Our Shrinking World
I don’t have to tell you that the world is shrinking. Since the Industrial Revolution, on through the invention and
perfection of the airplane, it’s gotten easier and easier to travel–and now to communicate–the world over. Trips that once took weeks or months now take mere hours, and communication is most often instantaneous, even a world away.
In such times, many travelers bemoan the loss of truly isolated getaways. Even places that advertise themselves as such are still rife with the hallmarks of civilization. Supposedly isolated spots have cell phone towers, manufacturing plants, and major ports. There are few places left that are truly far away from everything.
The Chathams are one such place.
Island Paradise – Brought to You by Mother Nature
Too small for manufacturing or major telecommunications, or even for a proper airport, the Chathams are truly hard to get to. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1980s that there was even a paved airstrip on the island. Most freight arrives by propeller planes or by ship–but even these only arrive a few days out of the week. Only two of the islands are large enough to support human habitation, and these humans survive almost entirely on fishing and crayfishing. Tourism accounts for a small part of the island’s economy, but the island is so small that it can accommodate only a few hundred tourists at most.
The vast majority of these people are adventure tourists. They go to the island–about four hundred miles off of our coast–to enjoy the largely pristine landscapes and relative seclusion that the island offers.
These adventure tourists come to talk walks through the island’s lush, volcanic interior, featuring stark landscapes and green expanses. The islands emerged from the sea 4 million years ago, and the flora and fauna that call this place their home have had plenty of time to evolve unique adaptations to the island’s chilly, humid climate. You can see plants and animals here that literally do not exist anywhere else on earth. Strangely enough, the island features peat bogs, wet lowlands, and pastoral fields right alongside towering volcanic cliffs. And you’re never far from the ocean.
If you do turn towards the ocean, you’ll find yourself in yet another hotbed of strange and wonderful wildlife. The seabirds that congregate here are largely undisturbed, so as a tourist you can see them in their natural habitat (it’s rather different than watching pigeons in a big city). The island features a seal colony, of ‘fur seals’ that were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century. The population has rebounded, however, and today Chatham Island is one of the few places on earth where you can still go to see them.
Birds, too, form an important part of the island’s ecology. Ornithologists know the Chathams as the home of the famous Black Robin, and the Buff Weka, introduced to the islands in the early part of the 20th century, form a major part of the island culture–the islanders eat them.
Fishing is perhaps the most popular activity on the island, accounting for a large portion of the tourist activity, as well as the island’s largest export. As we from New Zealand will tell you, Chatham crayfish are by far the best in the world.
But if you’re looking for a little more danger in your adventure, try shark cage diving–literally swim with the sharks from the safety of your cage.
The Chatham Islands are not only a pristine reserve of wildlife and an agricultural lifestyle–they’re likely to remain that way for a long time to come. Too small for major development, rest assured that you’ll be able to visit these islands for many years in the future, and still experience them as they are today.