With snowy Alps, fjord-like sounds, volcanic plateaus, ancient forests and sub-tropical beaches, it’s no surprise that New Zealand has equally diverse and abundant wildlife. If you are planning your next trip abroad, you might want to know all about it. Here’s a look. Also read: Ras Al Khaimah launches the world’s longest zipline – watch video
In balmy Northland, at the top of the North Island, kayak, snorkel or dive to see rich marine life and unique flora and fauna. The volcanic plateau in the central North Island is home to beautiful and curious birds such as the North Island kōkako, kaka and brown kiwi as well as a variety of lizards. Further south, in the cooler southern waters, you’ll encounter marine mammals. Almost half the world’s cetaceans (whales, porpoises and dolphins) have been reported in New Zealand waters, including the Hector’s dolphin, which is found nowhere else in the world.
If you want the benefit of expert guidance, then take a tour of Zealandia, a remarkable urban eco-sanctuary in the hills of capital city Wellington. Zealandia has more than 40 native bird species living wild in the sanctuary – including the rare takahe – as well as tuatara and little-spotted kiwi.
See the world’s smallest penguins in their natural environment at Oamaru in the South Island. The tiny blue penguins nest under a cliff right on the harbour, close to the historic township. It is best to book a tour for early evening when the penguins amble up a stony ramp after a day’s fishing and head into the breeding colony. During the day, learn about the colony and the penguin’s feeding and breeding habits and anatomy from trained staff.
The innately curious Kea is the world’s only true mountain parrot who are known to give tourists a show whenever they are around. Time your visit for feeding times and also meet the musical tui, and social native parrots, kea and kaka, as well as long-fin eels and blue ducks.
At Pukaha Mt Bruce Sanctuary, near Masterton, there are lots of native birds including rare blue ducks but the rarest of them all is the little white kiwi Manukura – the first white kiwi to hatch in captivity. Manukura is pure white rather than albino and is the rare progeny of two parents who carry the same recessive white feather The innately curious Kea is the world’s only true mountain parrot who is known to give tourists a show whenever they are around.
Swim with dolphins on a Dolphin Eco Experience with Fullers in the gorgeous Bay of Islands in Northland. On a half-day cruise you’ll get the chance to swim and snorkel in pristine waters alongside these majestic creatures. (Tour runs November-April.)
Take a rare opportunity to learn about the royal albatross at the world’s only mainland breeding colony at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin in the South Island. The world’s largest sea bird, the royal albatross usually breeds on remote islands and spends 85 per cent of its life at sea, away from curious human eyes. Visit during the breeding season between September and November to see the breeding birds arriving at the headland, building nests and even hatching their fluffy little ones.
New Zealand’s third and smallest island, Stewart Island, or Rakiura, is the one place that you can reliably expect kiwi to be active during Kaikoura’s Dolphin Encounters will get you as close as possible to the playful residents.
In the capital of Wellington, New Zealand fur seal colonies can be spotted just minutes from the city at the southern Red Rocks or on a longer day-trip to eastern Cape Palliser. While local colonies are mostly comprised of large males, mothers with pups are common from August through October.
Kayak or snorkel in the extinct volcanic crater that is Akaroa Harbour, near Christchurch, and you may just spot little penguins from the largest colony in mainland New Zealand, as well as Hector’s dolphins – the smallest marine dolphins in the world – and abundant birdlife.