New Zealand is a paradise for nature lovers. The Pacific country is home to many native birds, fish, insects, mammals, reptiles and frogs. Here’s a visual peek at some of the wonderful wildlife you’ll encounter within its diverse ecosystem.
New Zealand’s native birds
With so many unique avian species residing in the country’s forests, mountains and seas, New Zealand is a birdwatcher’s sanctuary. Remarkably, the majority of these native birds are flightless. Here are some of the best renowned of the flock:
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
A New Zealand icon, and a very curious creature: the kiwi is nocturnal, it can’t fly, and has hair-like feathers. It is also the only bird with nostrils at the end of their bill. Sadly there are only five species of kiwi, all of which run the risk of extinction – in fact, there are only 68,000 of them left in the entire country.
The New Zealand Kea is an alpine bird from the South Island. A native protected species, Kea are the world’s only alpine parrots. These inquisitive birds are nomadic by nature, and usually make their nests on the ground. They are also renowned for having a strong beak and a knack for mischief.
The kōkako is New Zealand’s only surviving species of endemic wattlebird. Of its sub-species, the North Island kōkako is found within tall, native forest, while the South Island kōkako is currently presumed to be extinct. Along with its characteristically blue-grey plumage, kōkako are famed for their melodic, resounding birdsong.
Probably one of the most recognisable bird species in New Zealand, pūkeko is the local name for the purple swamphen – a bird that is believed to have migrated from Australia several thousand years ago. You’ll find these birds throughout the country, especially within marshy roadsides, swamps, and grassed paddocks.
Tui are very unique New Zealand birds that are part of the honeyeater family. You’ll find them just about anywhere that houses their favourite flower blooms. Their melodic calls can be heard from a far-reaching distance, and the birds are easily recognized by a distinct tuft under their throat.
Yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho)
One of the world’s rarest penguin species, the yellow-eyed penguin is named after its distinct iris and feathers. Its Māori name, hoiho, means ‘noise shouter’ – a reference to this bird’s shrill mating call. You’ll find these penguins on the South Island’s Banks Peninsula, the Stewart Island, Campbell Island, and the Auckland Islands.
New Zealand’s coastlines and oceans house an array of marine mammals, as well as a trove of endemic fish. Take a look at some of the most compelling:
These little dolphins are renowned for being some of the smallest in the world. Hector’s dolphins grow up to 1.5 metres (approximately 4 feet and 11 inches) in length and have very recognisable black and white markings running along their bodies. They are only found in New Zealand’s inland waters, usually scattered around the South Island.
Historically, basking sharks have been greatly abundant along New Zealand waters – especially around Kaikoura and the Bank’s Peninsula. Their astonishing jaws are quite deceiving, given the fact that these sharks feed primarily of zooplankton.
Māui are actually a sub-species of Hector’s dolphins – and they are very much endangered. There are fewer than 100 of these animals left in New Zealand, making them one of the rarest dolphins in the world. The few remaining Māui dolphins can be found on the North Island’s West Coast.
Longfin eels are found throughout the country – mostly in rivers, but also inland and on the ocean. The average lifespan of these eels is usually around 23 years for males and 34 for females. They breed at the latter years of their lives, making a 5000-kilometre (3107-mile) journey to Tonga to lay their eggs and spend their final moments.
New Zealand Sea Lion
This rare sea lion species primarily congregates around New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands – though some colonies can also be found in the mainland Otago and Southland Regions. Because of their declining population, and highly restricted breeding range, these blunt-nosed sea lions are at risk of becoming endangered.
New Zealand Fur Seal (kekeno)
Unlike the New Zealand Sea Lion, kekeno are actually growing in numbers. In fact, they are the most common seals you’ll find in the country, and some have even been known to travel as far ashore as Australia. Along with being great swimmers, native fur seals are easily distinguished by their pointy noses, pale whiskers, dark fur, and an affinity for rocky shores.
Arthropods, amphibians, insects and reptiles
All animal niches, big or small, have a special kind of beauty to them. These unusual wildlife natives prove this point perfectly.
The tuatara are of huge interest to biologists from the world over. They are the only surviving members of the Sphedontia order – a prehistoric family of animals that became extinct more than 60 million years ago. While they used to reside in the mainland, tuatara are now most commonly found on New Zealand’s offshore islands.
New Zealand Gecko
Admittedly, New Zealand has very few reptiles (and no snakes, unlike its neighbouring Australia). Geckos and skinks are the only native lizards around. There are 39 different species of New Zealand geckos, some of which are nocturnal. Geckos are able to produce a chirping sound – the green ones are particularly loud, making a noise very similar to a shrill bark.
Wētā are another native creature with prehistorical origins. Tree wētās are among the five broad groups encompassing this invertebrate’s 70 known species. They are nocturnal and often live in a variety of habitats – it’s not too uncommon to find some of in your own backyard.
New Zealand Crayfish (koura)
New Zealand crayfish are a bit of a rare sight – they camouflage themselves during the day, and only really move around freely at night. Some of their noticeable traits include a hard, shell-like, skin and beady black eyes. You’ll find different species of koura on both islands, usually in freshwater lakes and streams.
These teeny frogs are a bit of a rarity. They primarily reside in the Coromandel region, though some have been previously spotted around Te Kuiti. Archey’s frogs prefer moist areas with plenty of mist and high altitudes. They usually grow to 37 millimetres (1.5 inches) in length and are New Zealand’s smallest frog species.
The world’s largest carnivorous snails crawl within New Zealand’s native forests. They can reach up to 90 millimetres (3.5 inches) in length – or, in other words, about the size of a man’s clenched fist. Their shells are their most remarkable feature: they often come in various patterns and colours, from browns and reds to yellow and black.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.