Wildlife tours in New Zealand
Few places can offer the chance to see New Zealand wildlife in a single day. New Zealand’s rich agricultural heritage makes it an ideal location for experiencing the unique atmosphere of a farm and its friendly animals.
You can see wild animals on a 4WD safari, where you can get up close and personal with the adorable native Kiwis, or you can go private hunting for wild deer. On whale-watching tours, you can see the rare sperm whale up close. Glenorchy is an hour north of Queenstown and home to some of the world’s best brown and rainbow trout.
So while you are planning your New Zealand tour, why not learning more about all the options available for wildlife enthusiasts?
What distinguishes New Zealand wildlife?
Because it lives here, our wildlife is unique. It’s not available anywhere else. Consider how the first Europeans who arrived in New Zealand felt. They were about to set foot on a landmass that had been isolated for millions of years. It’d have been like walking on the moon.
“This morning I was awoken by the singing birds, their voices were certainly one of the most melodious wild songsk I have ever heard,” wrote Captain Cook’s botanist, Joseph Banks. The Europeans catalogued and returned to Europe these rare and valuable specimens. This is the same as a moon rock, which is extremely valuable today.
The Giant Sperm Whale can be found in Kaikoura, New Zealand’s Whale Watching Capital. It is also on the Blue Whale, Southern Right Whale, and Minke Whale migration routes. All marine life in Kaikoura has been fully protected since the establishment of New Zealand’s most recent marine reserve in 2014.
Whale Watching Kaikoura is the best place in New Zealand to go whale watching. Sperm Whales spend the entire year in the 500m deep trench near the shore. Whale Watching Kaikoura has a Maori business and a fascinating story about how whale watching changed the community’s fortunes.
Dolphins can also be found in New Zealand. Like many Kiwis on their summer vacations, the one moment that sums up the entire trip and brings a smile to your face for years may be sitting on a boy of a vessel in the Bay of Islands and watching the dolphins ride the bow wave in sparkling water – that’s what you can save as a screen saver to keep your smile on for years!
Kaikoura is a popular destination for dolphin swimming and wildlife cruises. But our favourite place in New Zealand to swim with dolphins, or just go on a dolphin cruise, is Paihia in the Bay of Islands. The waters are calmer, and the weather is much warmer than in the south.
Dusky and Bottlenose dolphins can be found in New Zealand’s waters.
Penguins walk upright and with an awkward waddle on the ground. In the water, they take on a new grace, diving and swooping with incredible agility.
The korora (or little blue penguin) is the smallest species in New Zealand. At night, these small birds can be found on Stewart Island, Oamaru Harbour, Stewart Island, Marlborough Sounds, and Oamaru Harbour.
The hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, is a rare species. It is distinguished by its distinctive yellow eye band. They are found on the Otago Peninsula, south of Dunedin, and in the Catlins area. Wildlife tours in Dunedin allow you to get up close and personal with fur seals, sea lions, penguins, and other animals in their natural habitat.
The New Zealand fur seal is easily identified by its pointed nose, long whiskers, and visible ears. The alas, a distinguishing feature of the fur seal, was almost responsible for its extinction. In the early days of sealing, the fur seal was prized for its luxurious fur coat. Seal hunting was prohibited in 1894.
North Island seals can be seen at Cape Palliser (near Wellington) and Castlepoint (on the Wairarapa Coast).
A kayaking tour around Tonga Island in South Island’s Abel Tasman National Park will allow you to see penguins, seals, and dolphins. You can also go to Kaikoura and Cape Foulwind, both of which are close to Westport. Here, you can go seal swimming with a guide and marvel at their grace and natural beauty.
Hooker’s sea Lions, southern elephant seals, and leopard seals can be seen on the Catlins Coast or Gillespies Beach in Haast.
Three hours from Auckland, the Waitomo Caves offer one of the most amazing glow worm experiences. A boat ride underground allows you to see the glow of thousands of tiny creatures that light up the cave roof like stars.
Glowworms can be found throughout the country. They are frequently found in damp and overgrown areas, such as river and lake banks, or forest undergrowth. Glow worms can be found in a variety of settings, including night kayaking, hiking, and boating excursions.
Birds are still among the most colourful creatures on the planet. New Zealand is a paradise for bird-watchers or twitchers.
The kiwi is our most recognisable bird. It has a long beak and is about the size of a domestic chicken. The plumage resembles hair rather than feathers. The nocturnal Kiwi, despite being endangered, can still be found in the wild on Stewart Island and Northland. Kiwi birds can also be found in wildlife enclosures in the United States.
Horseback riding tours
Horseback riding is an excellent way to discover New Zealand. It transports you to stunning beaches, snow capped volcanoes, and lush native forests. Riding on horseback allows you to experience the peace and harmony of New Zealand’s wilderness.
New Zealand has a wide range of horse-tramping opportunities. You can ride along the coast of white-sand beaches in Northland or in the shadows of snow-capped dormant volcanic mountains in Ruapehu. Glenorchy in the South Island is a fantastic destination for Middle-earth(tm) fans. It was used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings. Glenorchy is the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park and offers horseback riding among the Southern Alps’ turquoise lakes and towering peaks.
You can observe sheep shearing, learn more about goat and deer farming, observe sheep dogs at work, milk cows or goats, or take a farm tour. The eel and salmon farms offer firsthand encounters with fish. Warm geothermal water is used for aquaculture at a prawn farm near Taupo.
Farmstay accommodation is an excellent way to meet the locals and live in the countryside.
The International Dark Sky Reserve, which spans 4,300 kilometres in New Zealand’s South Island, was established. It is the world’s largest such reserve.
The Dark Sky Reserve, which encompasses much of the Aoraki/Mount Cook Mackenzie area, has been described as one of the most spectacular stargazing destinations on the planet.
Big Sky Stargazing is Mount Cook’s best stargazing location.
Mount Cook can be found at the base, or you can participate in one of the Dark Sky Projects.
(Previously known as Earth & Sky tours at Tekapo’s Mount John Observatory.) Professional telescopes and enthusiastic guides are available for an unforgettable stargazing experience.
One of the five Dark Sky Sanctuaries is New Zealand’s Great Barrier Island. In June 2017, it was also named the world’s first Island Sanctuary. Good Heavens offers stargazing packages for groups or individuals, including “Dining with the Stars.”
Stewart Island/Rakiura has been designated as the world’s fifth International Dark Sky Sanctuary and the second Island Sanctuary. Local policies recognise the importance of environmental protection on Stewart Island/Rakiura and help to preserve the pristine sky.
If you visit New Zealand during the winter, you might be able to see the Aurora Australis.
This is a similar phenomenon to the Northern Lights. It is caused by atom collisions above the North and South Poles. These collisions are captured in beautiful sheets of blue, yellow, green, and yellow light that dance silently across the night sky.
The Southern Lights are most visible in the southern half of South Island. They can be found near Lake Tekapo and Dunedin, as well as Queenstown and Southland. To increase your chances, aim for clear winter skies near a new Moon in July or August.
Still not sure what to do in New Zealand?