Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. They arrived more than 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki in a epic journey through the Pacific. Today Māori make up 14% of the population and their history, language and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity. Māori traditions, marae (meeting grounds), language, tattooing, food and arts and crafts abound, and most visitors have the opportunity to experience a cultural performance for themselves. Related in language, culture and ethnicity to other Polynesian peoples, the rich Māori culture still thrives, and learning more about it will add immeasurably to your experience of New Zealand.
A Dutchman, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight New Zealand, but it was the British who made it part of their empire after the great navigator James Cook landed in 1769. Whalers, sealers and missionaries were the first European settlers, followed by settlers keen to utilise the rich farmlands and extensive native forests. In 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, an agreement between the British Crown and Māori. It established British law in New Zealand and is considered the country's founding document. Misunderstandings over the treaty led to conflict between Māori and Pakeha (Europeans) in the , and although disputes over the treaty still exist to this day, animosity is minimal. As part of the Commonwealth, New Zealand still retains ties to Britain and its sibling country Australia (and fought in both World Wars alongside them), but has evolved a strong national identity of it's own, based around resourcefulness, ingenuity and a love of the outdoors. Rugby, a national obsession, also unites Kiwis in barracking for their beloved All Blacks team.
Fish & chips, hāngi and wine)
New Zealand is a food and wine lover’s paradise. Vineyards stretch throughout every region, chefs put playful local twists on fine cuisine and festivals serve up taste sensations with a side of local music. New Zealand food goes way beyond fish and chips – a distinct Pacific Rim cuisine has evolved, uniting local produce, Polynesian heritage and European favourites. Expect to indulge in plenty of seafood (like greenlipped mussels, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters and fresh fish), award winning cheeses and the famous lamb. In general, New Zealanders enjoy a laid-back, casual and outdoor lifestyle, with a visit to the bach (beach shack) or some tramping (hiking) high on the list of national pastimes.
With a patchwork history of Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures, New Zealand has a melting-pot population - but one with some uniting features that make it unique in the world. Of the 4.4 million New Zealanders (informally known as Kiwis), approximately 69% are of European descent, 14.6% are indigenous Māori, 9.2% Asian and 6.9% non-Māori Pacific Islanders. Geographically, over three-quarters of the population live in the North Island, with one-third of the total population living in Auckland.
New Zealand consists of two main islands - the North Island and the South Island. Stewart Island and many smaller islands lie offshore. The North Island of New Zealand has a 'spine' of mountain ranges running through the middle, with gentle rolling farmland on both sides. The central North Island is dominated by the Volcanic Plateau, an active volcanic and geothermal area. The massive Southern Alps, pushed up by colliding continental plates, form the backbone of the South Island. With spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forest, volcanic plateau and miles of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches it’s wonder New Zealand is becoming so popular as a location for movies.
Plants and Animals
New Zealand separated from the supercontinent Gondwana over million years ago. It's isolation ever since has endowed it with a unique set of plants and animals. New Zealand has magnificent native forests, with over 80% of plant species found nowhere else on earth. New Zealand has no native mammals apart from a small bat, but has an incredibly diverse range of birdlife, many of them flightless. The Kiwi is the symbol of New Zealand, and this very special and unusual bird is the subject of an intense conservation program. With over 20% of the country set aside as National Parks, you are sure to encounter spectacular natural New Zealand for yourself.
Custom Tours to New Zealand
2 nights: in Rotorua, the heart of Maori culture, taking in the geothermal wonders and learning more about the impressive people who make this place their home.
3 nights: in Queenstown, the "adventure capital" of New Zealand. Renowned for its amazing scenery and plethora of activities, Queenstown also offers great food and wine. The awe-inspiring Milford Sound is a day trip or overnight stay if you prefer.
1 night: at Mount Cook, the highest point in the Southern Alps and an area of enormous natural beauty, with pristine glacial lakes, snow tipped mountains and untouched plains.
2 nights: at Kaikora, a beautiful seaside town well known for its wildlife and delicious seafood.
Rotorua, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand