New Zealand – Episode 5 – East Coast of South Island

If you travel to Christchurch from Blenheim or Nelson on State Highway 1 and you love seals then you absolutely must stop at the Ohau Point Lookout to check out one of the most amazing seal colonies in New Zealand. Best of all, it’s completely free and just a couple of feet from the road!

We pulled over in the parking lot on the side of the road and readied our cameras to capture the seals on the beach and rocks below. We were amazed to see pups playing and jumping into a waterfall, males sizing each other up just 2 feet away from us and inquisitive females on rocks looking at us from close distance.

We were witnessing a natural history video happening in real life!


Lucian Nistor’s photos


Andrei Morar’s photos




New Zealand – Episode 4 – Rotorua and the Wai-O-Tapu Sacred Waters

Story from the gates of hell

Our itinerary in New Zealand included a couple of hot spots. At the time of our visit, we didn’t think that Rotorua was also literally a hot spot. Bear with us and you will see why.

Rotorua is the place where we experienced what it must be like to be waiting in the antechamber of hell. What some would scientifically call “geothermal parks”, our cameras captured as access roads to the devil’s dwellings. With every wisp of steam, we believed that the sensors in ours cameras would capture thermal demons gushing out. The scenery is spectacular and eerie at the same time. Just when we grew familiar with the place we noticed the following warning signs -“Danger!”, “Keep to the Track!”, “Hot Gases!”, “Hot Area!” and, the scariest, “Unstable Ground”- that reminded us not to get too comfortable.  We watched our every step not sure if our next step would be on solid ground or our foot would remain suspended over the gates of inferno.

One of our destinations was The Lady Knox Geyser. We were told that here hell breathes hot and smelly steam each day at 10:15 am. When we arrived, several hundred people were seated in an amphitheater-like formation and waiting around a cone for the highly praised eruption to begin. While waiting we wondered how come the geyser erupted each day at the exact same time? The answer came in a few minutes. A park ranger with a microphone started telling us a little story about how the geyser was discovered. It happened in 1901 when a gang of prisoners from the prison in Wai-O-Tapu added soap to the hot water to wash their clothes. The ranger emptied a bag of soap into the cone geyser to break the surface tension of the water below allowing hot water to build into a force and reach heights of about 20 meters. It was clearly one of the biggest disappointments of our trip to New Zealand.

Our next stop was Waiotapu that looks like Dante’s hell with the boiling pitch and tar. The mud pools form when steam and gas rise underneath rainwater ponds. The gases react with rocks to produce clay, which makes a muddy mixture in the ponds that bubble periodically like porridge. It was quite a challenge trying to capture the perfect burst.

Before telling you a few words about Maori culture in Rotorua, we must add that the city is nicknamed The Sulphur City because it has a unique pungent smell just like rotten eggs. No doubt about it, this is indeed an odoriferous city.

Māori people have been living in the area for almost 700 years. With a quarter of Rotorua’s population of Maori descent, you will be welcomed here in the spirit of traditional Manaakitanga (hospitality).

Unfortunately, time did not allow us to interact more with Maori culture, but check out the following link for more information.

Extremely severe warning: Do not try to recalibrate the screens!!! All color images are minimally processed, fully respecting the color palette of nature.:)

Dana Stavaru’s photos

Lucian Nistor’s photos


Andrei Morar’s photos

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New Zealand – Episode 3 – The Volcanoes

After getting enough sun and high waves we decided to get a bit higher and took a 400 km drive from Piha to Ohakune, a town located at the southern end of the Tongariro National Park, close to the southwestern slopes of the largest active volcano in New Zealand, Mount Ruapehu.Ruapehu, located at the southern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, is the highest mountain in the North Island, reaching as high as 2797m (Tahurangi peak) with several subsidiary peaks. There are several small glaciers around the summit slopes – the only glaciers on the North Island.

After checking in at Top 10 we decided to go up to Turoa Ski Field and took the Ohakune Mountain Road which was built by locals from Ohakune, mostly during weekends after they formed the Mountain Road Association in 1952. Their aim was to open Ruapehu’s southern slopes for skiing. The 17 km road was opened in 1963. It winds up through spectacular native forests before breaking out above the tree line and finishes at a complex of car parks below the bottom chairlift.

The weather was spectacular and we stopped several times to take pictures of both the mountains and the city below and, why not, to read a few pages on a sun bathed rock , which what was to remain the best reading space ever. Driven away by sand flies which, if you ask us, are New Zealand’s top predators, we reached Turoa from where we experienced the most spectacular sunset.

The next day we decided to head north-east to Lake Taupo. We took the Desert Road, a section of State Highway 1, and stopped to take a few shoots of the Rangipo Desert where the Black Gate of Mordor scenes from Lord of the Rings were shot in 2000.

