The tour will start in the city of Christchurch. After a night here we will head for Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, where we will stay for two nights (at Mount Cook village – not the mountain itself!). Our first morning will see us taking a dawn flight in ski planes up to the Tasman Glacier to land at some 7,000 feet and catch the first rays of sunshine on the mountains. This is a great photo opportunity and there will be time for a walk “on the top of New Zealand”. During our visit to Mt Cook we will also explore the terminal moraine lake of the Tasman Glacier by boat, with fantastic photographic opportunities as we navigate between huge dripping ice-faces and iceberg formations. Mt Cook, like a number of other locations that we will visit during the tour, has amazing clear skies with no light pollution, offering the chance to photograph the Milky Way.
We will then travel down to Fiordland, spending a night at Lake Te Anau before heading out on an overnight cruise in beautiful Doubtful Sound – far more remote and scenic than the well-known Milford Sound. On board there are excellent photo opportunities of waterfalls, rainforest and mountains. After our time on the boat we will head to Queenstown with time to explore the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and surrounding mountains.
The next part of our journey will take us up the West Coast through some of New Zealand’s most untouched wilderness. We will spend 2 nights at the remote Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, spending our time here walking though superb rainforest foliage and photographing beautiful ferns and forest giants. Our accommodation here also offers access to Monro Beach on the wild Tasman Sea; this particular beach is noteworthy as a breeding site for about thirty pairs of the very rare Fiordland Crested Penguins.
Heading further up the West Coast we will stop at the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, where we will have some free time with the option of exploring the glaciers on foot or by helicopter. For those more interested in wildlife there will also be the option of a boat trip to photograph the beautiful White Herons and Royal Spoonbills that nest in the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve.
Continuing north we will reach Punakaiki and the famous Pancake Rocks rock formations. We will have two nights here to explore this wild coastline and venture into the “lost world” wilderness of Paparoa National Park.
The next leg of the tour will focus on some of the country’s best coastal wildlife. We will head out on a boat over the Kaikoura Canyon to photograph albatross and a variety of other seabirds. This is an amazing experience as we will have some of the world’s largest birds flying right over the boat and landing on the sea next to us; if we are lucky we might also see dolphins and whales while we are out in the boat. The Kaikoura Peninsula is also the home to a large breeding colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and we will have the chance to photograph these, backed by the snow covered peaks of the Kaikoura mountains. We will then fly across Cook Strait to the North Island town of Napier, our main reason to stop here is a trip out to the Australasian Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. Some 5,200 pairs nest in this reserve – and you will be within feet of the great birds. This is the world’s first mainland gannet colony – a truly amazing day offering unique photo opportunities.
New Zealand lies on the Pacific ring of fire and the final part of the trip will focus on some of the volcanic landscapes of the North Island. We spend two nights staying in Tongariro National Park, with endless photographic opportunities from old lava flows to waterfalls and silica rapids. Each evening will see us capturing the last light over the volcanic peaks of Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu. After this we will drive North past Lake Taupo to one of the country best thermal reserves to photograph boiling mud and amazing colored pools. We will then continue on to Auckland, the country’s largest city, to finish the tour and connect with international flights.
The accommodations are varied throughout the tour with luxury hotels in the bigger towns/cities to smaller but cosy hotels in the more remote locations.