Pukekura Park | New Plymouth, New Zealand

Over the years travelling has taught me a few important lessons; I will always pack more than I end up needing, the journey is usually just as remarkable as the destination, and never, ever pass up the chance to spend a few hours in a local botanical garden.

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth, on the west coast of the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s northern island, is a lush jungle of foliage and water. I visited on a quiet Saturday morning in April, and enjoyed wandering the paths as they looped around lakes, past a waterfall, and across the beautiful red Poet’s Bridge, which dates back to 1884.

In some sections of the park, it is easy to forget that one is actually in a bustling small city; the size of the trees and depth of the fern-filled groves were captivating and invited leisurely exploration.

Emerging from a trail through one of these dense forests, a large lily-covered pond is revealed where bright blue Australasian swamphens foraged across the lily pads.

Displayed on the water is a sculpture titled ‘Aotearoa’ by Michael Smithers; Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand, meaning “land of the long white cloud”. A few days after visiting the gardens, while driving south to Wellington from New Plymouth, I saw the namesake beautiful rolling white line of clouds stretch across the landscape.

View more photos from my Pukekura Park, New Zealand experience in my archives, with selected images available for prints and licensing.

Welchman Hall Gully, Barbados

Nestled in the upland, interior mountains of Barbados, Welchman Hall Gully is a remarkable place to see both native and exotic jungle plants, observe a troop of green monkeys, and explore the dramatic geologic formations which are actually the remnants of an enormous collapsed cave system.

Arriving at the trailhead, a table of fruits, seeds, and wood offers an opportunity to see at-a-glance the abundance and diversity of the plants that thrive in the gully. A side-trail leads to an overlook, with sweeping views of the countryside, down to the ocean below.

The limestone walls of the gully let the bright tropical light filter down through the jungle canopy, and the lush green layers of foliage are full of endless textural variety.

Deep in the gully the trail meanders into a grove of nutmeg trees, and while I’ve used freshly ground nutmeg in the kitchen, I had no idea how it grew and how striking the freshly fallen seeds are. The trees seemed rather unassuming, tall and slender, and the fleshy fruit falls to the ground, splitting on impact. The nut, wrapped in bright red tendrils of mace, holds the seed. Millipedes feasted on the fallen fruit.

Welchman Hall Gully is lined with stalactites and stalagmites, remnants of the limestone cave structure that collapsed to form the narrow terrain now full of life. Tree roots, vining plants, and mosses have taken hold along the rocky walls.

While I did not get close enough to the troop of monkeys to capture any good photographs, I did come across some colorful jungle dwellers and flowers. The chickens and many of the plants are of course exotics, not native to Barbados, but they seem to have found a home in this beautiful, bountiful climate.

This was a lovely day-trip while visiting Barbados, a change of pace from the sunny beaches, and a quiet escape from some of the more crowded scenic spots around the island. The trail is well-maintained and an easy walk, with many informative signs placed throughout, and for anyone looking to experience another side of Barbados, Welchman Hall Gully is highly recommended.

Find the full set of photos from this travel destination here, available for Rights-Managed Licensing and as fine art prints.