New Zealand’s sublime landscapes, unspoilt nature, unique culture and picturesque outdoors make it a perfect destination for all kinds of travellers, but especially those with a penchant for the natural world. While its borders are still closed, we’re dreaming of an idyllic vacation in the island nation in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later). Below are some notable, celebrated sounds that you’ll find in the Land of the Long White Cloud. While there’s nothing quite like listening to them up close, we hope this piece will help inspire your future travels to the country.
With its lush nature and spectacular landscapes, it’s no wonder New Zealand has a thriving population of wildlife. A few species of birds are native to the island country – which makes the place a paradise for bird watchers – such as the famous flightless kiwi, the warbling tui, the olive bellbird (korimako), the energetic fantail (piwakawaka) and the large wood pigeon (kereru). A wander into any of New Zealand’s native forests will allow you to immerse yourself deeply in melodious birdsong – just stand still and close your eyes.
Once considered a war dance, the haka of today is a ceremonial dance or challenge in Māori culture that’s performed by a group, typically with vigorous movements, slapping of the chest and thighs and rhythmic stamping of the feet. A symbol of community and strength, it is usually performed to welcome distinguished guests or to acknowledge important occasions, such as sporting events, weddings or funerals. The men’s national rugby union team the All Blacks, for instance, performs a haka at the start of each rugby game. Many young Māori people perform in kapa haka groups, which run local and national competitions. The nation-wide Māori performing arts competition, Te Matatini, takes place every two years.
Listen: Authentic Maori haka performed by male warriors
3. Gushing water
New Zealand is home to several magnificent fast-flowing rapids, making the latter prime locations for adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting. The Tongariro River boasts a Grade 3 (intermediate with with irregular waves that will crash over the bow) rafting adventure, with over 60 rapids over a 14km journey. Along the way as you splash, bounce off boulders and careen on the water, you get to learn about the native flora and fauna of the area and the stories behind each rapid. The Mohaka River is another popular destination that offers trips ranging from Grade 2 to 5 difficulty. The journey will take you through some spectacular scenery, including the likes of narrow river gorges, towering canyons, waterfalls and tunnels – making it a classic New Zealand experience.
Listen: The sound of river streams
4. Gentle streams
If the sound of gently flowing waters is more your thing, New Zealand has that covered, too. Consider Fiordland; located in the southwestern part of the South Island and carved by glaciers over 100,000 years, it is one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of New Zealand. Fiordland National Park has three of New Zealand’s “great walks”– the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn Tracks. Milford Track, which leads to the stunning Milford Sound, is arguably New Zealand’s most famous walk. The fairly challenging hike is for experienced hikers only and will take about four days. Starting at Lake Te Anau, it takes you some 53 kilometres through breathtaking scenery like suspension bridges, mountains, mirror-like lakes and enormous valleys right up to the Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. The pristine Milford Sound, located within a steep and narrow valley with crystal clear waters, is your reward at the end of the trip.
5. Taonga Puoro
These are the traditional musical instruments of the Māori people and had served many purposes in the past, including as a call to arms in warfare; to warn of imminent danger; to sound the dawning of a new day; and to communicate with Māori gods. There are various types of instruments, such as flutes, gourds, wood and shell trumpets, and percussive ones like bullroarers that are struck, shaken, tapped or blown into – all of which produce enchanting, ethereal sounds that allow you to immerse yourself in the magical Māori culture.
Listen: Delicate orchestra with haunting Taonga Puora woodwind and percussion
6. Sheep bleating
New Zealand has a lot of sheep – more than 26 million, to be exact. Sheep farming was once the country’s most important agricultural industry, but it has since been overtaken by dairy farming. Although the number of sheep in the country has been declining over the past decade, New Zealand still ranks high in terms of its sheep to people ratio (over five sheep for every person based on most recent figures). Indulge in a true New Zealand experience by touring sheep farms and observing sheep-shearing shows.
7. Bubbling mud pools
Located within the Pacific Rim of Fire, Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland known for its bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs – all of which offer some thoroughly unique sound therapy for your ears. The dancing mud pots are a tourist attraction in their own right – many visit to get a glimpse of the thick liquid plopping and dancing about energetically as it splutters clay and ash to its surrounds.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.