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Most Unique New Zealand Wildlife

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments

When it comes to New Zealand wildlife, you might be thinking sheep, sheep and more sheep. And you wouldn’t be wrong, either! Until recently, New Zealand’s sheep-to-human ratio sat at about 22 sheep for every man, woman and child in the country.

That’s a lot of sweaters!

But that’s not all that the island nation has to offer. A diverse collection of unique animals make this coastal county their home. In fact, there wasn’t a single mammal to be found for millions of years before humans arrived. Instead, a plethora of wild bird species, reptiles and marine life thrived in the region.

This includes a lizard whose DNA goes back 200 million years, unchanged since the days it walked the land with dinosaurs.

What you won’t find though, are snakes. That’s right, not a single snake slithers around New Zealand. Great news for all the ophidiophobics out there (that means fear of snakes!).

We’ve rounded up a few of the most unique creatures you’ll find, so that your next trip will have you doing more than just counting sheep.

Albatross

new zealand wildlife

Photo: DunedinNZ

A storied history riddles this legendary bird’s past. Sailors once thought that seeing an albatross in the sky meant good luck. The giant bird was said to have carried the souls of dead sailors to protect the ship from danger. However, if one were to kill an albatross, certain doom would come to all aboard.

These days the albatross isn’t as rife with superstition, but the real facts behind the bird are just as interesting. They are among the largest seabirds on the planet. At their largest, their wings can span more 12 feet across – almost 6 times the average seagull!

The albatross is kind of like the drone of the bird-world. They use nearly autonomous, micro-wing movements to stay aloft using little to no effort. For the albatross, this makes flying a breeze.

They can even sleep while flying and have been known to stay out to sea for years, only returning to land to mate and feed their young. Scientists tracked an albatross recently circling the entire globe – more than 10,000 miles – in just 46 days.

Tip: Before you see an albatross in person, keep tabs on the newest addition to the Taiaroa Head albatross colony via live web-stream! This albatross chick hatched in late January and will remain until it’s old enough to fly away in September. The chick’s parents return from sea daily to feed their young. An amazing look at New Zealand wildlife up-close.

Tuatara

new zealand wildlife

What has three eyes, zero ears and has called New Zealand home for more than 200 million years?

The tuatara, New Zealand’s “living dinosaur”, still carries the same DNA since it walked side-by-side actual with the famed mega-reptiles. A third-eye on top of it’s head (physical, not metaphorical) is thought to help produce vitamin D and regulate night and day cycles, but even scientists still don’t know what it’s really used for.

At the very least, it makes up for having no ears!

As mammals like wildcats and rodents were introduced to the mainland, tuataras became quick and easy prey and populations were decimated. These days they thrive solely on the islands off the New Zealand coast – like Jurassic Park, right in New Zealand.

However, being banished to an island turned out to be a good thing. Without any natural predators, the tuatara can live to be more than 100 years old. The benefits of island life.

Kea Parrot

new zealand wildlife

If you thought you had to travel to the tropics to see parrots, think again. This New Zealand exclusive is the world’s only alpine parrot and is found only in select parts of the South Island. Like most parrots, the Kea is an intelligent bird. Researchers estimate that the Kea is as smart as a 4-year old – without ever having stepped foot in pre-school.

The Kea is notorious for it’s brash personality. They’ve developed almost non-existent boundaries and humans, a blessing and a curse that makes getting an up-close picture of the Kea possible, but also less savory encounters. Because of the bird’s hyper-curious nature and general trust around people, they have been known to peck and damage cars and rifle through bags and clothing. One Kea even made off with a tourist’s unguarded wallet in Fiordland National Park.

It’s no wonder they call these pick-pocketing parrots the “clowns of the mountain”.

You’ll want to see this beautiful bird in person and the best place to do it is in Fiordland. Take a nature cruise of Milford Sound for beautiful landscapes and wildlife spotting. Kea have been known to hang out in the parking lot of Milford Sound so be sure to keep an eye on your wallet!

Glow Worms

new zealand wildlife

Photo: Corin Walker Bain

No other animal can stake the claim of attracting more than 400,000 visitors to New Zealand every year. In fact, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are the most popular cave in all of Australasia, which includes New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea and other islands.

How do they do it?

Tourists flock to the Waitomo Caves to see the hypnotic, blueish glow that lights up the subterranean site. Millions of glowworms cover the cavernous interior and light up like blue fireflies during their feeding stage. The best part about seeing the glowworms is the silent, “black-water” river raft ride that you take to see them. You’ll float along the water beneath the canyon in total darkness, with only the star-like light of glowworms above.

Tip: Waitomo Glowworm Caves make a great back-to-back trip with Rotorua’s amazing geothermal features. Take a tour of both for a day tour you’ll never forget.

