Great Barrier Island sits forty-five miles northeast of Aukland, New Zealand. It is a massive island with a long and occasionally troubled history. Birds were the original caretakers of the island but were overthrown when Polynesians arrived around the year 1000. The disturbance to the island then was nothing compared to the near extinction event that followed the arrival of Europeans. Cleared of endemic trees and nearly all the native avifauna, the ecosystem of Great Barrier Island barely held on. More than a century later, the tide began to turn. Through the conservation efforts of mostly private individuals, the island is on its way to becoming a haven for indigenous flora and fauna. From the glorious native kauri tree, almost wiped out in the demand for timber, to the charming and iconic kiwi bird, positive change is taking place. Our visit today was a fantastic opportunity to explore a conservation success story in progress.
National Geographic Orion
Kia Ora and greetings to all our readers. The Bay of Islands in the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand, could not have been more beautiful as National Geographic Orion slipped in through her turquoise waters. A light chilly wind with classical sunshine made for a great day to experience this special place. The goal of today’s expedition was to immerse our guests in the tradition and culture of the New Zealand native peoples. Waitangi is one of the cultural centres for the Maori people, the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Maori chiefs of Aotearoa and the British sovereignty back in the 1800’s. Guests were introduced to the ancient war canoes, at least one hundred years old, as they were being prepared to sail on Waitangi Celebration Day on February 6th. Guests marvelled at the carved artistry and designs and were thrilled to be led onto the flagstaff grounds of Waitangi with National Geographic Orion in the background. An invitation was extended to all guests to enter the Wharenui (ceremonial house) to experience a performance presented by the Maori dancers. This was a great way to begin our voyage through the Pacific Ocean as we said farewell to New Zealand with fond memories of her people. Cheers!