Oh man, did we love Abel Tasman National Park. It’s definitely on our list of places to revisit on our future trip back to NZ.
We wanted to do a small hike, but with the closing of one of the major highways between Nelson and Kaikoura – what should have been a 3 hour drive was going to be 6-7. This meant that we didn’t have much time – unfortunately – so we had to do what we could. We started in Marahau (since the roads don’t really let you in much farther in than that). Here you can either pick up your kayak or take a water taxi to one of the many stops along the coast of the park. From there you can camp and hike anywhere you want. It’s friggin’ cool! We opted for a taxi ride that took us all along the coast of the park and we got a very thorough history lesson!
The park was founded by author Pérrine Moncrief who wanted to preserve part of New Zealand’s beautiful landscape. The problem at the time was: World War II was sort of happening so the NZ government wasn’t really interested in focusing its efforts and resources on a park. Moncrief then went to the Netherland Government and asked for their help, in return – they would name the park after Abel Tasman, the first European to set eyes on New Zealand (but not set foot – more on that later). Did I mentioned that Abel Tasman was also Dutch? Needless to say, the Netherlands were on board with this idea and on December 18, 1942 – on the 300th anniversary of Abel Tasman’s arrival to New Zealand – the national park opened.
Now that the park is open – what is their aim? Their current aim is to get rid of all of the non native plants and wildlife so that on the 400th Anniversary of Abel Tasman’s discovery (so in the year 2042), the park will be exactly as it was when Tasman first saw this beautiful place. Side note: to give you an idea of what NZ was like in Tasman’s time – they had to anchor their ship several kilometers away from shore because the bird population was so loud, they couldn’t sleep at night!
So while this is a noble effort from the park – of course it is easier said than done. One of the first things they are trying to do is kill all of the non-native trees. They have come up with a chemical compound that, once injected, will slowly kill the tree from the inside so that when it finally falls – its seeds won’t spread thus ending the plants line right there. I will admit, it was quite unnerving to see so many dead trees as our boat went passed.
The next thing they are trying to do is increase the population of the native wildlife. This is one of the hardest goals for New Zealand since the European settlers brought possums and stoats and introduced them into nature. These pests have since decimated entire specieses of birds in New Zealand and while they have taken the population down – it’s still an uphill battle.
So I’m sure you’re now wondering about Abel Tasman himself – why did he never set foot in New Zealand? Well, it’s a pretty funny story.
Tasman and his crew were just leaving Tasmania and were trying to head north – instead the wind decided that they should head east. They were sailing for months without a clue as to where they were going until they came acrossed the west coast of the South Island. They were so excited they cheered and celebrated. Unfortunately, the Maoris saw this strange ship and assumed they were under attack. The Maori chief then recommended that they should wait – they should blow their war horn and if these strangers responded, then they meant war. So the Maoris sounded their horns and the Dutch grew even more excited that there were people so they also tooted their own horns in celebration. Big mistake. But fortunately, the Maori chief recommended that they go out on their Wakas (canoes) and perform the Haka (see my post from Te Puia to see a real Haka). So about 200 Maori warriors got into their Wakas and sailed out to the ship and performed. The Dutch had no freaking clue what the Maoris were doing – they assumed it was some kind of welcome dance, so they roared in response. Apparently, to the Maoris this meant war. Unfortunately for the Dutch, they thought they were being welcomed. Tasman sent four of his men to the Maori and they were immediately killed. Abel took one look at the murder, pulled up anchor, and sailed away as fast as his ship would allow.
It’s hard not too fall in love with this place. I mean look at these photos?! We were only here for a few hours and it was enough to whet our appetites. Next time, we plan on hikes and maybe even a little bit of camping.
What about you? Have you been the Abel Tasman National Park? What were your experiences? If not, what other national parks are you a fan of?
Bis nächste Woche!
Until then, here are some more photos from our boat ride!