With only four million people living relaxed lifestyles among its natural wonders, the country is by no means crowded and is one of the cleanest places on the planet.
But this paradise nation is riddled with secrets; some of the most deadly secrets on Earth. Beneath its cloak of beauty New Zealand isn’t as peaceful as it looks: a hotbed of bubbling magma, colliding fault lines and scalding geysers lie below its spectacular scenery, and could strike in fury at any moment.
Thousands of adventure-hungry skiers and adrenaline-pumped climbers flock to New Zealand’s mountains each year, but these slopes threaten the visitors with much more than a broken leg; they could blast hundreds of tonnes of poisonous ash and boiling water into the air at any time.
This furious volcanic temper can also create an unstoppable avalanche of scorching water thrown from the crater lakes and masses of debris that races down the mountain sucking up anything and anyone in its path ? and no-one knows when the next explosion will occur.
Much of New Zealand’s North Island is scarred by once raging volcanoes including, most worryingly, the country’s largest city, home to a third of its inhabitants, Auckland.
One of Auckland’s most popular picnic spots was formed millions of years ago when a giant ball of magma ejected a bubble that melted through the earth’s crust and solidified to form Mt Eden. The ball of magma still boils just 60 miles under the ground and another giant bubble could again burst through the crust anywhere in the city without warning.
Another popular tourist attraction in the middle of Auckland’s harbour waters is Rangitoto, a volcano that erupted for ten long years. Now covered in native bush and offering spectacular views, few people realise as they explore the island that another eruption may yet be brewing under Rangitoto’s tranquil disguise.
A few hundred kilometres away lies another hot spot in the Earth’s crust. Only a thin layer of crust separates Rotorua’s peaceful suburbs from the planetary furnace below. Boiling water erupts from the sidewalk, powerful, scorching geysers burst into the air and mud boils as the awesome forces beneath the ground collide. Hydrochloric acid pools fill an inferno crater; if you were lured to swim in the inviting calm waters the acid would peel off your skin in seconds.
New Zealand is often called the Shakey Isles, not surprising when it experiences up to 200 earthquakes each year. Napier, a town on the north east coast of the North Island, is well known for its 1930s art deco buildings, but few people realise this is a town that was totally ripped apart when a major earthquake tore through the streets in 1931. This is not something the residents will ever want to experience again, but it’s virtually certain they will, with little warning.