Stay in this special location and lend a hand with conservation
A new luxury lodge in what is effectively New Zealand’s first private national park has opened its doors. The estate offers 550 square kilometres of iconic high country around Lake Wanaka in NZ’s South Island adventure heartland where you are free to roam on an exclusive-use basis.
Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Homestead & Eco Sanctuary, owned by South African-born record producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange (think AC/DC, Boomtown Rats, Def Leppard, Michael Bolton, or Lange’s ex-wife, Shania Twain), extends across four high country working sheep stations. Protected by the 2015 Mahu Whenua covenants – New Zealand’s largest ever private land protection agreement – it offers the unique chance to explore a spectacular landscape of soaring peaks, alpine lakes and fish-filled rivers that stretches from Glendhu Bay in Wanaka all the way to Arrowtown in Queenstown.
All stays are bespoke and fully hosted, with guided experiences including horse trekking, overnight stays at shepherds’ cottages around the station, heli-skiing, heli-biking, heli-hiking, 4WD adventures, farm tours, riverside picnics and yoga. Milford Sound is a short helicopter ride away, the Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields are practically on your doorstep, and off-site fishing and hunting trips can be arranged.
Of course, you don’t have to spend your days in the great outdoors. Mahu Whenua may encompass some of the most dramatic natural alpine scenery in New Zealand, but the interiors are just as memorable, rustically decorated with recycled wood and traditional schist stone sourced from the property, and with expansive views at every turn. Relax beside a roaring fire, play pool or curl up with a book from the library. There’s a sun-soaked swimming pool and hot tub with a large deck looking out to Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring National Park, or simply bliss out for a while with a massage or spa treatment.
Accommodation is in one of four suites (two in the homestead and two in cottages), although the homestead is available on an exclusive-use basis for up to 12 guests. The resident chef prepares all meals, including picnic lunches if desired, runs cooking classes and will also take you on a food-gathering safari of the Central Otago district – all you need do is ask. Rates include all meals and drinks, as well as a personal concierge to help plan your days.
But Mahu Whenua is more than just another luxury lodge. In Maori ‘Mahu Whenua’ translates as ‘Healing the Land’. Lange’s vision is to regenerate the environment via sustainable farming practices and an extensive conservation program based on native plant regeneration and bird breeding. So far, he and his team have planted more than 1.36 million native trees, flaxes, shrubs and grasses and erected predator-proof fencing to help get rid of weasels, stoats, ferrets and cats. Guests can join the conservation effort by helping with the replanting and learning about the native weka (a flightless woodhen) and pukeko (a flying swamphen) breeding programs. If you’re lucky, you might even get to feed one.