Many businesses around New Zealand allow you to encounter our wildlife close up.
As well as getting to have unforgettable wildlife experiences, by choosing sustainable tourism operators you are helping to support conservation efforts. The following tour operators support New Zealand’s nature and wildlife by donating a portion of their visitor fees to environmental protection and conservation projects.
Kapiti Island Nature Tours, Wellington
The rugged Kapiti Island, northwest of Wellington, was one of the first designated wildlife sanctuaries in New Zealand. In 2009, Kapiti Island Nature Tours and Kaitiaki ō Kapiti Trust supported the Department of Conservation’s stoat eradication program to return Kapiti Island to its former predator-free status.
Visit the island and take a day tour or stay overnight in the lodge and go kiwi spotting. As a visitor, you can enjoy seeing species of endangered birds – some of which are extinct on the mainland – and support ongoing conservation efforts.
Just a few kilometres from the heart of Wellington, is the fully-fenced, predator-proof eco-sanctuary, Zealandia.
Zealandia’s founders have a 500-year vision to restore the valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. Already the ecosanctuary has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area. This is one of the best places in New Zealand to see rare birds such as hihi, kākā, takahe, and kākāriki.
As well as going on a tour, you can also donate, become a Zealandia member, or join Zealandia’s volunteer workforce.
Whale Watch, Kaikoura
A deep ocean canyon just off the coast at Kaikōura on the South Island’s east coast attracts especially giant sperm whales searching for their favourite prey, giant squid. This is the best place in New Zealand to see whales. The coast is also home to fur seals and crayfish, after which the area is named.
Whale Watch Kaikōura is a Māori-owned company committed to hospitality and respect for the natural world. It contributes to ongoing scientific research through detailed record-keeping, identifying every whale seen, its location, and any unusual whale behaviour.
Whale Watch supports the marine conservation movement, including the ongoing international fight to stop commercial whaling.
Elm Wildlife Tours, Dunedin
Elm Wildlife Tours on the Otago Peninsula give visitors the chance to see rare yellow-eyed penguins.
The company helps protect the yellow-eyed penguins, considered the world’s rarest penguin with only 5000 individuals remaining in the world. Their efforts include tree planting, the construction of nest sites and predator control. Elm Wildlife tours also helped set up New Zealand Sea Lion Trust to fund research into this threatened species.
On a wildlife tour, you can also see Hooker’s sea lions, New Zealand fur seals and little blue penguins, as well as albatross at the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head.
Ulva Island Tours, Stewart Island
Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura, is teeming with native birdlife.
Ulva Goodwillie is a direct descendant of the first Māori people of Stewart Island, and in 2000 she established Ulva’s Guided Walks. Ulva and her team of local guides offer visitors a range of bird watching and botanical experiences.
Ulva’s Guided Walks supports the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust (SIRCET) Sponsor-a-Hectare programme and the Halfmoon Bay Habitat Restoration Project.