Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary
  • Be the first!
  • The Explorer Program
  • Information for Explorers
New Zealand native forest

Imagine a jungle-like forest where no one has walked through in the last forty years. Nature has created a living form in which trees soar to the sky and the ferns are taller than people. Deep inside, the ground is covered with a wet carpet of moss, the air is moist and fragrant, and camouflaged among the hundreds of shades of green live a myriad of birds, kiwis and kauri snails.

Clamber on waterfalls, identify ancient trees, marvel at the countless types of ferns, look for eels and glow worms at night, and sleep in the middle of the forest listening to the haunting call of the kiwi. This is a place where you will feel close to nature in a way that you have never imagined. This is the place where you will be the first person in a generation to explore, discover, make note of what you see, and above all, learn to be in the middle of the nowhere without feeling lost.

If you want to learn about nature and about yourself, become an explorer! No prior experience is required, just a sense of adventure and an open mind. Make a reservation and we will welcome you to our world.

Blue Mushroom

If you ever wondered whether there still is a place in this world that has not been explored yet, the answer is yes!

This seven day program allows you the freedom to explore our forest while taking the time to observe, reflect, and learn. You will start by learning about the history that led to the development of the unique New Zealand flora and fauna. Then, you will learn the basic navigation skills required to orient yourself in such a dense jungle-like forest. As the week progresses, you will build the skills and confidence required to venture into the unknown. Previous explorers have discovered a string of waterfalls, a number of a hundred year old trees, eels, and a magic place lit by countless glow worms. What will you discover?

Here are some of the things that you will learn and do during the program:

  • learn to find your way in a dense, jungle-like forest
  • go on a night safari spotting kiwi birds, glow worms, and eels
  • spend two nights in one of our suspended tree tents (mid December to end of March)
  • learn to identify, mark, and map forest trails
  • learn about New Zealand trees and birds
  • visit the beautiful Kai Iwi Lakes or Tane Mahuta - a two thousand year old tree
  • learn about nature conservation in New Zealand
  • participate in conservation activities

While staying with us, you will also have the opportunity to participate in any of the conservation activities listed in the Volunteer section, either in the sanctuary or in the nearby Department of Conservation (DOC) managed forests.

Here is a typical day's schedule:

8am - 9am breakfast
10am - 12pm morning activity
12pm - 1pm lunch/picnic
1pm - 4pm afternoon activity
4pm - 6pm leisure activities (free time)
6pm - 8pm dinner
8pm - 10pm night activities

The activities will be selected from the list above and decided on the day depending on weather, fitness factors, interests, etc...

To ensure a pleasant experience and a close interaction we host only four Explorers at a time. This seven day program includes transportation, all of of the activities above, delicious meals, and accommodation in the sanctuary. Ready to challenge yourself? Make a reservation!


Pupu Rangi can accommodate four Explorers at a time. Due to the remote location and the basic training required, the Explorer program starts only once a week (Monday).

The Explorer program is a package that aims to condense in one week the highlights of the Pupu Rangi experience.

Transportation and pick-up

If you do not have your own wheels we will pick you up in the closest town (Dargaville) on Monday at 5:30pm. This time is chosen to coincide with the arrival of the public bus from Whangarei. To get to Whangarei, you can use either Intercity or nakedbus departing from Auckland early in the morning .

We will also drop you off in Dargaville on Monday morning at 7am to connect with the bus to Whangarei.

More detailed information about pick-up times, meals, clothing required will be provided after you make a reservation.

What should you expect

Expect your boundaries to be challenged on a daily basis: we live on a philosophy of "we can do with what we have" and that requires patience, adaptability and innovation.

Expect to learn a lot and to be ready to apply your learnings.

Expect to pitch in; it is participants like you that make this project a reality. This is not a hotel, at the end of the day there is no one but us to wash our dishes, put back the tools we used, or make the place look clean and comfortable.

Expect to learn that while individual choices are respected, the well being of the team is more important. When you are out there in the depth of the forest, it is going to be the whole team that has to deal with a problem and find a solution.

Expect to have the type of experiences that others only dream about. The more open to change, the more opportunities to see things in a different light: kiwis, snails, ferns, moss, impenetrable rainforest, giant trees, glow worms, waterfalls, there is a whole universe out there!

What we expect

Your team mates expect you to treat the sanctuary as your own home. Keep your eyes open, fix what needs to be fixed, and propose ways of improvement.

Your team mates expect you to participate to the well being of the team. Learn, care, and share your experiences with the others.