From here you can clearly see the three active peaks of Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. The Rangipo Desert receives 1,500–2,500 mm (59–98 in) of rainfall per year, but resembles a desert because of a poor soil quality and drying winds and also due to the mass sterilization of seeds during a series of violent eruptions.

The vegetation is low and sparse and the southern part of the desert is used by the army for training purposes. Walking though the Rangipo Desert at mid-day can be tiring because of the high temperature levels and of the wind storms that could take you by surprise at any time.

 Dana Stavaru’s photos

Lucian Nistor’s photos

Andrei Morar’s photos


New Zealand – Episode 2 – Cape Reinga and White Sand Beach

Cape Reinga

For somebody visiting New Zealand for the first time, Cape Reinga is a must-see destination. For us, the Photographos group, it was an obvious choice as we are constantly looking for scenic and unique places in our travels.

We set out well before the break of dawn and embarked on a 66 km long ride from our accommodation. The journey itself proved to be spectacular and somewhat spooky with possum and rabbit eyes glowing in the dark by the side of the road.

Luckily and thanks to our speedy Mitshubishi Pajero we managed to reach the parking lot at Cape Reinga just in time for the sunrise. We grabbed our gear and rushed along the pathway stopping from time to time for an occasional shot.

We watched the Tasman Sea melt in the Pacific Ocean, in a spectacular swirl of currents. We spotted the twisted pohutukawa tree, believed to be over 800 years old and which, according to Maori oral history, is the place the spirits of deceased Maori leap from into the ocean to return to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.

It could have been the Maori spirits, the pohuukawa tree or something else who decided we should be greeted with an amazing sunrise. A huge thank from the Photographos group goes to whomever made it happen!

White Sand Beach

Imagine sand so bright you squint your eyes looking at it! Picture a beach made of silica sand that is so fine it makes you feel like you’re walking on a huge flour layer! Now add to this huge waves perfect for surfing and you’ll start to imagine what we experienced on our day at the White Sand Beach.

After spending enough time taking sunrise pictures we walked the whole length of the beach southwards and followed upstream the Ngataki river exploring the sand dune habitat and documenting the river bank.

Finally, we decided it was time to put our cameras away, take it easy and enjoy a lazy, all daylong ocean bath. Trust us, there’s no better way than this to end your White Sand Beach journey!

Dana Stavaru’s photos

Andrei Morar’s photos

Lucian Nistor’s photos


New Zealand – Episode 1 – Piha and the 90 Mile Beach

Our journey to New Zealand had a rough start involving some over-zealous kiwi’s customs officers who decided we were the perfect candidates for a thorough baggage check. Luckily this turned out to be just a minor niggle and we were finally able to focus on travel and photography.

For us it was a challenge to keep to the well-known routes as we kept on going off track for a few pictures and then back on the main roads struggling the whole time to stay on schedule. We traveled over 4500 km and the most spectacular aspect of our journey was the diversity of roads we spent our time on. We drove from the Auckland motorway to off road tracks following along rivers, from the tight hairpins of the Coromandel Peninsula to the fine sand of the 90 Mile Beach or from the White Silica Beach on the Pacific Ocean to the black sands of Piha at the Tasman Sea. In this post we will reveal just a few of the wonders of the North Island; the rest will come in future posts so be sure to bookmark us and check back in the coming weeks.

A coin flip decided that our first New Zealand post will be about Piha and the 90 Mile Beach (Te Oneroa-a-Tohe to Maori).


Piha is one of the most beautiful beaches that you’ll get to see in your lifetime. The sand is so black that at first you are reluctant to step on it. Don’t forget your slippers as this beautiful sand gets unbearably hot at noon and you can easily burn the soles of your feet. Or if you do forget your slippers like we did, you’ll find out that hot sand can be a good training ground for speed running. To make up for our burnt soles Piha greeted us with a fabulous sunset after a summer shower.

The Tasman Sea at Piha was a wild beast splashing huge turquoise waves. As we got into the water we realized that the waves had a tremendous force and strong currents were constantly digging up the sand beneath our feet. Every second was a struggle to keep our balance. Considering all these aspects, it’s no wonder that Piha is a surfer’s paradise.

90 Mile Beach (Te Oneroa-a-Tohe to Maori)

The beach stretches over long miles of golden sand and is best experienced from a four wheel drive vehicle outfitted to race down the surf’s edge at low tide, spray pouring on the windows. The 90 Mile Beach is actually a recognized highway in New Zealand and you can take your own vehicle down on it if you wish. We did just that and easily reached 100 km/h on the sand. But be careful not to get stuck in the sand or to be caught up by the high tide as there is no cell phone coverage there.

The beach is lined with big, grass-topped dunes which make them the perfect ground for a unusual sport: sand surfing. Adults and kids, men and women alike enjoy a good downhill slide on specially crafted boards.

Dana Stavaru’s photos

Andrei Morar’s photos

Lucian Nistor’s photos

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