ALL PHOTOS: SUPERYACHT PRIVATE EXPEDITIONS
Tahiti Private Expeditions and its sister company, Superyacht Private Expeditions, have been providing superyacht guests with exclusive dive services for more than 10 years. Their teams, which stay aboard with you and your guests, have local knowledge of a variety of South Pacific destinations in particular. They adapt activities to your expectations and experience, with Superyacht Private Expeditions doing so anywhere in the world. In the second of a series of Destination Guide articles for us, Christelle and Rodolphe Holler, owners of both companies, share their experiences and recommendations in New Zealand. The country also happens to be home to Superyacht Private Expeditions’ head office. Here, they recommend snorkeling and diving adventures.
Despite being in the heart of the South Pacific, New Zealand remains off the usual track of the surrounding famous tropical islands like Fiji or Tahiti. This is exactly what makes it so special and different. It is a country where you can change sceneries in a couple of hours, enjoy secluded white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water as well as mountains and fjords, and enjoy fine dining and delicious wine. Pristine wildlife is all around on land and under the water. It is the perfect blend for adventure and luxury. New Zealand is a country where you always feels good thanks to friendly residents often called Kiwis.
Since New Zealand is subject to four seasons a year, visit during the Austral Summer, with best timing being January to February. Exploring New Zealand from a yacht is different than doing so in the tropical islands. Guests are invited to discover a little more inland and travel on and off the boat regularly, usually by helicopter. As for diving, the water is not very warm, and the South Island may require you to wear a dry suit to feel comfortable.
First, some side notes about charter and cruising in New Zealand:
- Charter yachts must obtain a license issued to the master and vessel. The Cruising Permit is valid for the specific charter and can be renewed when required for additional charters. Alternately, you can request a permit covering a specific period during your stay, which also can be renewed.
- Cruising permits are not required for yachts under strictly private use and of less than 45 meters (147’6”) or 500 gross registered tons. If the private vessel is larger or a higher tonnage, it may require a local pilot in some areas. Ports around New Zealand do vary slightly with size and tonnage. Charter yachts wishing to operate within New Zealand do need a cruising permit, however, plus a charter permit.
- All vessels exceeding 500 gross registered tons, whether private or charter, require pilots aboard for specific areas. New Zealand now grants superyacht-specific PECs (Pilot Exemption Certificates) for Fiordland and Stewart Island.
The following itinerary spans two to three weeks. All the locales are noted on the map above. It can be customized to match expectations and time.
Fiordland (southwest of the South Island): 1 day in each fjord
This part of New Zealand is among the most isolated places in the world. Only one of the fjords, for example, can be reached by car, through a very narrow and curvy road. The most famous of the three most beautiful fjords here is Milford Sound. You can join your yacht anchored there by helicopter from Queenstown, for example. The scenery is amazing, surrounding you with incredible mountains emerging from the water and waterfalls (above).
The yacht will move from Milford Sound to Doubtful Sound (50NM) and then to Dusky Sound farther south (55NM). When going for a hike, take insect repellent, as sand flies are fierce in the area!
The fjords are home to colonies of seals, penguins, killer whales, dolphins, and many marine birds. Unique to Fiordland, due to abundant rainfall creating a near-permanent top layer of fresh water, are numerous species like huge black coral trees that are normally found in extremely deep water but easily seen here by divers at shallow depths. You can also dive endless walls, encountering colorful anemones, red coral and sponges, stingrays, and crayfish. A dry suit is highly recommended as the average summertime temperature is about 15°C (59°F).
Stewart Island (100 NM from Dusky Sound): 1 day
The yacht will then cruise to Stewart Island at the southernmost point of New Zealand. The main interest here is wildlife. At dusk, endemic brown kiwi birds called Takoeka come to the beach to feed on invertebrates on the wrack line. Stewart Island is among the last places left where you can still see them in the wild. Hide to watch them, as they are shy. The other highlight is the great white shark. The dive is close to the coast on the east side of the island. Divers, in a cage, are within touching distance of the sharks, which congregate to feed on seals during the summer. Safely arranged, it is a privileged adrenalin rush, a must-do!
