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NZ Kermadec Islands Information

Northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, in the Pacific Ocean, sit the Kermadec Islands. There are four main islands in the cluster, only one of which, Raoul, is inhabited. The islands were named after French Captain Jean Michel Houn de Kermedec who came upon the area in the 1790s. He found no inhabitants, although Polynesians reputedly settled the area in the 14th century. Although the islands have an actual population of 0, a permanent government meteorological station has been in place since 1937. The islands are considered to be the furthest reaches of New Zealand.

The volcanic island arc of which the Kermadec Islands are part have no native mammals, but do provide a home to large numbers of sea birds. European exploration introduced a variety of mammals to the fragile environment. Due to the overgrazing of sheep and the introduction of other European animals the subtropical forests of the Kermedec Islands were severely damaged. The millions of birds once living on the islands have been reduced to mere tens of thousands, as they served as prey from imported cats and rats. Macauley Island was almost completely deforested by the overgrazing of goats.

Since 1937, the Kermadec Islands have been under the protection of the department of Conservation. The extremely fragile islands are New Zealand’s largest marine reserve. Due to the fragile nature of the environment, there is almost no tourism on the islands. However, visits are possible. The hotel on Raoul was built to accommodate the government workers also accommodates any volunteers interested in environmental restoration, monitoring projects and, in general studying nature. A permit must be attained from the department of Conservation. The other Kermadec islands are unavailable for visiting except to those participating in scientific study of the area.

While it is tricky to visit the islands themselves, there are several cruises that go out to the remote region, offering a truly unique and spectacular trip around the islands. Travelers can either gaze at the passing islands wildlife from the decks while listening to an informative staff, or go diving, and explore the reefs of the Kermadec Islands from beneath the water. The tours also boast views of dolphin and whale pods for the pleasure of their guests.

Most tours do land on Raoul Island for a time, allowing visitors to explore the area. There are several walks and historic landmarks of interest, and of course, stunning scenery unlike anything else in the world. Macauley Island, the second largest island in the Kermadecs, is home to the red crowned Kermadec parakeet offers clear views of the endemic bird.

While expensive, visits to the islands are sure to prove unique and memorable. Although there are not many facilities available on the islands themselves, the cruise ships themselves range in luxury and provide many amenities as they sail around the distinct and fragile volcanic arc. Remote at it is, there are few things “nearby” the Kermadecs. However, one place of interest might be the Kingdom of Tonga, known for relaxed attitude and many of the same outdoors activities popular in all of New Zealand, including hiking, diving, kayaking and surfing.

NZ Kermadec Islands references

AccessNZ - The best authority on New Zealand local information - (2005 - 2006)