New Zealand’s movie-star landscapes are famous the world over, but less well known is our uniquely kiwi wildlife. A small island the size of Japan at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s environment has evolved in isolation for millions of years. We don’t have the spiders, snakes or crocodiles that thrive on closely neighbouring Australia, but we do have some fascinating species you won’t find anywhere else in the world. In this blog, we thought we would shed some light on some of the country’s most interesting inhabitants – many of which can be easily seen as part of your New Zealand holiday.
A true living fossil, these small, lizard-like reptiles were alive during the age of the dinosaurs and can only be found in New Zealand. They once thrived on the mainland, but due to the introduction of predators they are now only found in the wild on a handful of offshore islands. Captive breeding programs are helping to increase numbers in the wild as well as making these special creatures accessible to view up-close. Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre in Wairarapa is one of the best places to see Tuatara. Slow moving with giant, piercing eyes, New Zealand’s living dinosaurs – which can live for up to 200 years - are a must-see while you’re here.
Few of New Zealand’s unique species are as magical and intriguing as our glow worm. Arachnocampa luminosa is a species found nowhere else on earth, twinkling luminously to both lure prey and attract the opposite sex. Found in moist, dark caves and often amongst stunning limestone formations and above underground rivers, journeying into New Zealand’s subterranean wilderness to see these creatures is a real adventure. Northland’s Kawiti Glow Worm Caves and the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves, found in Fiordland in the South Island, are some of the best places to experience the star-studded carpets of magical, twinkling lights.
The legendary sea giants made famous by the story of Moby Dick are for more pleasurable to encounter in real life. While not endemic to New Zealand, the world’s largest toothed whale is best viewed in Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island. It is one of the best places on the planet to see the majestic Sperm Whale up-close. There is no other area in the world where these huge creatures are routinely found so close to the coast. With a preference for deep water, Kaikoura’s underwater canyons make the perfect home for these princely mammals with the abundance of squid and fish making for highly favourable feeding grounds. View these special creatures with a whale watching boat cruise or scenic flight – their sheer size and graceful dives make for a very special, privileged encounter.
Long finned Eel
Giant, snake-like eels have lived in New Zealand’s rivers, swamps and waterways for millions of years. Carnivorous and long-living, eels are native to New Zealand and spend their lives migrating up streams. They eventually make their way out towards the Pacific Ocean to breed and die, and are slowly becoming endangered due to loss of habitat. Some long finned eels have been reported to weigh up to 40 kilograms; their muscular, tube-shaped bodies making them adept at climbing – it is not unusual for eels to climb waterfalls of 20 metres! These unique creatures are best viewed at Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife centre – their daily eel talks, held in the early afternoon, are packed full of interesting facts and information.
MoaTrek’s small group tours of New Zealand are jam-packed with fascinating wildlife experiences – you’ll have the opportunity to view all of the above native creatures on many of our itineraries. Spectacular landscapes and delicious food and wine also make up our tour experience. Find out more about our tours here, or contact us now.