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The Southern side of New Zealand

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The riches of South Island

Nicknamed “the land of the long white cloud” by its earliest inhabitants, the Maori, New Zealand charms visitors with contrasting nature. The country is made up of numerous islands and two large archipelagos: North Island and South Island. Oscillating between mountains, fjords and fine sandy beaches, the landscapes are varied, perfectly preserved and will quench your thirst for adventure.

New Zealand’s South Island: one of the largest islands in the world

L’île de Jade en Nouvelle-Zélande
Although it is the thirteenth largest island in the world and home to the second-largest city in the country, Christchurch, only a quarter of the population of New Zealand lives on South Island. That’s why this wild archipelago is one of the best preserved. Its Maori name is Te Waipounamu, which means “the Water(s) of Greenstone”, after the nephrite they discovered there. The French call it “Jade Island”. This natural beauty has been shared with the world through film. Several films have been shot largely on the South Island, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, Jurassic Park, Alien, Wolverine and The Lord of the Rings. With huge cliffs, a green forest, breathtaking waterfalls and snow-capped peaks, there’s no better way to wow cinema-goers.

The Alps of the Southern Hemisphere

What makes the South Island truly special is its mountains. Located on the western part of the island, the Southern Alps are a playground for hikers. Although this fascinating site is in a temperate area, it immerses visitors in the ice age. At its heart lie 360 glaciers, some of which reach an altitude of 3,000 metres. Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are some of the most impressive, found in Westland National Park, one of three nature parks on South Island. These glaciers are unique because they descend to a very low altitude (300 m) and carve valleys until they reach sea level.

L’île de Jade en Nouvelle-Zélande

Thousand-year-old fjords

One of the must-see sites on South Island is the famous Fiordland National Park and its impressive fjords, with the best known being Milford Sound. In this park, which is an integral part of Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors sail along a valley bordered by majestic cliffs and shaped by glaciers over 100,000 years. Norway in the Southern Hemisphere Fur seals and sea lions lounge on the rocks while dolphins escort the boats. When the mountains are reflected in the water, something unthinkable happens: the landscape becomes twice as beautiful.

Dolphin jumping from water

Paradise for Robinson Crusoe

After climbing peaks, admiring snowy valleys, and paddling in the Southern Ocean, continue your New Zealand adventure at the beach with a moment of pure relaxation. Head to Abel Tasman National Park. It may be the smallest national park the country has to offer, but it’s also the most beautiful. With lush forests, fine sandy beaches and turquoise waters, it is a veritable island paradise. Indulge in a spot of daydreaming on the orange sand at Onetahuti beach. This little slice of paradise enjoys more than 2,500 hours of sunshine each year. Seals greet you lazily as they sun themselves on the rocks. Coming back down to Earth after the South Island has taken you to new heights with its mountains and wonders is certainly a challenge!

Abel Tasman Inlet

Not to be missed

Explore the Snares Islands, some of New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, which are also a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Often described as the “Galápagos of the Southern Ocean”, these islands are a veritable haven of peace for marine mammals and seabirds. Sooty shearwater breed there during summer, and they are home to four species of albatross and Snares crested penguins, one of the very few penguins from New Zealand. Landing on the Subantarctic Islands is forbidden to preserve this wildlife. But when conditions allow, explorers are invited to observe their shores from the sea during zodiac excursions.

Photos credits : © Istock

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