Geography and landscapes New Zealand
From the northern tip of the North Island to the southern tip of the South Island, New Zealand stretches 1 km! Suffice to say that she knows almost all types of landscapes and climates, from the subtropics of Northland to the often misty fjords of Fiordland.
Bathed on all sides by the Pacific Ocean, the country has more than 15 km of coastline - cliffs, dunes, immense and deserted beaches, there is something for everyone.
It is divided into 16 regions and one territory (Chatham Island), to which is added a plethora of more or less distant dependencies, from the South Pacific to Antarctica.
The two large New Zealand islands are therefore very different from each other. The northern one is the smallest and most indented with, opposite Auckland, the vast bay of Hauraki and its islands.
North of the great New Zealand metropolis, the Northland darts its long and wide spur towards the tropics, benefiting from a very pleasant climate, mild until the heart of winter. In December, the pohutukawa, New Zealand's “Christmas tree”, is covered with large red flowers. The superb Bay of Islands, where the first English settlers landed at the beginning of the 90th century, is the main center of attraction. On its west side, XNUMX-Mile Beach is the largest beach in the country. In the center, among the tree ferns, still grow the superb kauri, giant and sacred trees of the Maoris, unfortunately largely deforested.
South-east of Auckland, on the other side of the Firth of Thames, the very wild Coromandel peninsula completes the tropical panorama of New Zealand. Beyond, the volcanic heritage gradually takes over to culminate in Rotorua: volcanoes, frozen lava flows, crater lakes, geysers, hot springs, fumaroles… Fascinating.
On the Pacific Ring of Fire, New Zealand regularly experiences earthquakes and eruptions. It is also a gigantic explosion that formed Lake Taupo (606 km²), the largest in the country and, it is said, in the southern hemisphere.
To the east of the island, in the sunny Hawke's Bay region, vineyards cover vast areas.
The larger of the two islands is also by far the more mountainous. The hills give way here to the snow-capped peaks of the New Zealand Alps, culminating at 3 m at Mount Cook, with slopes covered with glaciers. Only a short northern fringe escapes the grip of the Alps: Marlborough County, renowned for its wine, and the approaches to Tasman Bay, almost tropical in the splendid Abel Tasman National Park.
La West Coast is very rainy: up to more than 6 m of precipitation in some areas, which would allow it to be nicknamed Wet Coat, the wet coast! It plunges deep into the ocean and extends to the south by the Fiordland, the land of fjords, barely touched by a single road and a beautiful path. Carved out by glaciers, the sounds are very deep: some penetrate 40 km inland, others widen over 400 m. Under a sheet of fresh water, due to abundant precipitation, abound with incredible black coral bushes. The eastern coast, softer, better protected, is the refuge of a rich fauna.
A great biodiversity
The fauna and flora are among the country's great attractions. Protected by the island situation from New Zealand, animal and plant species have evolved in complete autarky, giving rise to strange critters. No platypus like in Australia, but the moa, unfortunately disappeared, which was the largest bird in the world: up to 3,50 m high, an ostrich look and meat that appealed to the Maoris ...
The vegetation is particularly marked by endemism: 75% of the plants found in New Zealand do not exist anywhere else. There is also a living Jurassic fossil, the tuatara, a sort of dorsal crested iguana of 50 to 60 cm.
A weakened environment
Many animals or plants, without significant predators, have let their guard down. Some birds have thus lost the habit, then the ability to fly, like the moa or the kiwi. Many endemic species that have become less combative have no longer been able to defend themselves and have disappeared.
The natural balance has started to shift with the arrival of the Polynesians: livestock and pets, food or ornamental plants have dispersed, competing with or destroying vegetation and local species. The situation worsened with the arrival of the Westerners, who brought voracious goats, rats, flies, Australian possums, pigs that had become wild again, which uprooted fragile plants… The plants introduced spread without harm thanks to the fertile soil, to the abundant water and heat.
Among the most dangerous, there are 3 main kinds of lianas : passionflowers, honeysuckles and mulberries. Entire forests are succumbing, suffocating. Despite the reinforced health checks carried out at airports, the number of stowaways continues to increase.
And let's not forget the consequences of human activities : deforestation, drying up of wetlands, extension of dwellings and pastures, etc.
A funny bird. Unable to fly, like many of its New Zealand counterparts, the kiwi spends its life low to the ground, in the thickets.
The kiwi is inseparable from New Zealand. But the country could well lose its emblem: there were 5 million around 1925, they are now only 50, predator victims introduced by men. 3 of the 6 subspecies are threatened with extinction.
Most New Zealanders have never seen their national bird. This meeting therefore remains a privilege. More than half of the population is gathered on Stewart Island alone, in the south of the country. With great luck, you can see the kiwi by day, on an overcast day, or more likely at night, on Ocean Beach.