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Everyone loves a banger Instagram photo.

Picture this. You wake up at 2am, drive to the trailhead, flick on your head torch and begin the long slog upwards. It’s no luxurious feat, but you know it’ll all be worth it to get the sunrise shot at the top of the mountain. This is why so many come to New Zealand – punishing hikes rewarded with incredible 360 views.

The problem is that social media can directly fuel over tourism and each photo has the power to draw more visitors to a particular location.

So what can we do to help protect this place?

To geo-tag or not to geo-tag?

Geo-tagging is a practice on social media whereby a user ‘tags’ their location in a post. The social media platform then collates all of the posts from this location into one feed where other users can browse photos specific to the location.

For travellers, this is extremely handy – it’s a great way to build a wishlist of experiences and places that they want to see.

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However, we have since become aware that this practice could have disastrous effects. From a visitor’s perspective, waiting in a line-up at the top of the mountain to get that once-in-a-lifetime photo isn’t ideal. And environmentally, the increased traffic to these places can cause erosion, increased pollution and cause tension. 

At one point, advocates proposed that social media users stop geo-tagging. The idea was that, by limiting geo-tags, we would decrease the drive of people right to a particular spot.

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In the past, Lake Wānaka Tourism proposed that users instead consider using a more general geo-tag. Like “Wānaka, New Zealand”, “Lake Wānaka” or even just “New Zealand”.

However, this practice also came with its drawbacks. It creates a feeling of exclusivity, or of “gatekeeping” these beautiful places (“gatekeeping” is limiting access or rights to a community or identity). In a way, it implies who should and should not be permitted into certain outdoor spaces.

Instead of the geo-tag debate…

Whether you are pro-geo-tag or anti-geo-tag is entirely up to you as a user. What we want to do is encourage everyone to experience and to care for this place. So, get off the beaten path. We have some incredible curated lists of new places to see, like this list of Hikes With A View (That Aren’t Roy’s Peak) or this list of Things To Do In Mt. Aspiring National Park That Aren’t Hiking.

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While you’re considering your adventure, our guide to responsible travelling might also be useful, find that here.

Being a responsible tramper

Part of getting the shot is venturing into the relative unknown. Our surrounding mountains offer endless opportunities for exploration and every year, thousands take to the hills to discover the alpine environments that so few get the chance to experience.

Although the mountains are beautiful, it’s important to remember that we are simply visitors. Therefore, everytime we head into the hills, it is our responsibility to be prepared for whatever might get thrown at us and to leave the mountains as we found them.

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Our guidelines to tramping responsibly will help you ensure that you make the most of your time in the outdoors, safely and consciously. Read them here.

Transport

In an effort to help minimise car park overflow in high-traffic sightseeing areas, many local Wānaka transport companies offer taxi services to trailheads. Check out our list of operators here and consider carpooling with other hikers and groups before heading out.

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Wherever you find yourself this summer, be it an undiscovered nook or the top of Roy’s Peak, learn more about walking and hiking in Wānaka here.

#lovewānaka