New Zealand is well known around the world for its stunning scenery and wide range of amazing activities. However, this quiet little country nestled far from the big movers and shakers in the world has a lot more depth than its popular image lets on.
New Zealand is a modest sort of place. As a rule, Kiwis aren’t keen on self-promotion so the true measure of the nation often rests quietly behind the curtain on the global stage. In reality, New Zealand punches above its weight and is justifiably proud of its many accomplishments and innovations. As an iconic local ad proclaims… “little can be huge”.
More than just a pretty face
New Zealand has a long history of scientific discovery and technological innovation. While it may come as a surprise to some, a wide range of discoveries, inventions, and scientific milestones can be attributed to our humble shores.
We’ve brought the world scientific breakthroughs – Kiwi scientists were the first to split the atom and helped to prove the structure of DNA; medical advancements – we invented the disposable plastic hypodermic syringe; engineering marvels – the first internal jetboat engine and the first snow plane were designed here; sports and recreation activities – NZ popularised jogging and bungy jumping. We have also introduced many useful everyday items to the world such as instant coffee, the eggbeater, and the electric fence.
Internationally, New Zealand continues to be a favoured destination for scientific endeavour. The country has been home to over 112 science-related conferences and events over the last 5 years, bringing scientists and innovators from around the world together to learn, discuss, and collaborate.
From the technologically advanced to the merely mundane, our little slice of paradise continues to innovate and make a global impact.
Not just for the pros
Happily, you don’t have to have a PhD to explore the sciences in New Zealand. We have a profusion of activities that will educate and delight your inner scientist, whether you are mildly curious or a die-hard enthusiast.
Rare Earth: Geology & Volcanology
New Zealand is situated on its own underwater continent, Zealandia, and is well known for its rugged landscapes, striking geology, and geothermal marvels. Its unusual position, situated along the meeting point of two tectonic plates, has resulted in a unique landscape that offers a wealth of opportunity to explore.
Volcanic and geothermal activity abounds on New Zealand’s North Island. From the steaming flats and hot springs of Rotorua’s geothermal fields to the volcanic activity surrounding the Lake in the Taupo caldera to the smouldering cone of White Island and the majesty of Mount Tongariro, there is plenty to explore and discover.
Uncover the secrets of events long past and visit the Te Wairoa archaeological site, where a small village and the once-renowned Pink and White Terraces were buried by an eruption in 1886. Or peer further back into the mists of time as you hunt for fossils in one of the many accessible locations around the country.
Head to the South Island and investigate the strange spherical formations of Split Apple Rock and the Moeraki Boulders. Visit a world centuries in the making and step onto plains of glacial ice as you visit the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps and explore the crystalline beauty of the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers. Take in the pristine splendour of Fiordland, home of Milford Sound, and discover first-hand how the massive fields of ice have transformed and shaped the landscape, creating a world of ethereal beauty and mystery.
Spectacular Skies: Astronomy & Astronautics
New Zealand boasts some of the darkest skies in the world, resulting in the very best conditions for premium stargazing. Visit Tekapo, Stewart Island, or one of our other Dark Sky Sanctuaries and Reserves and enjoy an unmatched view of the southern skies where you can gaze in awe at the Milky Way sprawling across the heavens.
For the amateur astronomer, there are also plenty of astronomical observatories and planetariums where you can investigate the cosmos via telescope or attend educational shows and exhibits that both entertain and enlighten, exploring the mysteries of the universe around us.
Our very own rocket scientist, William Pickering, headed up NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for over 22 years, and New Zealand continues to harbour a passion for space exploration and rocketry. Rocket Lab, the first private company to reach space in the Southern Hemisphere launches their Electron rockets from our shores. While the facility is not open to the public, if you’re visiting Hawke’s Bay at just the right time you might be lucky enough to catch the spectacle of a launch from the complex on the Mahia Peninsula.
Unique ecosystems: biology, zoology and ecology
New Zealand’s’ remote location and volcanic past has created a unique and diverse natural landscape; thirty per cent of which is set aside as publicly protected land, from conservation areas to reserves to national parks.
Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll or are keen on a multi-day hike, there are a multitude of trails where you can experience the country’s unique ecosystems. Wander through native bush beneath the iconic silver ferns as sunlight filters down through the canopy. Tackle the Tongariro Crossing or admire the peaks rising above the desert as you investigate the tussocks and scrub of the North Island Volcanic Plateau. Learn about the medicinal properties and cultural significance of local plant life, or visit the massive majesty of the Tane Mahuta, the Lord of the Forest, New Zealand’s oldest living kauri tree.
This diverse biosphere is home to a multitude of wildlife. There are plenty of opportunities to head out into nature and encounter New Zealand wildlife first hand, from our more iconic species such as the elusive kiwi, the curious kea, or the one-of-a-kind tuatara to those that visit our shores and waters. Take a cruise to watch for whales and dolphins or visit the colonies of seals, gannets, and penguins that dot the coast and enjoy their antics in their natural habitat.
Alternately, if you prefer not to go so far afield, there are plenty of opportunities to explore, even in a more urban setting. Visit the wildlife sanctuary and encounter the bird and wildlife on Tiritiri Matangi Island off the coast of Auckland, explore the expansive urban eco-sanctuary of Zealandia in Wellington, or experience the mysteries of Antarctica as you investigate the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch.
From coast to coast, north to south, and land to sea, New Zealand prides itself on its commitment to sustainability and dedication to preserving our unique environment.
Pique your curiosity
So, when Visiting New Zealand, by all means, indulge in the stunning beauty, thrilling adventures, and famous activities that we are known for and do oh so well.
…but bring along your passion, sense of wonder, and thirst for knowledge. Look for the unexpected gems and subtle wonders that may lie off the beaten track. Take the path less travelled, open your mind to the possibilities, and truly explore the depth breadth of this amazing country.
Veronika Vermeulen is Director of Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. Aroha New Zealand Tours Ltd. has been offering 100% tailored journeys and private guided luxury experiences in New Zealand since 2000.