Split into two main islands, New Zealand’s enchanting landscapes have long attracted travelers eager to experience its world-class outdoor activities. Popular itineraries include horseback rides through pristine emerald countryside, downhill skiing, surfing, and multi-day ‘Great Walks’ through prehistoric rainforests and volcanic terrain. Adrenaline-inducing activities include bungee jumping in Queenstown - the ‘adventure capital of the world’ - or ‘black-water rafting’ through dark underground caves. Arriving about 800 years ago from eastern Polynesia, the Maori are New Zealand’s first known human settlers, with strong cultural traditions that are part of New Zealand’s vibrant diversity today. Evolution on the isolated islands presents unique flora and fauna including the ancient endemic tuatara reptile, the national native kiwi bird, and the rare yellow-eyed penguin. Diverse marine life also teems off the many white sand beaches; the endemic Maui’s dolphin is the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin subspecies and Kaikoura is one of the few places on earth where sperm whales can be spotted year-round. Over 30% of the country is managed by the Department of Conservation through a protected network, including 13 national parks that showcase the diverse and ever-captivating vistas that keep intrepid travelers returning to this natural wonderland.
Increasing focus is being placed on sustainability initiatives to reinforce New Zealand’s marketing as a ‘100% Pure' green destination. In 2017 the independent Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) launched a New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment program to recruit businesses to adhere to 14 responsible pillars, ranging from carbon reduction to community engagement, designed to supplement ambitious tourism growth goals set forth for 2025. New Zealand’s Ministry of Tourism also manages a Qualmark accreditation system that issues Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards to businesses with strong sustainability practices and certifies accommodations with a star system.
Before the arrival of humans, an estimated 80% of the land was covered in forest. Since then, almost half of the country's vertebrate species have become extinct, including at least 51 birds, three frogs, three lizards, one freshwater fish and one bat. Many seabirds breed in New Zealand, a third of them unique to the country. Others species are endangered or have had their habitats severely reduced; however, New Zealand conservationists have pioneered several methods to help threatened wildlife recover, including island sanctuaries, pest control, wildlife translocation, fostering, and ecological restoration of islands and other selected areas.Why the Tiger Ranking?