Snuggled under a rug, sat on my sofa, it’s hard to imagine that this time last week I was camping under the stars, laughing in waterfalls and handstand’ing on volcanic sand dunes on the beautiful North Island of New Zealand (Te Ika-a-Māui).
Bags unpacked, the comforting smell of sun-cream-drenched skin washed away, it almost feels like last week never happened, my countdown to Auckland now over, a 2 year trip in the making sped by over the course of 14 glorious days.
Like most, even though I had yet to visit New Zealand, I was familiar with its reputation. A land of untampered beauty, of a lush, green, volcanic interior framed by a paradise-like coastline; abundant with breathtaking views and unpopulated wilderness. And again, like most people, I associated all of this imagery with the South Island (Te Waipounamu). Maybe I’d bought in to the South Island highlights reel that is the Lord Of The Rings movies, or maybe I’ve been happy to just be told that the South Island is ‘the beautiful island’, but whatever the reason, I still wasn’t expecting the beauty that I was met with when I arrived in Auckland.
Staying just outside of the city in a place called Titirangi, my camping experience in ‘the bush’ meant that I was first struck by how tropical the forest is in the north. And how noisy! Again, my preconceptions had led me to imagine that the NZ flora wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the UK’s. Maybe just stuck on the side of the volcano. Instead, sprawling ferns, Jurassic looking trees and tropical flowers crowded the houses, a thriving rainforest set to the soundtrack of noisy cicadas.
The last time I’d been in a similar landscape was in Cairns, Australia. Then my highlight had been swimming in the Milla Milla waterfall and, like then, one of the standout moments of my NZ trip was the chance to wild swim in one of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park’s, showstoppers – Fairy Falls.
Exploring Fairy Falls
Set 20 minutes down a picturesque forest trail, you can hear the water echoing in the valley long before you can see it. Then, around a corner and out of the green emerge a series of small falls, white water cascading down moss covered grey stone.
Another surprise New Zealand had in store for me was the humidity. The tropical feeling of the Auckland area was only further supported by the oppressive, muggy heat that didn’t seem to falter throughout the day. As we walked further in to the Waitakere Regional Park, the heat from our bodies seemed unable to escape us and only increased further as the canopy closed in above us, trapping the heat in our tropical surroundings. Needless to say, by the time we arrived at the waterfalls, it would have been impossible to keep us from stripping down to our swimmers and jumping in to the cooling water.
Fairy Falls is made up of a succession of waterfalls, each one feeding in to the next. Starting smaller at the top and gathering in height and water volume from one fall to the next, each waterfall is unique and finish in a spectacular fashion with the largest and most dramatic waterfall at the bottom. Despite the impressive size of the last drop, it was the mid-range falls in the middle that had more of a lure for a swim so, climbing back up the hill we found a deep and clear pool to splash around in before heading back in to the stifling forest heat.
Sadly my time in New Zealand was short but incredibly sweet; spent with loved friends under brilliant blue skies. The small amount of New Zealand that my short time allowed for me to see, was a tantalising teaser for further trips to come. This time, due to rugby commitments the Kiwi was unable to accompany me but I look forward to exploring more that this little country has to offer, with him by my side, and getting to know the place that seems so foreign and yet so familiar, with its ties now connected to so many of my loved ones.
Have you got any advice of where we should go next in New Zealand? Or any more suggestions for wild swimming worldwide? If so, drop us a comment below or start a conversation over social media! We’d love to hear from you!
If you like wild swimming then why not check out our guide to Wineglass Bay, Australia? Or, if you’d prefer something closer to home, then why not take a look at our guide to the crystal blue waters of Porthgwarra, Cornwall?