Friday, May 3

New Zealand’s Favourite Native Animals

New Zealand enjoys a warm subtropical climate in the north whilst the southern island is more temperate and dominated by the scenic Southern Alps that run down the west coast and reach a height of over 3,700 metres. And amongst all of this there is a rich history of Maori culture and European settlement.

As well as the dramatic landscape New Zealand’s location and varied climate provide the home to a huge variety of native birds and animals that are a highlight for many. The most famous of these residents is of course the Kiwi. Featured on many military badges after the First World War it became a symbol for the country. Kiwi populations are spread across the North Island and there are also isolated pockets on the South Island. A nocturnal flightless bird spotting them is difficult but it is possible to arrange a specialised trip and seeing them in the wild is worth the effort.

Perhaps the most impressive of New Zealand’s animal attractions isn’t found on its islands but rather in the surrounding waters. Just off the east coast of the South Island is one of the few places in the world where you can see sperm whales. Here the continental shelf drops away sharply and a number of deep water canyons provide a unique environment for the largest of all the toothed whales. And thanks to the warm current from the north meeting the cold, nutrient rich current from the south these waters are the perfect feeding ground for these impressive creatures, as well as many others.

Distinctive Orca can be seen in the same waters between December and March. Highly social, these whales travel in large family groups and their distinctive black and white markings as well as their large dorsal fins make for a trilling sight. Imbedded in the local Maori culture, killer whales are featured heavily in traditional art and sculpture and are considered the most powerful animal in the ocean.

Humpback whales can also been seen between June and July and are best known for their dramatic habit of breaching and slapping the water with their tails and fins. Ranging in length from 12 to 16 metres the acrobatics of these animals is not to be understated and a good camera and quick reactions are a must! Feeding in the polar waters in the summer and migrating to tropical or subtropical waters to breed in the winter a cruise around New Zealand is an ideal way to see them.

No matter what time of year you visit dolphins are a permanent resident and the acrobatic dusky dolphin is the most common. Pod’s can vary in size from between 100 to 1000 and as they inhabit the waters year round you’re almost guaranteed to see them and can even experience the once in a life time opportunity to swim with them, although we recommend that for this you visit in the warmer summer months.

These maybe be the favorites for many an impressive array of coastal seabirds plus penguins and even glow worms make a trip to New Zealand an unforgettable one.

David Bell is a freelance writer and blogs about interior design, food, travel, art and culture. Follow him on Twitter @DavidBellWriter