Thursday, May 19, 2022

Fiordland National Park in New Zealand


    Fiordland National Park occupies the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. It is by far the largest of the 13 national parks in New Zealand, with an area of 12,607 square kilometres (4,868 sq mi), and a major part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. The park is administered by the Department of Conservation.

Fiordland National Park contains the majority of the largest area of unmodified vegetation in New Zealand. The dense forests, often clinging to steep valley sides, comprise mostly silver beech and mountain beech, but also podocarps. A large variety of shrubs and ferns, often dominated by crown fern, make up a rich understory of plants, with the forest floor covered in mosses and liverworts. The abundant vegetation is supported by the high rainfall, but continues to be damaged by introduced species such as red deer and possum.

The park is also a significant refuge for many threatened native animals, ranging from dolphins and bats to reptiles, insects, and birds. Among the birds are several endangered species endemic to New Zealand such as the takahē, mōhua (yellowhead), and the critically endangered kakapo, the only flightless parrot in the world. The vulnerable Fiordland crested penguin and southern brown kiwi are also almost exclusively found within the park.

The special nature of the Fiordland area for conservation was recognised in the late 1890s by Richard Henry, pioneering the transfer of threatened species such as kakapo and kiwi to islands in Dusky Sound. Conservation work and management of endangered species continues via a number of programmes by the Department of Conservation. The Takahē Recovery Programme ensures the survival of the last wild population of takahē. This unique bird, the largest living member of the rail family, was once thought to be extinct. After rediscovery of the takahē in the Murchison Mountains in 1948, a special area of 500 square kilometres (190 sq mi) was set aside in Fiordland National Park for its conservation, with the population reaching a milestone of 300 birds in 2016. Although the National Park comprises 15% of New Zealand's conservation estate, it receives less than 1% of the Department of Conservation's pest-control budget.

Fiordland National Park is the most popular national park in New Zealand for international visitors. Well over half a million people visit the national park every year, however, the visitor numbers are almost exclusively concentrated in the park's north-eastern corridor from Te Anau to Milford Sound.

Most tourists are attracted to the easily accessible areas of the national park such as Milford Sound, where boat tours of the fiord and kayaking are the most popular activities. Some boat tour packages include a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory. Along the Milford Road from Te Anau there are also camping grounds and several short walks, some of which are even accessible by wheelchair. Popular stopping points along the road are at the Mirror Lakes, the Homer Pass area immediately to the east of the tunnel, and The Chasm.

Te Anau, situated on the shore of Lake Te Anau, is the closest town to the national park and provides many accommodation options as well as all the amenities expected of a small town. The only other settlement close to the park is the much smaller Manapouri.

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