New Zealand Wildlife Holidays
Love wildlife? Then you’re going to love New Zealand. Home to incredible marine mammals, rare penguins and countless birdlife, there are so many unique wildlife opportunities just waiting to be discovered – and that’s where Flight Centre comes in.
Whether you wish to catch a glimpse of the native kiwi, swim with dolphins or witness humpback whales diving deep into the ocean, it’s all possible here. We’ve rounded up the best wildlife options New Zealand has to offer:
Perhaps the biggest wildlife experience of them all; what makes this destination an absolute must-visit is its whale-watching opportunities. Travel to Kaikoura and prepare to be wowed; giant sperm whales can be spotted all-year round here, while the best time to see humpbacks is during June and July. Orcas can also be seen from December to March. Board a purpose-built whale-watching vessel and feel the anticipation build around you as you wait for the crew to pick up a sonar reading. When it comes in there is a rush of excitement as you race to the coordinates, before the boat finally chugs to a halt. Your first glimpse of an animal this size can be overwhelming, but make sure your camera is at the ready before this giant of the ocean dives back down to the deep. An experience you’ll never forget.
Swim with dolphins
The Kaikoura coast is also the top spot for swimming with wild dolphins, mostly because there are just so many. It’s not unusual to see pods of hundreds; a truly breathtaking sight. Dive into the waters and swim alongside these gentle creatures, or simply watch on from the shore as they leap triumphantly up into the air and glide through the clear ocean. You even have the chance to catch sight of the world’s smallest dolphin species here. Visit Akaroa Harbour, near Christchurch, and see if you can spot Hector’s dolphins riding the waves.
New Zealand fur seals
New Zealand is famed for its coastal walks as well as its incredible wildlife, so why not combine the two and spot seals as you take in the jaw-dropping landscape? One of our favourite places to spot the New Zealand fur seals is Kaikoura. Head to the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, which crosses the clifftop, and gaze upon these furry friends as they catch some rays.
Okay, there’s no doubt the marine mammals arguably steal the show, but New Zealand is also home to some seriously unique birdlife. The most famous is, of course, the iconic kiwi, New Zealand’s national emblem. Though endangered, it can still be spotted in the wild in Northland and on Stewart Island. Keep an eye out for its hair-like feathers.
Take a stroll through the native forests and you’ll hear the trees ringing with the sounds of birdsong. Look up and see if you can spot the warbling tui and the distinctly-coloured kereru, also known as the native wood pigeon. If you’re travelling to Arthur’s Pass National Park or Fiordland National Park, make sure your camera is ready to capture the native kea birds; the only alpine parrot in the world is most commonly found here.
No New Zealand wildlife holiday would be complete without indulging in some penguin-spotting. Head to the Banks Peninsula on the South Island, where you’ll find the largest mainland colony of little blue penguins. Delve deep into the south for the chance to catch a glimpse of the yellow-eyed penguin; the rarest species of penguin in the world. Also known as the hoiho, the best place to spot these beautiful birds is at Curio Bay in The Catlins; at low tide, they can be seen waddling across the sand back to their nests after fishing. They’re easy to spot thanks to their unique eye colour and the distinctive yellow band around their heads. Consider yourself lucky if you catch sight of one – they are a naturally shy species, and there are less than 6,000 still living today.
Go horseback riding
Whether you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or not, exploring Middle Earth on horseback is a must when you’re in New Zealand. Gallop along beautiful beaches at sunset; one of our favourites is Pakiri Beach near Auckland, in the North Island. With an elevated hinterland, the panoramic views of the coastline are mesmerising.
For a riding experience like no other, canter through Paradise Valley. Located under an hour from Queenstown, this was one of the filming locations for Lord of the Rings, so you can even pretend you’re in the movie.