Boasting about 200 species, ranging from ten-metre-high tree ferns to flimsy 20 millimeters long ferns, it’s no wonder the fern is a symbol of New Zealand, along with the famous kiwi bird.

According to Māori legends, the silver fern once lived in the sea. It was asked to come and live in the forest to play a significant role in guiding the Māori people. Māori hunters and warriors used the silver underside of the fern leaves to find their way home. When bent over, the fronds would catch the moonlight and illuminate a path through the forest.

This distinctly New Zealand symbol is considered a badge of honor by the kiwi people, products and services that carry it and has been the symbol of New Zealand’s national rugby team since the 1880s.

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The Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are definitively one of mother’s nature most impressive feats. This is one of the best places to feel the terrible force of the sea. The dramatic vertical water outbursts seem to be aiming for the sky as they rise high above the always-bustling Tasman Sea.

If you are a rainbow hunter, you must visit this place. This is your paradise. About every couple of seconds a rainbow appears and then shortly after disappears making way for a new one.

Make sure you are ready for a free shower while you’re there. It was quite nice for us but our cameras have undergone a thorough cleaning. Luckily, they are still working even to this day.

Punakaiki literally means “a spring of food”. Most likely the name comes from the 53 pubs built around it by the gold seekers.

Punakaiki is not just about pancake rocks and spectacular bursts of spray. At Punakaiki we discovered an incredible beach covered in fine black sand. A carpet made from the finest silk unfolded beneath our burned soles after a long day of traveling. It’s quite a unique sensation, we’ll give you that.

At nightfall, someone came and stole the beach. We thought it was the Tasmanian Devil, judging by all the stories we were hearing. The harsh reality was rather disappointing: it was just the high tide, going about doing what it does best each night.

Lucian Nistor’s photos

Dana Stavaru’s photos

Andrei Morar’s photos

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Following out close encounter with the seals, we headed to Aoraki Mt. Cook Alpine Lodge. Here you can find a whole resort dedicated to perhaps the most famous New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary (20 July 1919 – 11 January 2008). Even though New Zealand is a peaceful country, he however conquered something: on May 29 1953, he became the first climber confirmed as having reached the summit of Mount Everest. We won’t go into much detail about him, as a simple internet search will provide you with all the necessary information.

Before our departure, we have witnessed an avalanche of stones on one of the mountainsides. It was too far away to put us in danger, but close enough to catch it with the cameras lens.

From the tourist center, we followed along the Tasman River a winding road covered in ultra-fine dust. At the end of the road we finally arrived at none other than the Tasman Lake. The water that fills this lake and later on supplies the Tasman River originates from the Glacier called – you guessed it – Tasman Glacier. 

Here what intrigued us was the water’s color: azure with a milky twist. Add to this floating icebergs drifting away on the lake’s surface and you have quite a strange scenery.

 Lucian Nistor’s photos

Andrei Morar’s photos

Dana Stavaru’s photos

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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

 

 

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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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