May 2018: Experience New Zealand’s Wildlife

From swimming with dolphins and whale watching to encounters with kiwi birds and penguins, New Zealand offers a variety of rare and rewarding wildlife experiences.

Marlborough Sounds. Photo - Camilla Rutherford.

Kiwi Spotting

Considering kiwis are New Zealand’s national icon, you would think they would be everywhere. However kiwi birds are both endangered and nocturnal so chances of just coming across one is slim. Seeing a kiwi in their natural habitat is an experience not to be missed, so listed below are a few spots to see kiwi both in the wild and in captivity: 

Set amongst the native trees and beautiful forests of Rotorua, Rainbow Springs Nature Park is home to the most successful Kiwi hatchery in the world. During the day, meet kiwi in the nocturnal hours or on a Kiwi Encounter Behind the Scenes Tour. Clients can also visit at night to see kiwi in the outdoors without a glass enclosure. 

For a more immersive experience, spend the night on Kapiti Island (one hour north of Wellington) for kiwi spotting with Kapiti Island Nature Tours. The Island is home to over 1,200 Little Spotted Kiwi and is one of the most reliable opportunities to see them in the wild. 

Or Real Journeys offer a Wild Kiwi Encounter experience on Stewart Island where clients can see wild southern brown kiwi in their unspoiled natural habitat. 

For a rare kiwi experience, visit Pukaha Mt Bruce to see Manukura, the little white kiwi. Manukura is the first white kiwi to hatch in captivity and can be viewed in the centre’s nocturnal kiwi house. 

Whale Watching 

You can spot whales throughout New Zealand including Auckland’s beautiful Hauraki Gulf and the wonderful Kaikoura. 

Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari departs daily from Viaduct Harbour in Auckland City. The Bryde’s whale is the most common species seen in the Hauraki Gulf. Viewed year-round these impressive whales are surface feeders and provide spectacular encounters for those on board. 

Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, is the whale watching capital of New Zealand. Whale Watch Kaikoura is the only vessel-based whale watch company offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year. 

For a different perspective, experience the majestic Sperm Whale from above with Wings Over Whales Kaikoura. Passengers have their own window seat for unobstructed views. 

Dolphin Encounters 

Swimming with dolphins can be a life changing experience, and there are plenty of opportunities for dolphin encounters across the country. 

The Bay of Islands has the warmest waters in New Zealand, making it the perfect location for swimming with Dolphins. Fullers GreatSights offer an intimate half day cruise within the sheltered waters of the bay. 

Dolphin Swimming is also popular in the picturesque Marlborough Sounds where E-Ko Tours are the only Dolphin Swimming operator in the area. Passengers can choose to either view from the boat, or the more adventurous can jump in for a dip with the dolphins.  

Akaroa Harbour is the only place on the entire planet where you can get up close and personal with New Zealand’s playful Hector’s dolphin – the world’s smallest and rarest species. Depart the historic French township of Akaroa aboard one of the Black Cat Cruises for a close encounter with these marine mammals. Only 12 passengers per vessel are allowed to swim with the dolphins so advance bookings are essential. 

New Zealand has about six different species of penguins, including the world’s smallest: the little blue penguins. 

For a wildlife experience in Napier, visit the National Aquarium where your clients can get up close and personal with the little penguins. In this behind the scenes experience, guests have the opportunity to hand feed these fascinating creatures.  

For those in the South Island, see the Little Blue Penguins in their natural environment at Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru. Evening tours offer a unique opportunity to observe them at dusk, arriving home from their day at sea and returning to their nests.


A visit to Dunedin is not complete without taking in the outstanding beauty and wildlife of the Otago Peninsular.

Albatross are the world’s largest seabirds, spending at least 85% of their lives at sea. The royal albatross is the largest seabird in the world with a wing span of over three metres. Dunedin is home to the only mainland breeding colony at The Royal Albatross Centre. Guided tours offer an insight into the albatross lifespan and includes a visit to the exclusive observatory where your clients might be lucky enough to see a bird inflight. 

To view the diverse wildlife of the Otago Peninsula by boat, head out with Monarch Wildlife Cruises. Experience uninterrupted views of the world’s only mainland nesting place of albatross along with a variety of other rarely spotted birds.