New Zealand: Nature’s paradise
A country on the Ring of Fire. Over 15,000 earthquakes a year. Parliament sitting on a fault line. Geysers bursting into the air. More sheep than people. Ice Age glaciers. Volcanic craters transformed into serene lakes from thousands of years of rainfall. A capital city with a population of only 200,000. No land mammals. An ecosystem that evolved in the absence of humans. “Kia ora” and “Sweet as” — phrases you will undoubtedly hear. One of the last countries settled by humans — only c. 800 years ago, and less than 200 years by European civilisation. 12 hours ahead of GMT and a 24-hour flight from London, it is remote. Where else? New Zealand!
New Zealand blows your mind away. It’s a country where with every turn of the head you’re in awe of Mother Nature: the cicadas pierce your ear drums, the whistle of the Tui mesmerises, glow worms project the Milky Way, the flora and fauna take you back to Jurassic Park, the golden kiwi fruit melts in your mouth, and moments of total silence are abundant and glorious.
Leaving an urban jungle, I came here to connect with nature. A similar land size to the U.K. but with only 4.5 million people, it is not hard to escape. You wake up to volcanoes, mountains, lakes, beaches, glaciers, waterfalls, and you fall asleep gazing at the Southern Cross. You see the world’s smallest penguins (blue penguin) and the largest flying bird (albatross) on the same peninsula. You eat locally grown produce and finally understand why it’s called sweet corn! You drink tap water that could be bottled. You disconnect from technology. You’re surrounded by limitless inspiration, indescribable vistas, iridescent colours, and are eternally amazed at the miracle of nature. The result: instant meditation, inner peace.
Despite this magnificence, you cannot help but consider the habitats that have been destroyed with human arrival. Many species endemic to the country became extinct with the arrival of the Polynesian and then Maoris who hunted them. European settlers decimated native bush for timber and farmland, including the mighty Kauri trees that live for over 2,000 years,.
Today, conservation efforts are being made by designating areas as National Parks for preservation and protection of endangered plants and animals. And of course, nothing says New Zealand than the iconic Kiwi — the flightless bird — of which attempts are being made to save from extinction.
With one-third of the population living in cities, there is plenty of isolated and uninhabited land, and that is what makes New Zealand extraordinary. The Fjordland, for example, is a vast, remote wilderness where animals and plants that were once found on the ancient super-continent Gondwana, still exist. 95% of the Fjordland National Park is still untouched by man. The native trees are over 1,000 years old while the rocks take us back 80 million years.
Human arrival in New Zealand is a mere split second ago in geological time. And with endeavours to protect native ecosystems, hopefully this unique landscape and its wildlife will thrive and survive.