Meet the Snuggly Side of New Zealand: Spotlight on our Wildlife

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    It should come as no surprise New Zealand has a cute and cuddly side hidden in the undergrowth of its ancient forests, so let’s take a moment to meet Aotearoa’s wild residents. Join us as we count down our favourite wildlife residents.

    When New Zealand springs to mind, your thoughts naturally wander to wine trails, majestic landscapes and tours to take your breath away. Short of leaving your phone flat from too many pictures, the Land of the Long White Cloud delivers experiences you’ve never dreamed of and some you’ve obsessed over… but there’s more to our island home than meets the eye.

    Frolic with Fur Seals

    Our slippery, flippered friends can be found in numerous places along the New Zealand coastline, delighting visitors of both islands with their year-round antics and occasionally lazy ways. On land, they’re sleepy, sun-bathing specialists, but in water, they’re really something else – fast, fun and full of mischief. The best place to see these cunningly cute creatures?

    Doubtful Sound takes out the top – the unsung cousin of Milford Sound, Doubtful is a slightly wilder place, attracting smaller groups and overnight cruisers steadily throughout the year. If you’re touring the northern tip of the South Island, Abel Tasman National Park is another ideal spot for a touch of seal time – sightings are common, the photos are spectacular and the scenery alone will transport you to a calmer, happier headspace. On a Kirra Tour you will be taken to this area so get your camera ready when you join our bus tour of New Zealand’s South Island

    Seals in Kaikoura Canterbury - Kyle_Mulinder
    Frolic with Fur Seals

    Spend Time with the Kindly Kiwi

    Everywhere you turn on your New Zealand holiday, you’ll spy signs of a collective love for our national bird. Timid and sweet, the quiet Kiwi is a land dweller of the underbrush variety; it doesn’t sweep the skies or impress passerby with an imposing wing span, but it does warm hearts at first sight.

    All five species. That’s right, there’s more than one Kiwi bird – the Brown Kiwi, the Great Spotted Kiwi, the Little Spotted Kiwi, the Rowi and the Tokoeka – and it’s possible to see them all in one trip. The Kiwi trail will take you from the crown of the North Island to the mountain ranges of the South, transforming your getaway into a wild, wonder-filled experience from arrival to departure.

    Where to find them…

    • The Brown Kiwi: Lowland and coastal native forest and subalpine areas in the North Island
    • The Great Spotted Kiwi: Sub-alpine zones of North-West Nelson, the Paparoa Range, and Arthur’s Pass
    • The Little Spotted Kiwi: Kapiti Island
    • The Rowi: Ōkarito forest and surrounds in South Westland, predator-free islands of Marlborough Sounds
    • The Tokoeka: Haast, Fiordland, and Rakiura (Stewart Island)
    Pukaha National Wildlife Centre Wairarapa | photo: Miles-Holden
    See Kiwis at the Pukaha National Wildlife Centre Wairarapa | photo: Miles-Holden

    Take a Break with a Tuatara

    We’ve covered wings and flippers, leaving the best for last. New Zealand doesn’t have a reputation for reptiles– we leave that to Australia – but we do have a few to note, including the prehistoric Tuatara, a living fossil whose closest relative died out with the dinosaurs at the sudden end of the Cretaceous period. Don’t think of a Tuatara as just another lizard – although reptilian, the Tuatara is not a lizard at all; they have no external ears, revel in the cooler months and sleep during the day, unlike their crawling counterparts. They are unique, the very last of their kind on the planet.

    Tuatara at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre Wairarapa | photo Miles Holden
    Tuatara at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre Wairarapa | photo Miles Holden

    Fun Fact: Underneath those head scales, Tuatara’s have a third eye. Experts aren’t certain what purpose it serves, but it’s thought to detect the time of day and seasonal fluctuations, like an in-built weatherman and timepiece combined.

    Fun fact for fans of craft beer: Make sure to check out the bottles of craft beer brewery Tuatara when exploring New Zealand. Their bottle design is based on the scaly back of the Tuatara reptile. And of course, their beers are tasty as. You can really take a break with a Tuatara (beer) in New Zealand.

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    Kirra Crew

    Kirra Crew

    We have been creating memorable New Zealand experiences since 1968. Our passion for this country is displayed through our unique itineraries. And we love to blog about exploring New Zealand and the many things to do & see here. Check out our articles and experience New Zealand your way.
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