Best wildlife experiences in New Zealand

Best wildlife experiences in New Zealand
February 16 06:33 2021

New Zealand is well known for its jaw dropping beauty and natural wonder, but did you know that there are some spectacular wildlife experiences too. From endangered fluffy critters to frolicking sea creatures, if you’re an animal lover then New Zealand should definitely top your list of places to visit. 

While neighbouring Australia has some really scary critters, one reason to visit New Zealand if you suffer from ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) is that there are no native snakes in the entire country. If you aren’t sold on that fact, here are 10 of the best wildlife experiences in New Zealand to make you pack your bag.

1. Gawk at newly hatched kiwi chicks

Little baby kiwi chick

Little baby kiwi chick

One thing that you may know about New Zealand is that they have a very particular nickname. “Kiwi” is the country’s most well-known cultural export (even though it was originally from China), it’s the nickname given to its people, but most of all it’s the cute little nocturnal flightless bird with an extra long beak. 

New Zealand is actually most well-known for its unique bird species. Many of them are flightless as they historically had no large land predators to threaten their existence. After Europeans arrived and brought in some invasive species like possums, stoats and rabbits, many of the land-based feathered creatures became endangered. 

Today you can still see the takahe, weka and kakapo, but you should not miss a chance to visit Rainbow Springs to see the sweetest little baby kiwi chicks hatch. The adorable sight takes place in the expansive 22-acre green area and can be viewed whether the sun or the moon is up (remember that kiwis are nocturnal). You’ll learn all there is to know about the little birdies with a visit to the Hatching and Nursery Rooms.

2. Meet some truly unique penguins

Yellow-eyed penguin posing for the camera

Yellow-eyed penguin posing for the camera

If you loved the movie Happy Feet and have only seen these little critters in a zoo or aquarium, then we highly recommend making a stop to see them in their natural habitat. Your first stop will be to meet the endangered yellow-eyed penguin at Penguin Place in Dunedin. 

Here you will see how conservation efforts are trying to save this beautiful creature from extinction. Your entrance fee will also help fund the conservation programme while you view the yellow-eyed penguin up close in their natural habitat. 

Another chance to see these flightless feathered friends is also near Dunedin is Oamaru where you can witness the world’s smallest penguins, known as Blue penguins or Little penguins. These cutie-pies only grow to an average of around 30cm and weigh in at roughly 1-1.5kg. 

By day you can walk around the breeding colony and if you get to the harbour around dusk you’ll see these tiny creatures arrive home from a day out. It’s probably best to catch a tour of New Zealand with a trusted company if you want to have the most comfortable wildlife experience.

Another major spot to see penguins and a variety of native birds is Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura. If you’re into ornithology, this spot is heaven (you can also find the yellow-eyed penguin here). It’s also a national park, so the beauty is astounding.

3. See all kinds of aquatic creatures at Kaikoura

Sperm whale spotting at Kaikoura

Sperm whale spotting at Kaikoura

Kaikoura, north of Christchurch is known as the whale watching capital of New Zealand. You can see these majestic mammals frolic in the ocean on a boat tour. Witness the largest toothed predator in the world, the Giant Sperm Whale, in their natural habitat at any time of the year. There really is no experience like seeing the massive creatures up close. Beyond sperm whales, you may also see humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales depending on the time of year. 

 

But if you think this is all Kaikoura has to offer, you’re in for a massive treat! It really is the ultimate marine wildlife adventure as you will also get to see New Zealand Fur Seals and Dusky Dolphins. Boring you say? Well, in the summer months, you can jump in the water and take a swim with them. Now how’s that for one of the best wildlife experiences in New Zealand 

4. Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins

Jumping Hector’s Dolphin

Jumping Hector’s Dolphin

Very close to Christchurch is the historic British and French township of Akaroa. While the small town has deep historical roots, it’s probably best known as being the home to the world’s smallest and rarest breed of dolphin known as Hector’s Dolphin endemic to New Zealand. 

While Akaroa itself is an amazingly beautiful place to visit on its own, with its picturesque oceanfront village, unique rock formations from the extinct volcano and majestic cliffs, you will definitely want to jump in the water to swim with these playful little animals. You’re almost guaranteed to meet one of these people-loving finned creatures. 

If you can’t make it to Akaroa, you can always take a whale and dolphin safari from Auckland at Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, a 1.2 million hectare green space that’s home to 50 islands, five marine reserves, and over 22 species of dolphins and whales. 

Abel Tasman is another beautiful national park with gorgeous bays, crystal-blue waters and lush flora. Beyond the epic walking trails one of the top activities here for animal lovers is to go kayaking up-close-and-personal with friendly New Zealand fur seals, particularly near Tonga Island.

5. Visit the gorgeous Zealandia

 

Lower dam at Zealandia

Lower dam at Zealandia

Zealandia is the world’s first fully-pest-proof-fenced urban ecosanctuary right in the heart of Wellington. The 225-hectare space is home to over 40 rare native wildlife species. You can ride the 32kms of tracks to spot birds, reptiles, and of course the iconic spotted kiwi (ona night tour).

While the environment is fully controlled at Zealandia, the sanctuary actually mimics the natural habitat of the local fauna and flora. See native birds like the Bellbird, Brown teal, Kākā, Kākāriki, Takahē, Tomtit, and Weka, as well as other non-native species.

A day at Zealandia is not only a nature lover’s dream, it’s also great for outdoorsmen with hiking paths as well as for families with accessible trails, like a massive MacRitchie Reservoir.

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