Conservation is part of Real Journeys heritage and a cornerstone of our modern day business. We understand we are privileged to operate in this spectacular part of New Zealand and we take our responsibility to protect our natural heritage and preserve our environment seriously.
To honour our conservation commitments and philosophy, we work closely with both the Department of Conservation (DoC) and the local communities we operate in. We contribute significant funds and in-kind support towards a variety of projects that support habitats, recovering species and clean up initiatives.
In order to reduce our environmental footprint, we work to operate within best practice guidelines. This includes regular internal environmental audits and benchmarking reviews to identify areas for assessment and improvement. Real Journeys holds Qualmark Enviro Silver status and has been awarded the NZ Tourism Industry Association’s Conservation in Action Award.
Every year passengers contribute more than $50,000 to the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation via a $1 passenger levy on our Doubtful Sound operations.
Projects supported by the Leslie Hutchins Conservation Foundation include dolphin research, protection programmes for endangered birds, track and interpretation signage, outdoor education camps and wilding pine eradication.
Real Journeys is continuing its efforts to support important conservation projects. This year's "Birds of a Feather" Charity Ball will be held on 13 August 2016 at the Colonel's Homestead, Walter Peak and 100% of the proceeds of this event will go to DOC and its Dusky Sound Conservation & Restoration Project.
Real Journeys received special acknowledgment from DOC in Nov 2015 for its valuable contribution to the conservation of New Zealand's natural and historic heritage. The “Certificate of Appreciation” was awarded for three of Real Journeys Queenstown initiatives: Walter Peak Land Restoration Project , Kākāpō fundraising & awareness projects and Whio (blue duck) relocation support.
In Sep 2015 the first conservation-focussed joint cruise between Department of Conservation and Real Journeys was a resounding success and over $7,500 was raised for the Dusky Sound Conservation and Restoration project. As Conservation is an intrinsic part of Real Journeys heritage, this was a new way to help preserve and protect Dusky Sound. The expedition was a sell-out and work included trap checking, bird monitoring and track maintenance on Indian Island in Dusky Sound but passengers also enjoyed all the usual elements of a Discovery Expedition.
In Aug 2015 Real Journeys held a charity event at the Colonel's Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak, Queenstown. The "Birds of a Feather" Charity Ball was sold out and raised over $35,000 for Kakapo Recovery.
DoC's Conservation Services Manager, Deidre Vercoe says Kākāpō Recovery is thrilled with the outcome, “the support shown by Real Journeys and the people who attended the ball is humbling.” The 138 guests were treated to a special close up encounter with Ruapuke, a rare eighteen-month-old Kākāpō. Ms Vercoe says the funds will be put towards the anticipated bumper breeding season next summer. “If the spring is kind to us, it’s possible up to 30 chicks may hatch, adding to the current total population of 125 kakapo.”
In May 2014 Real Journeys partnered with the DoC's Kakapo Recovery Team to bring three precious Kakapo chicks to the Queenstown region for a public viewing.
With only 128 Kakapo left in the world the idea was to provide people with a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the chicks whilst at the same time raise the profile of the Kakapo Recovery Programme.
People lined-up down the street in Arrowtown waiting to see the chicks and thousands of dollars was raised for the programme.
As a successful applicant for the Real Journeys ‘Cruise-for-a-Cause’ initiative, the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust was able to sell tickets to a Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise in August 2015 and raise $15,000.
In the last twelve years, the number of penguin breeding pairs has almost halved on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou near Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust needed to find out why this was occurring on a predator-free island.
The Trust can now employ a researcher to find out why the numbers are decreasing near Stewart Island.
In June 2015 Real Journeys helped return a white-headed petrel to the ocean.
The unlikely visitor landed in Queenstown after being blown off course in a recent storm. The petrel was monitored at the Kiwi Birdlife Park for a week to build up its strength, then transferred to a Milford Sound Flightseeing plane for its journey to Fiordland.
The release was from the Milford Mariner vessel as it was cruising Milford Sound. Our Nature Cruise guests were treated to a glimpse of this seabird prior to its return to the southern ocean.
Real Journeys contributes approximately $10,000 per annum towards the Whio Blue Duck recovery programme undertaken by the Department of Conservation. Blue Duck/Whio numbers have been steadily declining in Fiordland over the last 30 years. Introduced stoats are a major cause in this decline as they prey on Whio.
The programme works through egg recovery, chick rearing and re-release to boost Whio populations in areas where there is stoat control.
In March 2015, three young whio (blue duck) were successfully transferred to Mt Aspiring National Park. The rare native ducklings were caught by DOC rangers near the Milford Track and flown by helicopter from Fiordland National Park (where Whio have been breeding successfully) to a valley close to the Routeburn Track.
This was just the first of what is hoped will be several Whio relocations, funded by Real Journeys.
In February 2015 Real Journeys embarked on a large scale restoration project at Walter Peak to ensure that the land continues to have an authentically New Zealand feel.
Almost 90 hectares of wilding Douglas Fir are being removed by logging or spraying in partnership with the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCCG) and Department of Conservation. A further 30 hectares of land will be cleared of invasive weeds such as broom, gorse and hawthorne.
The Walter Peak Land Restoration Project is a significant investment in conservation by Real Journeys and the move is strategically significant in the fight against the invasive wilding trees that are spreading across the region.
Pockets of native bush will be planted on the Von Hill Peninsula including Mountain and Red Beech, Kowhai, Cabbage Trees, Rata and Pittosporum, and the land will eventually include walking and bike trails.
In Milford Sound, employees check and maintain lines of stoat and rat traps and monitor local bird populations.
As required, we provide vessel and personnel support to coastal clean-ups around Fiordland. This is where one of our overnight boats acts as a floating base for accommodation, meals and logistics.
Real Journeys also provides logistical support for environmental researchers (transport etc) and subsidised travelfor children on educational trips and to the school hostel at Deep Cove.
In recent years we have also contributed significant funds to assist DoC to study the rare Stewart Island Harlequin Gecko and the Pekapeka/native bat.
We’ve also assisted with bird transfer programmes for the endangered Pateke/Brown Teal and funded pest eradication programmes on Stewart Island.
We aim to use the highest and best technology to minimise our carbon footprint when operating our experiences. Below are a few examples of the environmental initiatives we've undertaken: