Connecting with Nature this Summer

by Bree Arnott

Being in nature fills up my cup and I do it as much as I can, especially over the summer holidays! 

Dana Carter works at Whenua Iti Outdoors as the Kaimaihi for Nature Connection Lead and shares a few insights as to how to make the most of our time in nature this summer:

I work at Whenua Iti Outdoors but I’m not an outdoor instructor. I actually spend quite a bit of my working week in front of a computer! Kinda crazy I know and I would love it if I could get all my work done while tramping in the Kahurangi ranges, but sadly that’s not the case. Being in nature does fill up my cup though and I do it as much as I can, especially over the summer holidays! 

I recently got a really cool book out of the library called “Into the Forest”. It’s about the Japanese practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku). The book writes beautifully “The forest is like our mother, a sacred place, a gift to us humans from the divine. It is a paradise of healing”.  

Some of the concepts in the book have similarities with a māori worldview. Māori are strongly connected to Te Taiao (the natural world) through whakapapa, their genealogy. This can be expressed through this whakatauki:

E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea. I will never be lost, for I am the seed which was sown from Rangiātea.

This whakatauki is a reminder to Māori of their historical, cultural and spiritual links to the past and is an affirmation that, no matter what happens, their identity as a people will remain strong because they know who they are and where they are from. This identity can be expressed through pepeha which links māori intimately to their maunga (mountain), awa (river), and sea (moana). See this Youtube clip produced by Nelson City Council of Jane de Feu of Te Atiawa and Ngāti Rārua.  

I love the idea of forest bathing as a way of bringing health and happiness. My plan is to give this practice a go in the holidays. It doesn’t need to be in a national park or pristine bush. It can be anywhere with a stand of trees or even a park. The author, Dr Qing Li, has these tips: 

  • Decide on a place you’ll go that you know you’ll feel comfortable in and will give you joy 
  • Spend about 2 – 4 hours and walk about 2 – 5km (in other words walk really slowly!) 
  • Stop every now and then and notice what’s around you 
  • Slowly open up all your senses – what can you see, hear, smell, touch, taste?  
  • Sit for a while in a spot you like and read or just enjoy your surroundings   

If you can’t get to a forest, you can find all sorts of other ways to connect with nature. 

Here are a few tips to feel more at one with the earth while you’re relaxing and holidaying.  


Think of 3 things about nature you’re grateful for every week of the holidays. Write these down and share them with your whānau.  

Here’s a pic of our tutor Catherine with some of her friends experiencing a moment of togetherness and joy at the beach.


Take a moment to watch a sunrise or sunset, lie down outside to marvel at the stars at night, or stop to really soak in the beauty of the place you’re in.

Here’s my daughter and her friend soaking in the beauty of the water flowing from Puna ō Riuwaka.


 Sit and observe the rhythms of the natural world for 10 minutes – watch and listen to the birds, the clouds moving, the movement of the sea and tides, or the bugs in the grass. Feel the wind on your skin. Watch for changes, curiosities, patterns.

Here’s a pic of Scott, one of our tutors, getting into the sea at Kaiteretere with his son.

FIND MEANING:              

Think about what parts of nature have meaning for you and express that. For example – the pōhutakawa feels like an Aotearoa summer Christmas. The smell of the pine trees reminds me of my summer bach.

Here’s a pic of Kegan and her friends cooking freshly caught prawns, and enjoying the sense of meaning eating in the outdoors can bring.


Take some action to care for the environment. Pick up rubbish off a beach with friends or rescue a hurt bird or bug.  

Here’s a pic of Catherine checking the Whenua Iti trapline in the Abel Tasman.

Wishing you all a restful & re-energising summer break, coming back more in tune with nature! Dana.

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