A 54-year-old tramper who was left behind by his tramping party after he fell ill on the Hollyford Track in Fiordland has been airlifted to a medical centre.

The man became unwell while spending the night at the McKerrow Island Hut, at the head of Lake McKerrow.

His companions activated a locator beacon around 7am yesterday, then left to continue their trek.

Senior Sergeant Ian Temple said it was surprising they had done that.

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"Police are hoping to catch up with the group soon."

Mr Temple was unsure whether officers had yet spoken to the ill man.

Southern Lakes helicopter pilot Sam Gawith told Fairfax the tramper had been well enough to walk to the chopper when picked up.

"He had been quite ill the day before, but had improved."

The man was checked out by an onboard doctor who decided he would need to be taken to a medical centre.