Bay of Islands
Updated: Feb 26
My trip to New Zealand started with a 23 day tour with G Adventures. I met my group and our Tour guide Jockey (hilariously ironic because he was 6ft 6) in Auckland after having a few days to relax and explore Auckland and Waiheke Island. To start with there were 12 girls and 1 boy (Tom from Germany, so Jockey and him had to team up against the rest of us). There are 10 British (inc. Christie from Wales), Chelsea from New York City and Dana and Tom from Germany. I was expecting there to be more of a mix of nationalities (wasn't expecting so many from the UK) but apparently it is normal to have the UK as a majority and for there also to be more girls than boys. When I first arrived, winter had officially just finished and it was about 14 degrees, so I had completely underestimated how cold it would be when I packed so the first thing I had to do was go and buy some long sleeved tops (oops).
Our first 4 days of the tour was a trip up to the Bay of Islands, North of Auckland. On our way to Paihia, where we were staying, we stopped off to meet Sparky the Kiwi bird who is the Kiwi Ambassador as Kiwi birds are the national bird of New Zealand. The Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre where Sparky lives was set up by an amazing couple who wanted somewhere they could care for rescued and injured birds. When they can, they care for the birds and release them back into the wild. Sparky lost one of his legs in a trap when he was young so he lives permanently at the centre. It was an amazing place and I got to feed Sparky some worms (that part was a bit gross as the worms were alive) but it is quite rare to be able to get that close to a Kiwi bird as they are protected and are rarely seen in the wild so it was quite a special experience.
Our first night in the Bay of Islands was spent on a boat called the Rock. Doesn't look like much from the outside but it was so much fun. On the boat we did some fishing, my first time fishing and I managed to catch a fish! In New Zealand you can only keep fish that you catch that are over 30cm which mine was not so I threw it back in the sea, below you can see an action shot of my face when the fish moved in my hand when I wasn't expecting it to. We also went night Kayaking which was incredible because the water was so clear, and there was so little light from surrounding islands that when you disturbed the water, you could see the bioluminescent algae all lit up in a blue colour. Apparently this is because the algae round there absorbs the sunlight and emits the colour as a defence mechanism which you can see in the dark. It was very cool. The boat also had a proper wood fire to keep us warm after we had kayaked, so a few of us toasted some marshmallows after to relax. The dorm rooms were 2 rooms of 6 bunk beds. Talk about cabin fever, the rooms were not big, and I was unlucky enough to get a top bunk. Even someone who was 5ft would not have been comfy up there but oh my god. The bed was about as wide as my hips and I couldn't sit up, it was hilarious trying to just get in the bed and then I couldn't move all night for fear of falling out. Not the best nights sleep but it was funny. I can't even imagine what would happen if they had 6 lads over 6ft in there!
The next day we went snorkelling by the boat for some Kina (sea urchins) because they are something New Zealand are trying to cut down on in their reefs as they are eating all the seaweed which is not good for the other fish. At first it was really hard, I had never swam with flippers on before and I really struggled to get under the water whilst flipping, but I figured it out and it was loads easier once your flippers were underwater too. We then hiked up an island to get a full view of the Bay of Islands which was beautiful.
Before we went back to Auckland to meet some new people joining out tour, I went to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the Waitangi Treaty was signed in 1840 between the British Empire and a large number of Mauri Chiefs. This is when New Zealand believe their nation was born and the day the Treaty was signed is celebrated every year (although there is controversy around this), so it's a massive part of New Zealand history and well worth a visit. At the treaty grounds we got to see a Mauri cultural performance where they performed different songs and Mauri traditions, including how they would greet a chief from a different tribe to find out if they came in Peace or for war. It was really good and I liked how they did it and didn't pretend or go too over the top it was very authentic. We have now arrived back in Auckland and have met the new members to join our group. Now there are 16 girls and 1 boy haha but we are getting some more lads to keep Tom company when we reach Wellington. We went to watch New Zealand play South Africa last night in a bar and for some of the group it was their first experience of a rugby game so it was very exciting. I was buzzing to be in New Zealand and watching the All Blacks play. But to our horror, the New Zealand defence was crap and they lost. By 2 points. Couldn't believe it! We were all so sad that Jockey was only with us for the trip to the Bay of Islands but we now have our new tour guide Daisy, and his trainee tour guide Di, to take us on the rest of our trip. Today we are making our way down the North Island to Raglan, where we are staying in our own little house for two nights which should be really good! I literally had 30 minutes on the computer to write this so it is a very basic account and probably filled with grammar mistakes but oh well!
Surfing tomorrow should be amazing, I can't wait!