Dusky Dolphins

These quirky marine-mammals are best known for their aerial-acrobatics. While all dolphins exhibit breaching behavior in order to breathe from their blowholes, dusky dolphins seem to perform out-of-water stunts like aerial jumps, spins, tail-over-head dives, barrel rolls and more – seemingly for no other reason than their own enjoyment!

Dusky dolphins are found off the the south African coast, South America and many oceanic islands, but the largest concentrations are found all over New Zealand waters, including the Kaikoura Coast. Guided tours allow you to swim with these curious creatures in their natural environment.

Dusky dolphins are curious around humans and interaction with them is possible without the need for feeding, changing their environment or otherwise disrupting their natural habitat. 

Tour-goers have reported dusky dolphins in pods numbering in the hundreds. The dolphins swim with and seem to mirror the behavior of humans (diving in as humans dive in) without being coaxed in to an encounter. 

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

new zealand wildlife

This tuxedoed New Zealand native is the rarest species of penguin in the entire world. The distinct, yellow banding around their eyes sets these quirky creatures apart from their Antarctic cousins to the south.

Yellow-eyed penguins, also known by their Maori name hoiho, are increasingly endangered. They generally breed on the South Island of New Zealand and habitats are found off the coast of Dunedin.

You can catch a glimpse of the rare land-bird with a cruise to Penguin Place wildlife refuge where conservation efforts are underway to increase the animals decreasing population.

Kiwi

You didn’t think we’d get away without mentioning New Zealand’s most iconic animal, did you? This large, flightless bird is an icon that is inseparable from New Zealand. The word Kiwi is used as a term of endearment for native New Zealanders and even adorns the country’s $1 coin.

Not bad for a bird that can’t even fly.

The Kiwi’s arrival to the island nation remains sort of a mystery. Some say the bird descended from an ancestor capable of flight. Others say they arrived before New Zealand broke off from Australia millions of years ago. Essentially, just walking right over.

The Kiwi is a cherished part of New Zealand wildlife and culture, whichever way they arrived.

Unfortunately, the Kiwi is an increasingly endangered species, so they may be hard to spot in the wild. The best way to see a Kiwi up-close is through conservation projects and nature reserves, like Rainbow Springs Nature Park in Rotorua and Zealandia in Wellington.

Plan a Trip to See New Zealand Wildlife

We’ll set you up with the perfect trip for wildlife watching in beautiful New Zealand. Whether you’re Albatross-spotting off the coast of Dunedin or staring in awe at glowworms, you’ll be sure not to miss anything on your trip.

We’ll even send you to Fiordland National Park, but make sure to watch your valuables around the Kea!

Add New Zealand Wildlife to My Trip

Want to start planning your trip now?

Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm) and speak to one of our expert Destination Specialists today.


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Overseas Adventure Travel Capital of the World – Heart-Pounding New Zealand

Posted on: June 20th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
Overseas Adventure Travel Bungy Jumping

Photo: AJ Hackett Bungy

If A. J. Hackett jumped off a bridge would anyone follow him? That’s the question the New Zealand native asked back in 1986 when he opened the world’s first commercial bungy jumping operation in Queenstown. The world answered with a resounding “Yes!” and soon people from New Zealand and all over rushed to see the extreme sport of “bungy jumping”.

The rest is history and New Zealand’s place as the overseas adventure travel capital was solidified.

We’ll show you why picturesque Kiwi country continues to be known the world over for extreme adventure sports in our guide to overseas adventure travel in New Zealand.

Skydiving New Zealand

New Zealand’s landscape is some of the most picturesque in the world. Deep fiords, tall, snow-capped mountains and green, rolling vistas give New Zealand that postcard-look at every turn. What better way to see it all than by plummeting towards it from 12,000 feet up?

Skydiving in New Zealand is the most epic way to top off your overseas adventure travel vacation in New Zealand. You’ll receive instruction, suit up and strap on to an instructor for a safe dive. However, nothing can prepare you for that initial leap through the clouds!

Overseas Adventure Travel New Zealand Sky Diving

Photo: NZOne Skydive

Not ready to take the plunge? Opt for a bungy-jump with the company that started it all. The A. J. Hackett Ledge Bungy provides you with nearly 9 seconds of free-fall before being hurtled back up by your ankles. It’s the unforgettable experience that put Queenstown on the extreme sport map.

High Speed River Boats and Kayaking New Zealand

Hop aboard a high-speed thrilling river boat for an exhilarating journey through the Shotover River Canyons. You’ll zip past past jagged cliff-faces at nearly 60 mph. Squeeze through stunning narrow canyons mere inches away from the rocky walls to your side. Hold on tight as the unique Shotover Jet performs high speed, 360-degree spins along the way. This is not your average river boat cruise.

