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Mahi For Conservation

Why we love this trip!

  • You are part of real conservation projects to help protects New Zealand's incredible nature
  • You gain access to places few visit such as Tarn Col and the beautiful Ballroom Overhang
  • We get to hang out with like-minded people who care for the environment and others
  • And we also have a chance to taste some of New Zealand's finest gin and wine along the way


Mahi in Maori means "work" and is a common word used in New Zealand for exactly that. On this one-of-a-kind trip, we will be doing Mahi for conservation, helping to protect a critically endangered bird, the Kakariki and we will be helping a depleted forested area by reintroducing native trees back into the landscape. Both projects are found in beautiful locations and as such, it won't be all Mahi. We will have a chance to explore these incredible landscapes and sample a few human creations along the way. By being part of this trek, you will be directly helping with the conservation efforts to protect the Kakariki and the reforestation of the Punakaiki.

Who is this trip for?

Active travelers who want to be involved in real conservation work.

If you love switching off from the modern world and staying in remote mountain cabins.

Trekkers who are used to, and enjoy, carrying their own pack (total weight 10-13kg) for a few days and some food provisions for the group.

If you'd prefer a private group with family or friends, don't hesitate to contact us to discuss.


Be part of two real conservation efforts to protect the Kakariki and to reintroduce native tree species back to the landscape. All the while, you will be exploring New Zealand's backcountry and learning about life in this incredible country.

New Zealand is a natural wonder unlike anywhere else on the planet. Before human habitation (which has been only a recent occurrence), New Zealand's ecosystem was perfectly balanced, but overhunting and then the introduction of European species has now placed several endemic species onto the critically endangered list. Deforestation and plantations have also threatened the very foundation of this precious ecosystem.

However, the Department of Conservation has plans to turn this around and you will be part of that plan. In the Arthur's Pass National Park we will be working with the DOC (Department of Conservation) to help the critically endangered Kakariki Karaka. This bird is down to between 100 and 300 individuals. Its main threats are stoats, rats, and ferrets. Specially designed traps are set throughout the National park to eliminate these threats. We will accompany trained trappers to help locate and set these traps. For more information about the Kakariki Karaka click here.

From Arthur's Pass, we head to the coastal area of Punakaiki, where we will help Conservation Volunteers New Zealand rehabilitate the Barrytown Flats which will provide a forest corridor for fauna from the sea to the mountains. 

It won't be all Mahi and no play. We will have a chance to explore these incredible landscapes and maybe have a tasting of some locally produced gin and wine as we head back to Christchurch.

This is a unique conservation trek, balancing conservation with adventure in one of the world's most beautiful countries, New Zealand.


Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch (D)
Day 2: Depart Christchurch –Kura Tawhiti -Hike to Hawdon hut (B, L, D)
Day 3: Tarn Col Predator Control and hike (B, L, D)
Day 4: Hawdon hut – Arthurs Pass - Punakaiki (B, L, D)
Day 5: Habitat restoration Mahi at Bullock creek and coastal exploring (B, L, D)
Day 6: Morning Mahi and overnight hike into the Ballroom Overhang (B, L, D)
Day 7: Explore secret canyons and caves – Reefton Distillery tour (B, L, D)
Day 8: Head back toward Christchurch with a couple of excellent side trips (B,L)
Day 9: Homeward bound. (B)

Guides and Safety
An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. The guide will ensure that your trip is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun, and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.


Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch.

Day 2 Depart Christchurch –Kura Tawhiti -Hike to Hawdon hut 3 hours hiking /9 km

After meeting your guide at your group accommodation, we drive across the patchwork like Canterbury Plains and into the foothills of the Southern Alps. The imposing limestone rock outcrops of Kura Tawhiti Castle Hill are too amazing to just drive past so we stop and take a stroll amongst the crags and learn about the unique cultural and geological history of this area. We take a picnic lunch on the shores of Moana Rua where we sort our gear and pack for the next 2 days and nights based at the Hawdon Hut in Arthurs Pass National Park. The hike into the hut crosses the Hawdon river many times and weaves in and out of beautiful Beech forest and across tussock-clad river terraces taking us deeper into the Southern Alps. The Hawdon Valley is part of a large predator control area, where traplines have been established to control rodents and mustelids (such as stoats, rats, and weasels) which prey on critically endangered native bird species such as Kiwi, Mohua, Kea, and Orange Fronted Kakariki. We check some of these traps on the way in and reset with fresh lures as required. The spacious and modern Hawdon hut perches on a clearing with fine views of the river and surrounding mountains. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Day 3 Tarn Col Predator Control and hike 4- 8 hours hiking/6-9 kms

Today is a day of checking traps on the spectacular trail to Walker Pass and Tarn Col. 38 traps are spread along this trail to catch rodents and mustelids. We will carry fresh eggs and a dry lure to rebait the traps after checking. This trap line will take us through beech, forest past waterfalls into an alpine landscape that follows a cascading stream up to Tarn Col. This idyllic spot looks down onto the spectacular Tarahuna Pass, which is covered in house size boulders that fell from the aptly named Falling Mountain in the 1929 Arthurs pass earthquake. We take a well-earned lunch break after our morning of ‘mahi’ in this stunning location before descending the way we came and crossing back over Walker Pass to Hawdon Hut. Includes breakfast lunch and dinner.

