Monday, March 21, 2022

Tread lightly and take a break in New Zealand’s mighty forests

New Zealand’s ancient forests could be compared to Europe’s cathedrals – majestic places of peace and quiet beauty.

Getting to know an ancient forest giant is a quintessential New Zealand experience where your clients can tread lightly, breathe deeply, and be awestruck by nature.

It’s widely recognised that walking is good for both our physical, creative and emotional wellbeing. Forest bathing (based on the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku) recognises the healing benefits found in quiet meditation in a forest setting. 

So, what could be better for the soul than a walk in the woods and where better than in New Zealand’s magnificent ancient forests? Otherwise known as the bush, New Zealand’s forests are extremely varied so here are some of the best forest experiences. 

Terra & Tide – Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island, just across the harbour from Auckland, is best known for its vineyards and wine experiences but it’s also a great place for a private forest therapy session with Terra and Tide(opens in new window)’s Gabrielle Young. Gabrielle has a deep love and knowledge of the environment and her home on Waiheke, and she is also an accredited nature and forest therapy guide (ANFT) who can guide your clients on a 2 or 3-hour private forest therapy walk, teaching them to deliberately slow down, to become present and mindful, on a gentle walk through a beautiful location. It finishes with a tea ceremony and the whole experience is said to work wonders for anyone craving peace and reconnection with themselves and nature.

Footprints Waipoua – Hokianga Northland

Of New Zealand’s grand kauri forests, none is more famous than the Waipoua Forest. As the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland, Waipoua is an ancient green world of huge trees and rare birds. No visit to Waipoua Forest would be complete without paying respects to Tane Mahuta. This jaw-dropping giant is the largest living tree in New Zealand. At an estimated 2000 years old, Tane is truly the ‘Lord of the Forest’. Local Māori guides from Footprints Waipoua(opens in new window) also offer walks through the forest at twilight – a truly magical experience providing both a cultural and environmental understanding of this unique ecosystem. 

Whakarewarewa Forest, The Redwoods – Rotorua

Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest has an impressive grove of 100-year-old towering Californian redwoods. The forest is crisscrossed with walking paths, mountain biking tracks, fitness and horse-riding trails. Take a quiet walk in the shadow of these giants or step out on the Redwoods Tree Walk(opens in new window) to view the forest from above - 12m above ground on a system of walkways and swing bridges. It’s a great daytime experience and something else by night when the lights go on for the Redwoods Nightlights. 

Whirinaki Forest with Foris Eco Tours - Bay of Plenty

For one of New Zealand’s best day hikes, take the small group guided tour with Foris Eco-Tours(opens in new window) into the beauty of one of the world's last prehistoric rainforests – a world-class example of a unique podocarp environment that’s barely changed since dinosaurs roamed under the canopy. Colossal trees stand 60 metres high – rimu, totara, kahikatea and matai which are found nowhere else in the world – and inhabited by rare and endangered bird species. Learn about this precious ancient environment and how passionate eco warriors fought to save it for posterity.   

Ziptrek Ecotours - Queenstown  

For an active forest walk, Ziptrek Ecotours(opens in new window) is an award-winning ecotourism adventure business renowned for delivering awareness and appreciation of the natural environment along with a thrilling zip line experience. Tours incorporate four to six zip lines through the forest canopy connecting aerial treetop platforms and descending all the way down Bob’s Peak into downtown Queenstown.  The company works with the local community, contributing to charities and eco initiatives, including sponsorship of a tuatara enclosure at the nearby Kiwi Birdlife Park and the Paper4Trees programme. 

Catlins Scenic and Wildlife Tour – Southland

In the southern South Island, the remote Catlins coast has some unique natural features. Wild tracts of native rain forests, fringed by rugged cliffs and golden beaches, hide spectacular waterfalls such as the often-photographed tiered Purakaunui Falls, and a dramatic petrified forest which appears at low tide from the rocks in Curio Bay – one of the world's least disturbed examples of a Jurassic-age fossilised forest. Stay at Catlins Mohua Park(opens in new window) eco accommodation and take a guided tour of the area's diverse natural treasures.