There is something about Auckland most visitors will never know. It only takes one hour from central Auckland straight into the lush rainforest and black sand beaches of the rugged Auckland coast. And because escaping the bustle of New Zealand’s largest city will be a key priority for nature loving travellers, we went on a Bush and Beach Nature Tour Auckland Wilderness Experience to find out what it was all about.
Bush and Beach – An Auckland Wilderness Experience
It is a rainy, grey day with cold easterly winds when Bush and Beach guide Kevin meets up opposite Auckland’s harbour and iconic ferry building. Inside the bus we are greeted by expectant faces of Americans, a Japanese gentleman on a language adventure, two Czech fellows, a kiwi and of course Kevin, the tour guide, who expertly navigates us out of the Auckland urban jungle.
On the way to the Arataki Visitor Center we stop at a bakery to pile up on freshly made pies and other delicacies. Once there, we marvel at Maori carvings, a couple of sleepy geckos, a map of the Waitakere Ranges, a life-sized Moa and Haast eagle, plus the view of two harbours (just about visible through the rain).
The Waitakere Ranges form a natural barrier between Auckland City and the surf lined Tasman Sea on the west coast. The highest point is 474 meters. The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park was formed in 1940, and measures about 180 square kms or 70 square miles.
During our drive along narrow roads surrounded by dense vegetation (native forest), Kevin, a local who’s been living in the Ranges many years, tells us stories about the land and its people. We visit a spectacular waterfall, even more beautiful in rain. Further west we get a glimpse of the wild and rugged west coast at Piha Beach (famous for a TV series of lifesavers being filmed here). Another beach, Karekare, has attracted worldwide attention when the Oscar winning movie “The Piano” was shot there in 1993.
The eco-tour continues with an easy walk in the lush rainforest. We come across a majestic kauri tree and some of the other unique flora and fauna that has evolved over the millions of years that New Zealand has been separated from the rest of the world.
Kevin tells us about giant ferns and wood pigeons, silver ferns (New Zealand’s national symbol), nikau palms, rimu and pohutukawa (christmas trees) – and the problematic possum, which has become such a threat to NZ’s endemic flora and fauna.
About Bush and Beach Tours in Auckland
Around for 30 years, Bush and Beach provides small group tours to Auckland’s coastal rainforest, wild, west coast black sand beaches, Auckland city highlights, Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Islands. They also do a Hobbiton Express Tour, which operates daily (like the Wilderness Experience tour) from Auckland. All tours offer free pick up and drop off from inner city accommodation.
As Qualmark Enviro Gold certified tourism business, Bush and Beach is also among the most environmentally friendly and sustainable tour operators in Auckland, which of course is why we picked them in the first place! For example, apart from minimizing their impact on the environment, Bush and Beach contributes directly to the conservation of natural areas by sponsoring Ark in the Park – to help eradicate pests in the rainforest.
Bush and Beach also sponsors noxious weed bins in the community to prevent their regeneration and spread. Local communities get the benefit of having local initiatives sponsored, such as the Karekare Beach Races – that support the local school and surf club.
Many thanks to Bush and Beach Nature Tour Auckland for hosting us on this great tour. Pictures in slide show: Own. Featured image: deviantart, creative commons.
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