New Zealand is home to some amazing and unique wildlife and plant species, and getting to see these natural wonders up close can be an unforgettable experience.
Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to see some of New Zealand’s native flora and fauna – such as kiwi, kea, tuatara, wetas and kauri trees – by visiting one of the country’s national parks, taking a tour of a wildlife sanctuary or by visiting a marine reserve. There is also the possibility that visitors travelling through the country will see some of New Zealand’s wonderful wildlife by chance.
What makes New Zealand’s flora and fauna interesting is that the only mammals native to the country are bats and some marine mammals. All other mammals were introduced to New Zealand with the arrival of human settlers. So, the majority of New Zealand’s native creatures are birds, reptiles, frogs, insects and fish – and many of these animals are only found in New Zealand.
A lot of the country’s native plant species are also unique to New Zealand. There is nowhere else in the world where you can see kowhai and pohutukawa trees in bloom and gaze in wonder at giant kauri trees, such as those found in the Waipoua Forest Sanctuary in Northland.
Much of this spectacular wildlife can be seen at one of the many eco-sanctuaries and nature reserves located around the country. Among them are Zealandia, a 225-hectare sanctuary near Wellington; Tiritiri Matangi Island, north of Auckland; Orokonui Eco-sanctuary near Dunedin; Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, a mainland ecological island near Cambridge; and the Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, a world-renowned bird sanctuary near Wellington.
For those keen on marine wildlife, New Zealand has 44 marine reserves that are home to a wide variety of marine life – from seals, whales, dolphins and penguins, to fish and seabirds – and these areas can be visited by taking a tour. For a really memorable experience, try swimming with dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds, Kaikoura, Akaroa or the Bay of Islands, or go whale watching in Kaikoura or in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. If you’re keen to see some seabirds, the Otago Peninsula is home to yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins and a breeding colony for albatrosses at the Royal Albatross Centre.
If you’d like to find out more about New Zealand’s flora and fauna, take a look at the Department of Conservation website. You can find out about some of the wildlife tours available around the country on the Tourism New Zealand website.