Almost a decade after the original Avatar film, the highly anticipated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water is arriving in movie theatres this weekend – and initial reviews promise a breathtaking, visually-mind-blowing movie experience that will have you wishing you could move to Pandora.
It is thought that the awe-inspiring natural landscapes of Aotearoa may have inspired some of the magical scenes in the first – with unofficial comparisons drawn between the world’s oldest and largest Kauri tree, Tāne Mahuta, and Avatar’s Tree of Life; while the Waitomo cave glow worms could pass as New Zealand’s very own version of the Forest of Pandora lights.
With its strong connection to the film and so many other-worldly natural landscapes, wildlife, and experiences to discover, there’s no better place to visit than New Zealand if you’re seeking your own Avatar-inspired adventure.
Here’s some inspiration for making your own ‘Aotearoa-tar’ adventure a reality!
Embrace the way of water in New Zealand
Get into the spirit of Avatar: The Way of Water by experiencing Aotearoa’s incredible coastline, lakes and rivers with one of many water-based activities to discover. Just like Avatar, prepare to feel as if you’ve entered another world by diving deep underwater with a diving or snorkeling experience. Explore the best sub-tropical diving in the world at the Poor Knights Islands with Dive! Tutukaka, where you can view shipwrecks, caves, and plenty of marine animals. In Bluff, get your heart racing with a Shark Experience, where you’ll get to see a magnificent Great White up close from the safety of a cage.
For those who’d like to experience water without getting in, there’s an array of boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding experiences to pick from. Board a traditional Māori waka (canoe) and sail the Waikouaiti River with Karitāne Māori Tours near Dunedin, before enjoying tree planting and a guided Māori pa experience; tick off one of New Zealand’s most iconic experiences with a Cruise Milford tour of the spectacular Milford Sound; or paddleboard rugged Raglan’s unique limestone coastline with Raglan Kayak & Paddleboard. Marine wildlife lovers will be amazed by a Dive Tatapouri Reef Ecology Tour with Wild Stingrays in Tairāwhiti Gisborne. This Māori owned company allows you to head out at low tide and observe stingrays, eagle rays and other water creatures – you might even get to stroke one!
Meet Aotearoa’s ‘fantasy’ creatures
Just like Avatar has its own animals, from the Direhorse to the Viperwolf – New Zealand has its own unique fauna that could be from a fantasy world, and can’t be found anywhere else.
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, also located in James Cameron’s hometown of Wairarapa, allows you to get up close and personal with cheeky forest-dwelling kākā parrots, friendly takahē (which were presumed extinct for almost 50 years), giant eels, and of course, the iconic kiwi in their very own nocturnal house.
In Akaroa, take a tour with Pohatu Penguins for a not-to-be-missed opportunity to learn about penguins, wētā (an incredibly unique invertebrate that has been around since the dinosaurs) and other native wildlife – and you’ll even get the chance to take a selfie with one of the friendly pet sheep for a true Kiwi experience! Perhaps the most intriguing creature of them all is the tuatara, a rare reptile found only in New Zealand. This elusive animal is the last of a species that lived in the age of the dinosaurs, and can live for up to 100 years! While almost impossible to spot in the wild, you can touch this ‘living fossil’ with a Close Encounter Tour at EcoWorld Aquarium & Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Picton.
It’s easy to see why Wellington’s Wētā Digital won an Academy Award® for Visual Effects for the first Avatar film, along with six Visual Effects Society awards – with the team developing a new generation of visual-effects techniques for the film, and subsequently changing the game when it came to 3D film and visual effects. Experience movie-magic first-hand by going behind the scenes to discover the props, costumes, and creatures of Avatar and other iconic films – including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit – at Wētā Workshop with a Wētā Workshop Experience. You may even get to see a real-life artist at work!
Now what are you waiting for? Catch your next flight to New Zealand and experience the mesmerizing home ground of Avatar.