The slideshow ‘tells the story’ of New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park with a portfolio of photos by Peter Howard from a visit in January 2018. It starts at the excellent park visitor centre in Whakapapa village, where there are a number of exhibits to explain the important values of the site, as well as the threats and management challenges and Maori traditional beliefs and association with the area. The next photos in the series shows the rainforest around Lake Rotopounamu, an outlying area to the north of the main volcano complex where special efforts are being made to protect and restore the unique ecosystem by exterminating introduced pests – such as stoats, rats and possums – and allow the native fauna to recover, through re-introductions where necessary. Here, amongst the lush vegetation of tree ferns and moss-draped rainforest trees around the lake shore, visitors can see some of the unique fauna, including the endemic North Island Robin and Kaka (parrot). The next few photos show the beautiful Tawhai Falls, set in a small gorge of southern beech (Nothofagus) forest.
The most popular trek at Tongariro National Park is the renowned Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a full-day hike through some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery. Some of the highlights of this spectacular trek are shown, starting at the Mangatepopo road head and following the boardwalk through the alpine meadows and past a soda spring to climb over the scree slopes into the South Crater with the perfect cone of Mount Ngauruhoe as a backdrop. The path ascends to 1,886m on the rim of the stunning Red Crater, before descending across a loose volcanic scree slope to the beautiful Emerald Lakes with their steaming vents and far-reaching views. Further on the trek passes the Blue Lake and windes its way past the sacred Ngati Tuwharetoa site at Ketetahi hot springs (access prohibited) in a zig-zag of paths descending steeply to the road-head more than 1,000m below at Ketetahi.
The next part of the slideshow illustrates the high alpine area of Mount Ruapehu, the park’s highest peak (2,797m), and one of New Zealand’s most popular ski fields. Two chair lifts take visitors to an elevation of 2020m, from where trekkers can climb onto the Skyline Ridge through glaciated valleys for spectacular views – if the weather is good enough! The last part of the slideshow features the half-day trek to the Taranaki Falls and Tama Lakes.