Like most South Africans, I have family that have emigrated to New Zealand. Although they have invited us to go visit their adopted country many times, we’ve never managed to make the journey. My cousin, who married a New Zealander, recently gave birth to the first Le Roux-baby born outside of South Africa, an excellent reason for us to finally go visit them.
Besides meeting cute new nieces, catching up with old friends and congratulating proud grandfathers, it would also be the perfect opportunity to see more of a country that my cousin’s husband passionately promotes whenever we hint that we may come and visit.
Here are a few of the things I would love to see and do while in New Zealand:
See an All Blacks rugby game. Yes, I know, along with the Wallabies, the All Blacks are supposed to be our arch-enemies, but they have always been my number two team. Like South Africa, rugby is so deeply ingrained into their national identity that it’s almost a religion and I have been cheering their team on since the days of Andy Mehrtens and Jonah Lomu right up to Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. It would be great to see them up against our Springboks live on their home turf.
|The All Blacks doing their famous Haka|
I’m a huge JRR Tolkien fan and first read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings when I was 13 years old. Peter Jackson’s wonderful movie adaptations were shot in New Zealand, showcasing the spectacular natural beauty of the two islands, which has created a whole new tourism industry. You can join tour groups that will take you to some of the well-known locations from Middle Earth and get weapons training with props from the movies. My inner geek is giggling with joy at the mere thought of it.
|Hobbiton, from the Peter Jackson movies|
Nature seems to feature more and more in my travel itineraries and New Zealand has some very unique attractions, including the geothermal lakes of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley in Rotorua. Here you can take a scenic walk through a rainforest to bubbling mud pools, geysers, unbelievably turquoise volcanic lakes and strange sinter terraces.
|Geothermal geyser at Waimangu|
The Tiritiri Matangi wildlife sanctuary is a onetime island farm northeast of Auckland which has been converted into a nature reserve that is now home to 78 species of birds. I’d love to go see New Zealand’s national symbol, the kiwi, in its natural habitat.
|New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi|
Not only is crystal-clear Lake Tekapo surrounded by magnificent snow-capped mountains, but it is also a light-pollution clear area (the largest designated gold-level International Dark Sky Reserve in the world) that is apparently perfect for stargazing. You can visit New Zealand’s largest telescope for a night-time astronomy tour, while enjoying the beautiful scenery from the top of Mount John during the day.
|Spectacular scenery at Lake Tekapo|
Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, was voted fourth in the Lonely Planet Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2011 and is also known as the country’s cultural capital. One of its main attractions is Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand, which is a natural history, colonial museum and art gallery all rolled into one. Exhibits include the world’s largest specimen of the colossal squid, Maori cultural treasures, archaeological fossils and the New Zealand post archive with around 20 000 stamps on display. The capital city is also home to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and various art galleries.
|Wellington, capital city of New Zealand|
I thought fjords were a Norwegian speciality, but it turns out that New Zealand has them too in the form of Milford Sound, called the “eighth wonder of the world” by Rudyard Kipling (and he should know). I would love to take a boat cruise or a kayak trip to explore this lovely landscape.
|Pining for the fjords of Milford Sound|
With all the cheap flights going to New Zealand, I really can’t think of any reason not to visit…
Image credits: AbsoluteNewZealand.com, Wikimedia Commons, AllBlacks.com, HelloTravel.com, Destination360.com.