Volunteer and Intern Fee

The work that our volunteers and interns donate is very important to the preservation of the forest and to the continuous improvement of the sanctuary. We are grateful for it and we try to reward that contribution with comfortable accommodation, delicious food, knowledge sharing, conservation training, and tourism activities.

Our sanctuary does not receive any government funding and it is funded solely by the participants' fees.

The reality is that our nature sanctuary is far away from "civilization" and anything that needs to be brought in or taken out, travels a minimum of 100km. To able to continue with our conservation efforts, we ask our volunteers and interns to pay a fee that covers the cost of food, fuel, and safety equipment for that person's stay. The fee is less than what an independent backpacker would spend while travelling cheaply in New Zealand for the same amount of time.

Our organization spends no money on administration costs and 100% of the proceeds go back into conservation, infrastructure improvement, or operating costs. We created an environment in which you receive training and learn valuable skills while contributing towards our common goal of protecting the forest and the birds. In addition, you will have experiences that many people visiting or living in New Zealand never get to have: accessing amazing forests closed to the public, seeing kiwi in the wild, working in a forest where the rare kokako lives, or bonding with the locals in an area off the beaten track.


Meals will be provided three times a day. After a long day in the forest, there is nothing better than a delicious meal savoured while watching the sunset. The menu includes stir-fry, homemade hummus and falafel, organic burgers, rösti, tika masala, dahl, cous-cous, chili con or sin carne, pancakes, and the occasional blackberry crumble.

If you do not know how to cook, you are more than welcome to learn from us, we will help teach you to the point at which you would be able to cook a delicious dinner for eight people.

We cater to most dietary requirements if we are told beforehand. For snaking outside of the scheduled meals, please bring your own snacks, special food,or drinks. We will not be able to keep them in the fridge, but we could store them in the pantry for you.

The cleaning of the kitchen, washing of the dishes, etc... is part of the daily tasks that each participant has to complete.


The Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary is an alcohol-free zone. You are not allowed to consume or bring alcohol into the sanctuary.


We prefer to have guests that do not smoke due to the risk of fire to the forest. If you wish to smoke you will need to have a liability insurance that covers you up to 5 million New Zealand dollars. Please provide proof of insurance before making a booking. Firefighting in such a remote area is expensive :(

Please note that you are not allowed to smoke at all in the forest which is where we spend most of the day. The only place where you are allowed to smoke is at our base camp in a specially designated place. 


Our facilities are basic but functional. One of the principles behind our sanctuary is to be as kind to the environment as possible. We are off-the-grid and we try to use as little resources as possible. The main facilities (kitchen, showers, dinning room) are housed in recycled shipping containers. We reuse as much second hand material or furniture as we can find. The accommodation is in a small cabin and consists of bunk beds. For a small additional fee, you may upgrade your accommodation to one of our fantastic tree tents.

Small items can be washed in the sinks and we do a load of washing once a week.

The cleaning of the facilities is part of the daily tasks that each participant has to complete.

Electricity and Water

Please note that we are off the grid and do not have electricity or running water.

We have a small solar panel that can be used for the charging of mobile phones on the sunny days.

Phone and Internet

Strong mobile phone signal on the Telecom, Vodafone, Skinny, and 2degrees networks is available in the common area for both Internet and voice. There is no phone signal in the forest. There is no free wifi at the sanctuary, you will have to buy your own mobile broadband plan.

Health and Safety

We will always work in groups and we do not perform any dangerous activities. Each volunteer will receive training on how to use the compass/walkie-talkie thus ensuring continuous contact and positioning in case that someone strays away from the group. Staff will be trained in first aid and a first aid kit will be available.

The New Zealand forest is very safe and it has no animals and no reptiles that can harm you.

The closest medical clinic is in Dargaville, about 50 minutes and 50 km away. The closest hospital with an emergency room is in Whangarei, about 100 minutes and 100km away.


You need to have medical travel insurance to be able to work with us. An example of a company that offers affordable travel insurance can be found here.

What to Bring

The weather can be quite chilly and wet even in the middle of summer. Here is the minimum that you will need to bring with you:

  • wet weather gear (rain pants, rain jacket, solid hiking shoes and rubber boots)
  • warm clothes for the chilly nights
  • enough socks/underwear to last you through the whole stay
  • hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • warm sleeping bag (not just a summer one!)

You might also consider bringing:

  • insect repelent for the occasional sandfly
  • swimming gear
  • some snacks or drinks (we stock a small selection of sweets and drinks for sale)

It would be best if you bring some used clothes as not to ruin your best outfit.