Want to take it a little bit slower? Get your feet wet first with a bit of kayaking at Tonga Island Marine Reserve. Embark from Onetahuti Beach in a double-kayak and see some of Abel Tasman’s amazing landscape. Paddle around pristine waters and New Zealand’s renowned rugged coastline and rock formations. You’ll feel like you’re exploring uncharted land as you paddle your way through. Lay your eyes on the lush, jungle landscape that surrounds you.

Once you make landfall, you’ll have the chance to explore some of the island and continue your adventure on foot.

Kayaking Abel Tasman New Zealand

Photo: Camilla Stoddart

Tip: Paddle over to see the Seal Colony where you could see native fur seals frolicking in their natural habitat! Along the way, lookout for more of New Zealand’s great wildlife like sea birds or even a Little Blue Penguin. The pristine waters around the reserve are so clear, you can even see fish swimming by as you paddle through.

Caving and Canyoning New Zealand

Get to know New Zealand from the inside-out by trekking through some of its best caves and canyons. Strap on your helmet, turn on your headlamp and harness up. This spelunking adventure is the best way to see some amazing subterranean wonders. New Zealand’s cave system is among the most diverse and challenging in the world.

Sure, you can take the simple walk through wide caverns and see some great sights. Stalactites and black water rivers are pretty accessible to those looking for a slightly more hands-off experience.

Overseas Adventure Travel Waitomo Caves

Photo: Absolute Adventure

But what would overseas adventure travel be without the adventure? For a a more harrowing trek you’ll want to head in to New Zealand’s narrow cave system. You’ll crawl, squeeze and rappel through the complex cave network. Feel your way through certain sections with only the light of you and your cave mates headlamps. Along the way your guide will give you an informative run down of the caves history and geology.

Overseas Adventure Travel Glow Worm Caves New Zealand

Photo: Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

No trip to New Zealand is complete without heading to Waitomo for the iconic Glow Worm Caves. You’ll see beautiful rock formations and geological wonders before embarking on a silent “black-water raft” ride. The silent float on the river-cave offers a stunning look at thousands of glow worms that call the cave home. See the soft, blue light that these bio-luminescent insects give off as you drift silently through the dark expanse. Staring at the glow worms as you float through the silent, dark cave makes you feel like you’re looking at thousands of stars in the sky.

Glacier Walks and Volcano Hikes

Mountaineering has a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders. Did you know that Edmund Hilary, the first person to summit Mt. Everest, was a Kiwi? His interest in climbing mountains was spurned from a childhood trip to Mt. Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. Celebrate Hilary’s legacy with an adventure of your own in New Zealand’s glacier and volcano regions.

Start off at Franz Josef Glacier where you’ll take a scenic helicopter ride to the top. You’ll get an incredible view of the top of the glacier area along the way before landing right on the ice. An expert guide will lead you through the glacier’s rugged terrain. Walk through narrow ice canyons. See snow-capped mountains and pristine blue-ice. The almost Antarctic feel to Franz Josef Franz Josef Glacier makes you feel a thousand miles away.

Overseas Adventure Travel Franz Josef Glacier New Zealand

Photo: Franz Josef Glacier Guides

From there head for the North Island. Make a stop in Tongariro National Park and participate in a “Great Walk of New Zealand“. You can even trek up Mt. Nguaruhoe – better known as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings.

Your final stop on this circuit of New Zealand wonders is the sulfuric, geothermal region in Rotorua. Once you arrive, don’t be alarmed if things smell a bit odd. “The Sulfur City” is more than just a nickname for Rotorua. The sulfur rich minerals brewing below the earth escape in to the atmosphere leaving a strong sulfuric smell all around. But after some getting used to, it’s just a reminder of the amazing geothermal activity happening just below you.

Just outside Rotorua proper sits the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This area was created by New Zealand’s largest volcanic eruption more than 100 years ago in 1886. In geologic terms, where things are measured in hundreds of millions of years, this valley is brand new. Valley walks take you through stunning emerald pools, hot springs and steaming crater lakes. Be sure to check out Frying Pan Lake – as the name implies, the lake cracks and sizzles from geothermal heating!

Geothermal Rotorua New Zealand Overseas Adventure Travel

Photo: Rotorua Geothermal Region

New Zealand – Overseas Adventure Travel Mecca

In New Zealand you’re never short on options to push your vacation to the next level. Sure you’ll want to see the stunning landscapes that made Middle Earth come to life in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. But in between the relaxing walks and scenic drives, make a few stops that will truly take your breath away. Let us plan a trip that will show you why New Zealand’s reputation for overseas adventure travel is well-earned.  

Add Some Adventure to My Tour

Want to start planning your trip now? Call 888 -359-2877 (M -F 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) today and talk to one of our Destination Specialists. We’ll work together to create the perfect trip for you.


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