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Beacon Senior News

Eco-tourism in New Zealand

Mar 25, 2020 11:54AM ● By Lauren Berg

A cove along the Abel Tasman Coastal Trak, a wilderness reserve at the north end of New Zealand’s South Island.

Travel this remote island while supporting the environment

For many people, retirement means traveling. But is there a way to travel the world without adding a bunch of fossil fuels into the atmosphere?

Don’t let a warming planet paralyze you from enjoying your retirement. Simply choose an environmental-friendly destination like New Zealand!

Trees for travelers

New Zealand is known for being exceptionally environmentally conscious. As a tourist destination that usually requires visitors to hop on a plane to get there, New Zealanders came up with a solution: Trees for Travellers.

This nonprofit allows you to purchase native trees to be planted in the coastal town of Kaikoura, which is also known for its incredible marine wildlife. Using online tools, visitors calculate the number of fossil fuels burned on their flight there, and how many trees they need to buy to offset their carbon footprint.

Trees cost between $20-40 New Zealand dollars (NZD), which is $11.60-23.20 in US dollars. A roundtrip flight from Denver to Auckland, New Zealand, creates around four tons of CO2 emissions, which is the equivalent of about four full-grown trees. If just four people on your flights purchased one tree, that would help offset the carbon footprint of your trip. Any little bit you contribute counts!

Exotic wildlife tours

dusky dolphin eco-tourism New Zealand
Dusky dolphins are one of the many marine animals to be seen in New Zealand.

New Zealand is also known for its ecological tourism. Eco-tourism displays the country’s incredible natural beauty and wildlife while making sure a portion of the profits goes to conserving the environment. This is especially important because around 71 percent of the island’s plants and animals are endemic to New Zealand, meaning they aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

Ocean-based examples of ecotourism include Whale Watch and Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura on the South Island.

With Whale Watch, you can enjoy a short ride out from shore to see whales (if you don’t see one, your money is refunded) as well as pods of dolphins, seals, albatross, penguins and any other wildlife that happens to be around. However, with Dolphin Encounter (and Seal Encounter) you can get in the water and swim alongside the wild pods of dusky dolphins.

Viewing and swimming next to these incredible marine mammals creates an unforgettable experience, while also supporting the very environment these creatures need to survive. Whale Watch is committed to using renewable energy resources as well as energy-efficient vehicles and vessels. Proceeds also go toward rebuilding native habitats in the area.

In addition to marine and bird wildlife, New Zealand hosts various sheep farm tours, tours of glowworm caves and other scenic walks all around the country. Eco-tours can be found on travel websites, enabling you to support the environment wherever your travel itinerary brings you.

An eco-friendly city

The capital of Wellington is known for its coffee culture, its walkable Cuba Street featuring weekly Friday Night Markets, and—surprisingly—a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Tui at Zealandia

The Tui bird is a common sight in Wellington’s Zealandia.

Venture north of the city to Zealandia: a 500-plus acre bird sanctuary home to unique native birds and reptiles that otherwise would struggle to survive against introduced predators like stoats. Bird enthusiasts may want to dedicate an entire day to walking the easy trails that lead to bird feeders, alongside tranquil streams and to beautiful vistas overlooking the park. Best of all, your visit helps support the sanctuary and fund other restoration projects.

If your stay in Wellington is accompanied by rain, a good indoor activity is New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa, located downtown. Entry is free, but if you wish to donate, your money will go to supporting cultural and educational programs.

Glamping, hut-style

If you enjoy backpacking and want to stay a night or two in the national parks, New Zealand’s hut system is a good alternative to tent camping. Enjoy luxurious backpacking huts like the Heaphy Hut off the west coast’s Heaphy track, or Angelus Hut nestled next to a lake in the scenic Nelson Lakes region.

Backcountry huts fit anywhere from eight to 32 people. The bigger huts are generally nicer—including heating, lighting, cooking stations with sinks and flush toilets—but will generally require booking ahead of time, especially during holidays or peak season. There are also homesteads and lodges that include fully equipped kitchens, showers and private rooms. Book accommodations at www.doc.govt.nz.

backpacking eco-tourism New Zealand

The author, Lauren Berg, left, and a friend backpacking the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

If you want to do some light backpacking where you only need to bring a sleeping bag, food and some cooking utensils, New Zealand has many great walks where that can happen. One of my favorites is the Abel Tasman Coastal Track at the north end of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a perfect way to explore the incredible countryside without burning any fossil fuels!

To find more eco-tourism adventures even outside of New Zealand, check out the book, “Code Green: Experiences of a Lifetime,” which details nearly 100 different environmental-friendly tours and destinations.