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ALPINE AOTEAROA 2024 – AGS NEW ZEALAND TOUR

Journey through the alpine wonderlands of the South Island and discover botanical treasures as spectacular as the scenery. Learn more about the amazing mountain species you will find under the guidance of Mark Hanger, an expert naturalist who is as passionate about plants as you are!
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Visit stunning floral landscapes, including glaciated valleys, scree slopes, and sub-alpine lakes and tarns. Walk through boulder and herb fields and search for special alpine flora. From the treeline to the snowline, the changing pattern of life is as fascinating as it is diverse.

The trip takes in the fascinating flora of the Hollyford Valley, the Old Man Range, Mackenzie Country, Aoraki Mount Cook, Mount Hutt, and Arthur’s Pass. It continues around the top of the South Island to Clarence Valley, Hanmer Springs, Mount St Patrick, Nelson Lakes National Park, Mount Arthur, Blackbirch, and Kaikōura.

Travel is by comfortable small coach equipped with an excellent nature reference library. Accommodation is in pleasant hotels and lodges with private facilities.

Haastia scree - credit David Haselgrove

Haastia scree - credit David Haselgrove

Day 1

Arrive in Queenstown. Meet your naturalist guide in central Queenstown or Queenstown Airport. Short drive to Te Anau. Stay Te Anau three nights.

Day 2

The upper Hollyford Valley, through which the famed Milford Road passes, contains superb alpine boulder fields and herb fields. The Gertrude Cirque has arguably the finest accessible alpine communities in the country. The day is devoted to discovering at your pace this botanical treasure trove in the Darran Mountains. Studying nature in such awesome surroundings is guaranteed to put all in perspective.

Day 3

South of Te Anau lies Lake Manapōuri and beyond is Borland Saddle and the Hunter Mountains. Superb alpine vistas and local endemics characterise this area. This truly memorable day will enable us to view the bizarre local wild Spaniards, hybrid giant buttercups, Buchanan’s buttercup in profusion, plus several species of Celmisia (mountain daisy).

Ranunculus lyallii on Arthur's Pass

Ranunculus lyallii on Arthur's Pass

Day 4

Leave Fiordland and cross into Central Otago with its rocky rugged landscapes. This area is a schist plateau, now appearing as a series of block mountain ranges. Lodged amid the silvery schist vegetation of the Old Man Range are many species of cushion plants and snowbank vegetation unique to this type of extreme climate. The Lilliputian world of the plants on top of this range stands in stark contrast to the grandeur and vastness of the surrounding mountains. Stay Cromwell tonight.

Day 5

Cross Lindis Pass to the arid intermontane basins of the Mackenzie Country and Lake Ōhau. The Ōhau range rises directly from Lake Ōhau. Little visited, the tarns, slopes and bluffs of this range hold a fascinating array of alpines. Cushion Spaniards, with their ball-like inflorescences are spectacular, not to mention the fields of the blue-leaved Celmisia, cushions of Donatia, and delicate mats of alpine Raoulias. Stay Lake Ōhau two nights.

Day 6

A Day to explore the renowned Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The Hooker Valley walk enables us to study the changes in vegetation on successive moraines as the Hooker, then Mueller, glaciers are reached. Giant Mt Cook buttercups, golden Spaniards and sub-alpine shrubs abound amid unforgettable landscapes. An alternative for the more energetic is to walk up the Sealy Range to Sealy Tarns.

Day 7

Morning drive to Mount Hutt, with afternoon to explore the screes, bluffs, and upper slopes. Stay Methven tonight.

Day 8

Arthur’s Pass National Park is renowned for its spectacular Southern Alps scenery and for a wide diversity of readily accessible alpine flora. There are easy walks with good viewing of sub-alpine wetlands and tarns, and sub-alpine herb fields. Those with more energy can climb into the Temple Basin where alpine vistas and a wonderful array of alpine plants await. Mid-afternoon travel on to Hanmer Springs.

Raoulia parkeri - credit David Haselgrove

Raoulia parkeri - credit David Haselgrove

Day 9

Gentians abound en-route to Lake Tennyson in the upper Clarence turn to Hanmer. Valley. Just above the valley floor, the fine shingle supports a grand scree flora including scree harebells, lobelias, forget-me-nots, and penwipers. Further on at Island Pass we further study the scree and rock outcrop endemics. Late afternoon return to Hanmer Springs.

Day 10

A Day to relax on your own. Lunch and dinner not provided today

Day 11

Day excursion to Mt St Patrick. A widely diverse herbfield, and unique scree and rock outcrop species feature today as we explore the ridges above the Amuri Ski-field. Special plants include Swainsonia novae zealandiae.

Day 12

Travel via sup-alpine tarns at Lewis Pass to Nelson Lakes National Park. The beautiful Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa nestle amongst the northern peaks of beech forest. This afternoon enjoy short walks in this enchanting forest. Stay St Arnaud two nights.

Day 13

Day excursion to nearby Mount Arthur, a marble region with a wide diversity of upland and sub-alpine species. Mid-afternoon return to Nelson Lakes.

Aciphylla kirkii - credit David Haselgrove

Aciphylla kirkii

Day 14

The journey today takes us back east. A study of New Zealand alpine scree and rock outcrop vegetation begins with a trip to the summit of Blackbirch. Here giant vegetable sheep abound amid a dry cushion flora. Scree plants, rock outcrop species, herb field daisies, and cushion plants will feature today. If the plants do not take your breath away the panoramic views are sure to! Mid-afternoon return again to sea level and continue to Kaikōura.

Day 15

This morning an optional three-hour marine trip should enable viewing of sperm whales which inhabit the deep water just off the Kaikōura coast (approximate cost NZD$155). Alternatively, you may opt for the Oceanwings Albatross excursion (approximate cost NZD$140). Early afternoon depart for Christchurch. Trip termination at Christchurch.

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