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20 Life-Changing Trips

New Zealand with Mountain Travel Sobek
Courtesy of Wilderness Lodges of New Zealand

New Zealand with Mountain Travel Sobek

(14 days)

Why We Love It: This adventure-travel company slips clients into new destinations as noninvasively and inventively as they can—in small groups led by local guides at out-of-the-ordinary sights. For T+L, 40-year-old Mountain Travel Sobek has crafted an itinerary steeped in the 1,000-year-old cultural traditions and folklore of New Zealand’s first inhabitants—the Maori tribe. Maori guides are called upon throughout the journey, whether you’re hiking the grassy battlegrounds of Ruapekapeka, scene of the last conflict between British and Maori forces in the 1846 Northern War, or group-paddling a war canoe down hidden tribal waterways.

Where It Goes: From ancient settlements at the tip of the volcanic North Island to beaches, rivers, and glaciers, then all the way down to the peak-rimmed tourist center of Queenstown, on the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu.

What You’ll Do: Sit on Tokerau Beach (North Island) to watch tribesman Hekeneukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi Busby Kaumatua demonstrate how to make a traditional ocean canoe; detour north to Cape Reinga, the last stop made by Maori spirits of the dead on their way to the afterlife; and hike nearby through the lush Waipoa Forest to see Tane Mahuta, one of the world’s largest remaining ancient kauri trees, whose girth rivals that of America’s sequoia (45 feet). On the South Island, you’ll sail with the Maori-owned Whale Watch Kaikoura to see sperm whales up close; hike alongside the Arahura River, where you can stop to search for greenstone, a jade, found only on the South Island, that is sacred to the tribe for its symbolic role in peace agreements; and trek across the Franz Josef glacier with an expert on global warming’s impact on the region.

Where You’ll Stay: Highlights include two hotels with extensive green practices: the Hapuku Lodge, whose recycled-timber tree houses are 30 feet aboveground in a grov

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