Day 4 Hawdon hut – Arthurs Pass - Punakaiki 3 hours hiking/9 kms

We hike out of the valley this morning and drive through the Southern Alps at Arthurs Pass stopping on the way to check out the cavorting Keas that often congregate in the village. The Kea is the only true alpine parrot and is an incredibly intelligent and curious bird and guaranteed to entertain you with its antics. Kea are vulnerable to predation from rats and stoats and therefore benefit from all the predator control work carried out in Arthurs Pass. Our drive takes us over the Otira viaduct and down to lush rainforests of the West Coast. We drive along the wild and rugged coastline to Punakaiki where we stay at the Punakai Resort just a stone's throw from the crashing waves of the Tasman. Tonight we head down to the local pub for dinner. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 5 Habitat restoration Mahi at Bullock creek and coastal exploring

Today is our chance to get involved with the ongoing habitat restoration of Bullock Creek with a committed team of local people who have been working hard on this project for the last 18 months. The aim is to rewild this land which was cleared for mining and farming purposes over the last century, it is now part of Paparoa National Park. Our mahi here will either be the planting of eco-sourced natives or releasing around the newly planted trees. Limestone canyons and lush podocarp forests make this a stunning place to spend some time doing this valuable work. We will head back to our accommodation in the mid-afternoon in time for some exploring of the wild coast found near our accommodation. We scramble over headlands to explore hidden beaches, groves of nikau palms and sea caves. At the end of the day we return to our accommodation for hot showers and a hearty meal we cook together. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Day 6 Morning Mahi and overnight hike into the Ballroom Overhang 3 hours hiking/5kms

We spend the morning putting in some more Mahi at Bullock Creek. After lunch, we take a short hike on the Cave Creek Memorial Track/Kotihotiho. This track descends into a deep narrow chasm where the resurgence of Cave Creek is surrounded by moss-covered boulders and primeval rainforest. Later in the afternoon after packing our backpacks for an overnight hike we wander up the Fox River sometimes on a trail and sometimes following the riverbed itself. We eventually reach the Ballroom Overhang, a large fluviatile cave that makes an ideal camping site, set back from the river and sheltered by the overhang. We gather firewood and get a campfire going and enjoy a night camped out in this special location. Includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Day 7 Explore secret canyons and caves – Reefton Distillery tour 3 hours hiking/5kms

Before hiking out this morning we drop our packs and follow a stream up a pristine side canyon which is typical of the landscapes found in Paparoa National Park. A faint trail leads through tree ferns and moss-covered logs and boulders before arriving at a cave. The brave may want to take a swim here! We hike out the same way and then drive north along the coast before heading inland to the historic gold-mining town of Reefton. We learn about its storied past with an entertaining and interpretative tour of one of the town's more recent industries – a distillery. You may want to try the local gin “Little Biddy”, named after a Reefton legend who fossicked for gold in the same valleys that the native botanicals are now sourced for the distillery’s gins. For the final night of the tour we have treated ourselves to some luxury with an overnight stay at the Maruia Hot Springs, where you can lie back in natural mineral hot springs taking in the breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains, forest and river. Stay in well-appointed rooms adjacent to the pools and enjoy a gourmet dinner to celebrate the final night of this tour. Reminisce on some of the great hikes and feel the satisfaction that comes with doing some valuable conservation Mahi. Includes breakfast, lunch, and 5-course dinner.

Day 8 Head back toward Christchurch with a couple of excellent side trips

After a relaxing breakfast and maybe a coffee at one of the village cafes, we drive through the Victoria Range and over Lewis Pass. From Lewis Pass, we do one last hike which takes us through the gnarled mossy Beech forest up onto the Lewis Pass tops. Enjoy the views from the crest of the main divide of surrounding mountains studded with glistening mountain tarns (note there is an excellent natural hot spring resort nearby at Maruia if our bodies are too tired! After the hike (or soak) we continue on through the Lewis Pass reserve and on to the Waipara region home to some great vineyards. We visit the tasting room on the Black estate vineyard an organic and Biodynamic certified vineyard. We arrive back in Christchurch in the late afternoon. Includes breakfast and lunch.

Day 9 Head home


  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Meals – included as per the itinerary
  • All guided hikes and conservation activities
  • Reefton Distillery tour
  • All transfers


  • Beverages
  • Personal souvenirs
  • Meals not outlined in the itinerary
  • International Flights