During my Junior year of university, I had the chance to spend a semester in a small town on the South Island of New Zealand. For four months I lived in a retired convent beneath the mountain of this blog’s cover photo, where I spent most of my weekends diving for abalone, hiking to find baby seals, or watching for the sperm whales and albatross that flourished around Kaikoura’s deep underwater canyon. New Zealand provided the ultimate outdoor playground, continually surprising me with its vast unearthly landscapes, overpowering mountains, and the bizarre extravagance of its wildlife. It was the first country that taught me to consciously love a space.
In fall of 2016 I went back to new Zealand and spent three weeks perfecting the art of hitchhiking with my sister Michelle, then headed to Australia. While living in Port Douglas, Queensland for the next couple months, I learned the overwhelming awe of life found on the Great Barrier Reef, walked barefoot through the rainforest, made friends with tree frogs, and learned to navigate beaches brimming with jellies and crocodiles. I learned a different kind of domesticity, one that involved a four-wheel drive and two boats in the driveway and clouds of bats overhead at sunset. And all of this before even entering the rainforest.
This region of the world is truly unique in terms of the landscapes and the wildlife it supports. Biological diversity on the Great Barrier Reef is unparalleled, and the rain forests of Papau New Guinea host species seen nowhere else on earth. New Zealand has been described as the closest a biologist can come to visiting life on another planet. And that’s not even mentioning the mountains and seascapes where those creatures make their homes, and the towns and cities of people who fashion these places into a life.
And all of this is there, ripe for the exploring.
Know any places in this region that I absolutely have to visit in the future? Comment below!