Many species of New Zealand animals are found nowhere else in the world, due mainly to the country's isolation.
From the cheeky Kea, a parrot that inhabits the alpine regions, and which takes great delight in chewing wiper blades and other rental car bits, to the iconic Kiwi, New Zealand's fauna offers the traveler an amazing selection of fascinating subjects to study and photograph.
The Kiwi is very difficult to spot in the wild, but thankfully there are several animal parks around the country where you can view these elusive birds, most notably at Wellington's Zealandia, and Auckland Zoo.
Due to it's isolation, New Zealand has no snakes, a bonus for those tramping (hiking) on the many walks through New Zealand. We do have several varieties of reptiles, including the amazing Tuatara, which is found nowhere else on earth. This throwback to the age of dinosaurs is found only on 32 offshore islands, where predators are rare.
A marine wonderland
New Zealand also has a wide variety of marine mammals including various species of dolphins, whales and seals. It is possible to interact with some of these mammals on the numerous whale watching tours available around the country. And it's also possible to view seals at various locations around the country. There are several colonies at Kaikoura on the South Island's East Coast, and another at Cape Foulwind on the wild West Coast.
At Kaikoura, around two and a half hours drive north of Christchurch on the South Island, the Point Kean seal colony allows you to get some great pictures. The seals are often found sunning themselves on the pathways and boardwalks, but remember, these are wild animals and can bite, so keep a safe distance.
Around twenty five kilometers north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1, is one of the most remarkable wildlife encounters you could ever imagine.
At Ohau Point there's a seal colony that lives on the rocks beside the highway. But on the other side of the road is a walkway that leads a few hundred meters into the forest, to a waterfall. In the winter months, dozens of seal pups make their way from the ocean, up the stream, and play in the pool under the waterfall. Amazing to see.
Unfortunately at the end of 2016, an earthquake blocked the highway at this location, and it's not yet known if the waterfall survived.
How to see these unique New Zealand animals
New Zealand is one of the most environmentally friendly nations in the world, and we are proud to protect our amazing wildlife.
But we also love to show it to the world, and wherever you travel in New Zealand you'll find a range of nature tours ready to get you up close to our local animal friends.
From cruises through some of the most beautiful places in the world, to dedicated wildlife centers, New Zealand's tourism operators have worked hard to provide you with some wonderful viewing experiences.
There's hundreds of tours to choose from so to make it a little easier for you we've selected some of the more popular tours for you.
Just follow the links (click on the "Learn More" buttons) to view a range of tours where you are sure to see some very unique New Zealand animals:
Dolphin Discovery Bay of Islands
Swim with these amazing creatures in the beautiful Bay of Islands
Akaroa Swim With Dolphins Tour From Christchurch
Swim with the amazing Hector's Dolphins at Akaroa
Auckland Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruise
Cruise the pristine waters of the Hauraki Gulf, on the watch for whales, dolphins and native seabirds
Swimming With Wild Dolphins in Akaroa
Come and swim with the these small friendly dolphins in the picturesque Akaroa Harbour near Christchurch
Penguin and Albatross tours
Full Day Wildlife Tour From Dunedin
See Yellow Eyed Penguins, Royal Albatross, and Dunedin city highlights on this seven hour tour.
Dunedin and Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour
See the highlights of Dunedin before heading to the peninsula to see the rare Yellow Eyed Penguin and Royal Albatross.
Whale watching tours
Kaikoura Whale Watch Day Tour From Christchurch
This full day tour takes you to Kaikoura where you'll search for the huge sperm whale, dolphins, fur seals and marine birds. Highly rated.
Kaikoura Whale and Dolphin Overnight Tour From Christchurch
Day one takes you to Kaikoura for a cruise to see the giant sperm whales and dusky dolphins. And on day two you get to swim with the dolphins.
Auckland Dolphin and Whale Watching Cruise
Cruise the waters of the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland in search of whales, dolphins and native marine birds.
Rainbow Springs and Kiwi Encounter
See the native kiwi at Rainbow Springs Rotorua. The Kiwi Encounter is said to be New Zealand's largest kiwi conservation center. Great value.
Franz Josef West Coast Wildlife Center
Voted by Lonely Planet as one of the 12 must see things to visit in NZ, you are guaranteed to see this shy national icon. On the optional "backstage pass" you'll see kiwi chicks and get to talk to the rangers!
Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center, Masterton
The National Wildlife Center is home to the only known white kiwi in captivity! You'll also see a variety of other NZ wildlife including eels and Kaka.
Wildlife and Nature Tours
You can search through a huge range of wildlife and nature tours throughout New Zealand. Just click on the Learn More button.
We don't like pests!
We love our native New Zealand animals.
Unfortunately, there are also a variety of introduced pests that frequent our country, including possums, rabbits, hares, stoat, weasel, deer, wild pig, goat and hedgehog.
New Zealander's generally take a dim view of these pests, and trapping and eradication programs are common.
Want to learn more about our native New Zealand animals?
To find out more about the wide variety of New Zealand animals, the Department of Conservation site makes excellent reading.
Just click here to view.