoking when Captain James Cook (British explorer) sailed past in 1769, naming it after the Earl of Egmont. Maori know the mountain as the spirit/god Taranaki. It is considered a sacred place and the rocks represent his bones while the vegetation represents his hair. Hike in the late afternoon through twisted moss covered forest to a cosy alpine hut high on the side of the volcano. From here there are spectacular views of Mount Egmont/Taranaki and across to Tongariro National Park – usually above the evening cloud.
If the mountain conditions are reasonable, get up early to climb up the side of Mount Egmont/Taranaki to Fantham’s peak (1962m). There are commanding views from the summits of this solitary volcano. Late morning, descend on ancient lava flows covered in goblin forest back to the minibus. On the way south, stop at a wild Wanganui beach for lunch, a big sort out of gear and a swim. The drive to Wellington takes you through New Zealand’s flattest plains – it doesn’t last long! Arrive in Wellington between 5:00pm and 8:00pm. Our guide stays at the Wellington YHA, feel free to book yourself in there; we can however drop you off at any central accommodation. You then head out for an evening meal and farewell drink in this brilliant little capital city.
Note: Heading north to Auckland after the trip? Get out at Stratford. To arrive in Auckland same night – you will need to taxi to New Plymouth to catch the 3:20pm Intercity coach to Auckland. A cheaper option is to bus to New Plymouth and enjoy an evening in this rapidly evolving and almost cosmopolitan city by the sea then grab one of tomorrow’s buses to Auckland. Please advise your guide on Day 1 if you are leaving the trip in Stratford so they can book buses well in advance.(cost not included).Up for sunrise. With daypacks, optional climb of Fantham’s Peak (1962m). Return to hut before descending on ancient lava flows and through goblin forest to minibus. Head south to beach for lunch, swim and vehicle clean-up before driving to Wellington. 2-5 hours hiking
|Grade||D (River crossings, some rocky terrain)|
|Start||Auckland - 7:00am Atrium pick up zone, 20m from Sky Tower base, corner Federal & Victoria Sts|
|Finish||Wellington 7:00pm (approx.)|
*this tour departs on a Saturday