Founder’s Note: Where the Grass is Greener

Founder’s Note: Where the Grass is Greener

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Cape Kidnappers is a stunning place, with rolling green terrain that leads to dramatic bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There’s a luxurious 28-room lodge called the Farm, one of the world’s best golf courses—and a 6-mile fence.

A fence?

I’m not normally a fan of building fences—literal or metaphorical—but this one fascinated me. It represents a major undertaking by landowners and the New Zealand Department of Conservation to create the largest privately owned wildlife sanctuary in New Zealand. As you will read in Ethan Todras-Whitehill’s story, “Where New Zealand’s Wild Things Are,” human settlers and the animals they brought with them have had a devastating effect on New Zealand’s native species. Birds that nest on the ground, such as the kiwi, which live at Cape Kidnappers, and the kakapo, which Ethan writes about, are particularly vulnerable. The fence is an attempt to preserve Cape Kidnappers’ native wildlife.

I walked the property at Cape Kidnappers with artist and naturalist Jo Speedy, who has lived in the area all her life and seems to know every rock, plant, and animal on the peninsula. We came upon colonies of gannets that nest there. I’m not a birder, but I loved watching these incredibly graceful birds, which routinely fly between the cape—where they mate and nest—and Australia, more than 1,300 miles away.

Thinking about the fence, and about the history of human interaction with nature in New Zealand, I was reminded of a question I’m often asked: Don’t you worry that the kind of travel that AFAR encourages will change the places that people visit?

My answer? Yes, travel will change those places. And no, I’m not worried. Certainly, we want to be aware of the effects of our travel, just as we should be aware of everything we do. But I fundamentally believe travel exposes both the visitor and the visited to perspectives and ideas that benefit all of us. When I was in Cairo recently, I met with Mounir Neamatalla, an early proponent of sustainable development who built the Adrère Amellal ecolodge in Siwa, Egypt. I thought he put it well: “Change is inevitable. What is important is for people to make good judgments about what should be changed and what should be preserved.”

I think travel has a huge positive impact on the judgments we make. At AFAR, we strive to inspire you to travel in different ways, to soak up and enjoy the places you visit, and to open your mind to new possibilities. All of that can give us the wisdom to make better decisions for the future. And sometimes the best decision might be to build a fence.

Good travels,

Greg Sullivan


This appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of AFAR Magazine

Greg Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of AFAR. You can reach Greg at
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