Those looking for an authentic New Zealand experience need go no further than Southland’s extraordinary wildlife, loved by visitors from near and far. Whether exploring The Catlins to see the Hector’s Dolphin, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world, or bird watching on Stewart Island - there’s something for everyone.
There aren’t many visitors to New Zealand that can say they’ve spotted kiwi in the wild. Stewart Island Experience gives you the chance to do this. As dusk sets in and daylight fades, explore through native forest by torchlight as you are blanketed by the starry night sky. Here in the darkness you will glimpse the Southern brown kiwi (Rakiura Tokoeka) as it searches for food.
Besides the iconic Kiwi, Southland is also home to the largest Takahe population in New Zealand, a Kākāpō recovery programme, a Mutton-birding industry, and Ulva Island Open Sanctuary - a remote, pest-free island that’s aimed at conserving rare species of wildlife. Short boat cruises, walks along some of Southland’s renowned tracks or taking guided tours are all great ways to get close to the spectacular wildlife for a unique and personal experience.
By day take a boat ride to Ulva Island, near Stewart Island - a predator free island sanctuary - for the complete bird and nature experience. Here you will see rare native New Zealand birds such as Saddleback, Mohua, Weka, Kakariki, Kaka and more.
The Catlins is a must do for visitors to the region, here you’ll find a world of waterfalls, coastal walks and dramatic scenery. This wild coastal stretch is home to an array of marine life including fur seals, elephant seals, sea lions, Hector’s Dolphins and the very rare but distinctive Hoiho, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin. While there make sure to stop in at Curio Bay, the home of a 180 million year old petrified forest and the exciting new Tumu Toka Curioscape, a world-class interpretive educational centre where visitors can experience Curio Bay's special stories.
The majestic Hector's Dolphin is the world’s rarest and smallest species of dolphin, with only around 3,000 - 4,000 left in New Zealand. Porpoise and Curio Bays are home to a large group, usually found frolicking close to shore in the summer - which provides hours of watching pleasure for the whole family.
The Catlins is also home to the Yellow-eyed penguin (thought to be the world’s rarest penguin), which can be found at Roaring Bay at dusk and dawn. Thanks to the area’s giant kelp that protects the land and forest from the sea, the species can live in a food-rich environment where its local human community are actively involved in its conservation.