Here are 20 interesting facts about the magnificent New Zealand, with links to the adventures and further information about this country’s fascinating mountains.
1. Maori, originating from Polynesia, were the first settlers on New Zealand. Today, they make approximately 15% of the national population. Their language is still spoken by about a 5th of the Maori people, but many New Zealanders regularly use Maori words in everyday speech.
2. The original Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, but the origin of the word is not certain. The common translation is “the land of the long white cloud”.
3. Queen Elizabeth II is also the Queen of New Zealand. Crown in Right or the Queen in Right of New Zealand is a constitutional system of the government in which a monarch is the sovereign and the Head of State. The Queen is represented in New Zealand by the Governor-General .
4. New Zealand is one of only three countries in the world which have two national Anthems – God Save the Queen and God defend New Zealand.
5. Wellington, the Capital city of New Zealand, is the southernmost capital city in the world.
6. New Zealand is the first country, or more precisely Gisborne, is the first city in the world to greet each new day.
7. Sign language is one of 3 official languages in New Zealand. Other two are English and Maori.
8. Sir Edmund Hillary, born in Auckland, was the first person to reach the top of Mount Everest . He was also the first man to drive overland to South Pole, which he did in a specially adapted Ferguson tractor. His face is on the New Zealand $5 bill.
9. The first commercial bungee jump was performed in Queenstown by AJ Hackett in 1988. He was inspired by the traditional bungee jumping performed by Vanuatu men, who jump with only tree vines tied to their feet.
10. The Southern Alps , called Kā Tiritiri o te Moana in Maori, stretch for 500km and cover almost 60% of the South Island. The tallest peak is Aoraki/Mount Cook which stands at 3.724 m (12.218 ft). It was named by Captain James Cook. The South Island has 23 official peaks over 3000 m.
11. New Zealand has massive glaciers, such as Hooker Glacier, Tasman Glacier, Murchinson Glacier and Mueller Glacier. 8 of the 12 largest ones lie within the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
12. The clearest lake in the world is Nelson’s Blue Lake. Visibility in the lake is up to 80 meters deep.
13. Lake Taupo was the source of the largest volcanic eruption in the world in recent geological times, around 1800 years ago.
14. New Zealand is famous for its adventure tourism. One of the main attractions is the Waitomo Cave System. Glowworms, tiny creatures unique to New Zealand, cover the cave roofs and radiate luminescent light. Tourists can experience this “starry sky” on a boat ride, called Black water rafting, on the river which passes through the cave – its name, Waitomo, literally means “water passing through a hole” in Maori language.
15. New Zealand offers perfect settings for all different types of rock climbing. Geologically, it’s very diverse so you can even choose the type of rock to climb. Volcanic regions on the north have ignimbrite and ryolite, which offer a unique pocketed style of climbing. Granite and gneiss on the west coast of the South island are the best for route climbing. Limestone here is relatively young so it’s usually too soft for climbing, but you can find here and there compact grey stone, perfect for sport climbing.
16. Kiwi is a frequently used word in New Zealand. It is of course a kiwifruit, but is also the smallest flightless bird in the world and is native to New Zealand. It’s also a national symbol of New Zealand. Kiwi is also used internationally as a demonym for New Zealanders and it’s a name for New Zealand Dollar in financial markets.
17. As opposed to Australia, New Zealand doesn’t have any poisonous or dangerous animals, so people actually have no natural enemies. There are no land snakes, but they do have a carnivorous giant albino snail!
18. The Kea is the only alpine parrot in the world. This notorious “clown of the mountains” is famous for stealing from the tourists’ backpacks. It especially likes to eat rubber.
19. New Zealand is of course famous for the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy. Every scene but one was filmed in New Zealand, and it pumped around $200 million into the country’s economy. They even appointed the Minister for Lord of the Rings and it’s the only country in the world to have a National Wizard!
20. Haka is a traditional Maori war dance. It is performed by a group and involves stumping the feet, slapping the hands to the body and shouting rhythmically, accompanied by several facial contortions involving the tongue and eyes. The haka is made more widely known in the world by the New Zealand sports teams performing it before every game. The most famous are the All Blacks, New Zealand national rugby union team.