Awesome Wildlife Encounters in New Zealand

New Zealand provides incredible wildlife encounters without harming animals or disrupting their environments, from swimming with dolphins in Akaroa to seeing glowworms in Waitaki Valley – this guide can help you plan an exciting yet responsible wildlife adventure!

New Zealand is home to an abundance of fascinating and enjoyable native birds, from takahe to kea. Take time out on hikes along Milford Track or in forests surrounding Stewart Island, Little Barrier and Codfish Islands to search out these exciting animals!

Whale Watching

New Zealand is an aquatic paradise and seeing whales and dolphins in their natural environment will no doubt leave you amazed. Auckland is the “whale capital of the world”, boasting four or five different cetaceans on one tour (such as orcas, common dolphins, Hector’s dolphins etc). Furthermore, you could spot seals and fur seals.

Kaikoura is well known as an ideal place for whale watching between October and March, due to its deep canyon that draws marine life out from deep below its waters. You are more likely to spot orca (killer whales) during these months.

Marlborough Sounds are home to both sperm whales and Hector’s dolphins; cruises in Cook Strait provide excellent opportunities to view these marine marvels. Dunedin offers two world-renowned wildlife centers; The Royal Albatross Centre(opens in new window) to learn about this magnificent bird at its only mainland breeding colony, Taiaroa Head is where you’ll witness gannets and sea eagles soar overhead at Taiaroa Head nesting colony; plus you can hike to see these wonderful birds raising their young!


The flightless kiwi is one of New Zealand’s most beloved native birds, and one of only a few that can be seen freely in nature. Encourage your clients to visit a breeder or conservation center dedicated to this remarkable bird so they can witness its magnificence first-hand.

Visitors to Rotorua Rainbow Springs’s Kiwi Breeding House can witness first-hand this fascinating process as baby kiwis are nurtured until they’re ready to be released back into nature. Kiwi are mostly nocturnal birds in nature and generally survive without intervention only up to 5 percent of time – providing visitors with an intriguing window into how kiwi breeding works!

Kiwi pairs communicate using gentle grunts and snuffles; males purr during mating rituals. Their beaks also feature nostrils used for sniffing out food sources such as insects or fruit.

New Zealand is an amazing wildlife destination, boasting ancient reptiles, rare birds and an extensive marine ecosystem. For an unforgettable wildlife encounter, try taking part in the Wild Kiwi Encounter on Stewart Island; depart from Oban by ferry and travel out to this secluded sanctuary where wild kiwis forage for food at night!

Kiwis belong to the ratite family of birds, which also includes Madagascar’s elephant birds and Australia’s emus and cassowaries (as well as extinct moa). Female kiwis may live up to 50 years, breeding five times.


The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot and, as such, shares an incomparable bond with New Zealanders. These intelligent birds are well known for being mischievous – with intelligence levels believed to rival that of four year-old humans! These curious little parrots can open sliding door on hiker huts, remove bin lids to gain food or barter supplies at mountain huts by bringing firewood every day and knocking on doors when dinner time rolls around!

Endemic to New Zealand, the Kea is an iconic bird found year-round in forests and alpine regions from coastal dunes to high mountains. A master at living wild lives throughout its range by foraging native forest habitat and subalpine scrub and herbfields for food before nesting among native trees or prominent rock outcrops.

Keas are well known for their fascination with humans, frequently exploring backpacks, shoes, skis and other gear either on the ground or flying overhead. This makes them a nuisance to farmers whose livestock they seek out with attacks from Keas as well as an attractive attraction at New Zealand mountain huts where hikers and skiers often gather.

These native birds are an integral part of New Zealand culture, being valued members of Ngai Tahu and Nga iwi o Te Tau Ihu tribes as symbols. As an endangered species they should also be prioritized for conservation efforts as they are highly vulnerable to introduced predators such as rats, mustelids (stoats and possums), as well as 1080 pesticide.


The world’s smallest penguins can be found along the beaches in Dunedin and Stewart Island of New Zealand’s South Island, although more likely you’ll encounter them at a New Zealand zoo as these rare birds rarely breed outside of captivity.

Little Blue Penguins (commonly referred to as Fairy penguins) can be seen along the coasts of northern Otago and Pohatu Marine Reserve near Christchurch, both providing reliable opportunities to view them both day and night – you might see them waddling back onto their beach nests after fishing all day in the ocean! For best viewing results, September through February is best time for seeing these adorable birds.

Yellow-Eyed Penguins are another star attraction on South Island and can be found throughout Curio Bay and Dunedin as well as Stewart Island. Although highly endangered, they’re considered adorable as they boast yellow eyes like no other penguin species do – making them one of the cutest penguins ever!

Other birds that can often be seen include the tui, bellbird/korimako and fantail/piwakawaka; however, to witness them in their native habitat you must travel north or west of New Zealand, especially around Kaikoura where seals, Hector’s dolphins, orcas and albatross can often be spotted playing together in nutrient-rich sea waters.