Queenstown, “The adventure capital of the world”: 2-3 days
While the yacht cruises to the Christchurch area, on the east coast of the South Island, fly via helicopter to Queenstown, nested in the Southern Alps. The town is famous for its numerous outdoor activities: white-river rafting, hiking, paragliding, kayaking, golf, horseback riding… Don’t miss the thrilling famous jetboat ride on the nearby river. All this is complemented by beautiful lakeside lodges and great food and wine!
Then, there are two options to join the boat in the Christchurch area. One involves driving through beautiful turquoise Lake Pukaki (above), with Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, in the distance. You’ll also pass through the mountainous Lake Tekapo. It’s a two- to three-hour drive from Queenstown. However, we recommend taking a helicopter from the lakes, since the road between them and Christchurch isn’t particularly interesting. Regardless, enjoy a private picnic by the lake before you leave. If time doesn’t allow, your second option is flying via helicopter from Queenstown to Akaroa’s bay, near Christchurch.
Whichever option you choose, the yacht will be waiting for you. French settlers lived in Akaroa in the 19th century. You can still get a taste of France while walking past numerous nice bars and restaurants along the village streets.
Kaikoura (100 NM from Akaroa): 1 day
The small town is famous for its crayfish, which we can pick while scuba diving. We are allowed six per day per person—enough to have a festive dinner onboard! Go on a private tour with a local operator to watch sperm whales (in a protected area).
Abel Tasman National Park (170 NM): 1 -2 days
Next, cruise through Cook Strait, separating the North and South islands, en route to Abel Tasman National Park (South island). The place is best explored by kayak. The lack of roads makes it the perfect place to also explore by foot.
Marlborough Sounds (70 NM): 1-2 days
Anchorages are unlimited here, like in most of New Zealand. We really enjoy diving the wreck of the Mikhael Lermontov, a cruise ship that sank in 1986 after colliding with rocks. It is the largest wreck in the country. Depending on the water temperature, a 7mm regular wetsuit will do the job!
This is also your chance to go for a delicious wine tasting session at the famous Cloudy Bay Vineyard, followed by a lunch on premises. The area is further famous for its large green mussels, which you can also pick yourself from a farm on the way back from a dive, for example.
The boat will navigate towards Wellington, the capital city, from where you’ll fly to Taupo, in the middle of the North Island.
Taupo: 1 -2 days
Taupo is famous for its geothermal activity. Stay at Huka Lodge and spend a day at the natural thermal spa/volcanic hot springs. Enjoy traditional Maori massage for a relaxing day at Wairakei Terrace, which can be privatized. Since you’re near a river, go white-water rafting or rainbow trout fishing.
Another helicopter ride will take you the following day to White Island in the Bay of Plenty on the east coast.
White Island: 1 day
This active volcanic island is rich in minerals. It features yellow sulfur landcapes (above), mud baths, and small geisers. Definitely off the beaten track, it makes you feel like you’re a pioneer setting foot on another planet!
Dive and witness underwater volcanic activity. It is a great experience to see bubbles coming from the bottom. Go for a hike, too; the wildlife has adapted to the location and is therefore unique.
After the hike, a helicopter will take you back to the boat, anchored close to Maititi Island.
Great Barrier Island: 1 day
The yacht will join secluded Great Barrier Island. It’s a great place to go crayfish diving. You also cannot visit New Zealand without experiencing a traditional Maori Hangi, or Earth oven. The Maori people will host you for lunch and share their traditions. These events are always intense and high in emotions!
Bay of Islands – 2 days
The yacht will finally cruise north to the scenic Bay of Islands. We’ll schedule a dive at the famous Poor Knights Islands on the way. This spot reflects New Zealand’s many fish, colorful sponges and anemones, and great visibility. In the Bay of Islands itself, there’s one of the most famous dives in all of New Zealand, the wreck of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior. Sadly, it was sunk by French secret service agents in 1985. The visibility is usually very good, and the wreck is now home to a large number of fish. Of course, you can enjoy other outdoor activities, too, such as dolphin and bird watching, plus horseback riding. The area is stunning!
At the end of the cruise, fly back to Auckland from the small town of Paihia, or cruise back aboard the yacht.