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It’s not just the expansive landscapes, beautiful mountains, lush rainforests and exquisite beaches that make New Zealand unique. It’s not even the friendly, laid back locals, ever willing to lend a helping hand or offer some friendly advice. No, we think it’s the wildlife that makes this place special and you get a chance to see more than a fair share if you are travelling around Southwest New Zealand.
Here are a couple that stand out and the best places to see them
Fresh Water Bottlenose Dolphins - the Hollyford River
The bottlenose dolphins of Fiordland live at the southern limit of the species worldwide range and even more curious is the fact that schools of these dolphins are regularly seen in the lower Hollyford River or even up as far as Lake McKerrow further up the Hollyford Valley - this is only one of two places in the world where they are found in fresh water. Bottlenose dolphins are large beautiful creatures, that seem to be perpetually smiling, with big widely spaced eyes, relatively long flippers, a rounded forehead, definitely a friendly face - and the reason the are believed to head inland up the Hollyford waterways is that they are in pursuit of the fat and delicious river trout.
Where to see dolphins: There are never guarantees with dolphins but the best chance you have to see them in freshwater is somewhere like the Hollyford Valley. You also have an opportunity to view bottlenose on a cruise on Milford Sound, if you choose to take that option.
Fiordland Crested Penguin - Martins Bay
The Fiordland crested penguin (tawaki) is one of the rarest New Zealand mainland penguins and is one of six species of crested penguin called the Macaroni Penguin. Adults stand about 60 centimeters (1.96 Feet) high and weigh up to four kilograms (8.8 Pounds), they have a black head, back and throat with a white underside and front. It sports a stubby orange bill with pink feet. The coolest and most striking features is its pair of yellow (sulphur coloured) crests above the eyes that grow from the bill to just behind the head making them look like the punk rocker of the penguin community. The character named Lovelace in the film Happy Feet is a Macaroni Penguin and voiced over by none other than the fabulous Robin Williams.
Where to see Fiordland Crested Penguins: They nest individually on the wild shores of the remote Martins Bay, which is only the most natural wildlife experience we know of in New Zealand and accessible on a tour walking the the Hollyford Track. More accessible options are Milford and Doubtful Sounds.
Naughty Kea - the world’s only alpine parrot
So called by its cry of ‘ke-aa’ ringing through New Zealand’s South Island, the Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot and a naughty one at that. Proven to be smarter than a monkey this ‘Clown of the Alps’ is famous for its destructive behavior and inquisitive nature. It is not uncommon for an unsuspecting tourist to have their day packs looted of anything shiny (coins, watches) or for their cars rubber window seals ripped out without a twinge of remorse causing all manner of difficulties with car hire companies.
Where to see Kea: You will see this beaked bandit's magnificent plume, up close and personal in places like Arthurs Pass, Fiordland and also at Mt Cook national park..
New Zealand Fur Seal – The Deepest Diver
This good looking fin-footed carnivorous mammal is distinguished by visible ears with back flippers which rotate forward, a pointy-nose and long pale whiskers with a body covered with dark grey brown fur. Some have white tips on their longer upper hairs, which give the animal a silvery appearance. These seals dive deeper and longer than any other fur seal in the world and Females on the West Coast are known dive deeper than 238 meters (780 feet), and for as long as 11 minutes.
Where to see Fur Seals: Our favourite place to see seals is on the West Coast’s remote Martins Bay at Long Reef. Other popular spots are Cape Foulwind near Westport, Milford Sound and Kaikoura.
Wildlife encounters are always amongst everyone's favourite memories on our small group New Zealand wildlife tours. Taking our time on walks like the Hollyford and Milford Tracks along with overnight stays in remote locations like Punakaiki and Martins Bay in Fiordland National Park give us every opportunity to see native fauna up close.
Our 13 or 11 day tours start in Christchurch and travel through the best of Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area - included are guided walks on the Routeburn, Hollyford and Milford Tracks plus at Arthur's Pass and Mt Cook National Parks. As well as the best walking in New Zealand, you'll never forget iconic activities like the TranzAlpine, Fiordland Helicopter flight and backcountry jetboat.
There is no camping or staying in crowded huts on this trip, you'll enjoy all the comforts of homoe with four star accommodation, the best New Zealand cuisine and expert guides to who you the way.
Written by Brent Narbey - New Zealand Trails
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