Wildlife Encounters

Wildlife Encounters

from £4,455
excluding flights *
21 nights Jan-Mar, Oct-Dec


This 22-day independent holiday focuses on the rich and diverse natural heritage of New Zealand, home to a number of species of flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Bird life and marine mammals take centre stage on this self-drive journey that will lead you through pristine rainforests, alpine valleys and secluded beaches.


  • Discover New Zealand's unique wildlife including the kiwi, yellow eyed penguin, tuatara, kea and Hector's dolphin.
  • Travel from Christchurch to Greymouth on the TranzAlpine train, renowned as one of the great train journeys of the world.
  • Discover the breath-taking, pristine wilderness of Doubtful Sound, deep in the heart of Fiordland National Park.
  • Stay on Stewart Island, New Zealand's third largest island.
  • Visit Otago Peninsula, home to one of the world's rarest penguins.

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom
  • 16 breakfasts, 3 dinners
  • Car rental throughout including GPS
  • TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth
  • Private airport transfer on arrival
  • Ferry crossings
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island tour
  • Privately guided walk in the Coromandel
  • Gannet Safari Tour
  • Kapiti Island overnight kiwi spotting tour
  • Kaikoura whale watching
  • Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
  • Full day birding bonanza tour on Stewart Island
  • Penguin Place conservation tour in Dunedin
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection

Full description

On Tiritiri Matangi Island near Auckland you will find tuataras, reintroduced to the Island in recent years. Often referred to as the living fossil, the tuatara is the sole survivor of an ancient order of reptiles called Rhynchocephalia.

Stewart Island is the only place in New Zealand where the timid nocturnal little brown kiwi can be reliably seen in the wild. Stewart Island's brown kiwi has been recognised as a separate species, adapted to life in the south where during the summer months days are very long and nights short. On occasion, these kiwis can be seen foraging during daylight hours.

Yellow-eyed penguins (megadyptes antipodes) are found only in New Zealand waters and are one of the world's rarest penguins. They inhabit an area rich in wildlife on the Otago Peninsula. Numbers on the mainland are declining and their habitat is under threat. Their survival is very much reliant on human understanding and goodwill.

Hector's dolphin (cephalorhynchus hectori) can be easily recognised by its small rounded dorsal fin and distinctive black and white markings. One of the world's rarest dolphins they are endemic to the coastal regions of New Zealand. The largest populations live on the east and west coasts of the South Island, most notably on Banks Peninsula and Te Waewae Bay while smaller local groups are scattered along South Island coasts.

The kea is the world's only alpine parrot. They are best seen in Arthur's Pass National Park, Mount Cook (either in the Tasman or Hooker Valleys) and on the Milford Sound Road at Homer Tunnel. Renowned for their mischievous tendencies they are often responsible for demolishing vinyl ski tow seats and windscreen wipers and for raiding remote huts in search of food.

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Authentic holidays for passionate travellers

Prices & Dates *

Airfares start from around £825 per person and are quoted separately to the holiday price. When enquiring, our Travel Specialists will provide the best fare possible from your preferred airline / airport.

This itinerary starts from £4,455 per person, based on 2 sharing a room in a mix of hotels, motels, B&B's and lodges, and vehicle rental with GPS. Prices may vary depending on departure date. Please contact us for a detailed quote based on your preferred travel dates, vehicle category and style of accommodation, or to tailor this itinerary.

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom (mix of hotels, motels, B&B's, lodges and homestays)
  • 16 breakfasts, 3 dinners
  • Car rental throughout (Toyota Corolla or similar) including GPS
  • Private airport transfer on arrival
  • Interislander ferry (Premium Plus cabin)
  • Return ferry between Bluff and Stewart Island
  • TranzAlpine rail journey from Christchurch to Greymouth
  • Tiritiri Matangi Island tour
  • Half day privately guided walk in the Coromandel
  • Gannet Safari Tour
  • Kapiti Island overnight kiwi spotting tour
  • Kaikoura whale watching
  • Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise
  • Full day Birding Bonanza tour on Ulva Island
  • Penguin Place Conservation tour
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection »

Itinerary & Accommodation

Itinerary & Accommodation

The itinerary shown is an example of this self-drive holiday. We have many other hotels and route recommendations which can be tailored to your requirements. Please discuss with our Travel Specialists who can put together a bespoke itinerary for you.

Days 1-2 Auckland

On arrival at Auckland Airport you will be transferred to your hotel in the city. Known as the 'City of Sails', Auckland's bustling shopping district, chic waterfront bars and restaurants combine with the city's sights, such as the Harbour Bridge and the distinctive Sky Tower, which offers inspiring views of the city and its stunning surrounds.
Overnight: Hotel Grand Windsor (2 nights).

The following day, enjoy a visit to the nature reserve of Tiritiri Matangi Island. Surrender your senses to the beauty and magic of this island, situated in the Hauraki Gulf and only a 75 minute ferry trip from Auckland (via Gulf Harbour). From the moment you step onto the island to the moment you leave, you will be entranced by the serenade of gentle birdsong and the lush native bush. Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the world's most successful conservation projects and features some of New Zealand's most endangered birds, such as the takahe, bellbird and kokako as well as other rare wildlife in their natural habitat. The guided walks provide expert commentary on both the animal life and the historical and archaeological features of the island. Please note: This full day tour operates every Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun and Public Holidays.

Day 3 Auckland - Whitianga, Coromandel

Collect your rental car from the city depot and drive to the seaside township of Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, a region filled with rainforest-clad gorges and Pohutukawa-fringed beaches, such as Cathedral Cove.
Overnight: Mussel Bed Boutique B&B (2 nights). Breakfast included.

Day 4 Whitianga, Coromandel

Explore at your leisure today, perhaps enjoying a soak in the thermal springs on Hot Water Beach, or a kayaking adventure at Cathedral Cove. Coromandel Town, at the northernmost part of the peninsula, is also worth a visit, with wonderful restaurants, bars and local craft shops on offer.

Day 5 Whitianga, Coromandel - Napier

This morning continue your journey along the Pacific Coast to Napier, New Zealand's Art Deco capital for a 2 night stay. Napier is set in the heart of Hawke's Bay Wine Country. With a feast of Art Deco Architecture, the city was rebuilt in the early 1930s following a major earthquake. Subsequent fires destroyed most of its commercial heart. Nowhere else can you see such a variety of buildings in the styles of the 1930s - Stripped Classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco - in such a concentrated area.
Overnight: Cobden Garden Homestay (2 nights). Breakfast included.

Day 6 Napier

Today enjoy a morning or afternoon Gannet Safaris Overland Tour including return transfers from Napier. This, the world's largest, most accessible gannet colony, can be found at Cape Kidnappers. Travel through the stunning scenery of Cape Kidnappers Station - traversing riverbeds, broad rolling pastures, through stands of native bush, steep gullies and breathtaking inclines. There is a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke's Bay right across to the Mahia peninsula. The 36km, trip includes a commentary by your tour guide / driver on the farming operation on Cape Kidnappers Station and an introduction to the gannets. Please note during May-August when the gannets are overseas a scenic safari tour is included.

Day 7 Napier - Wellington

This morning make your way south to New Zealand's capital city, Wellington. Set between a sparkling harbour and rolling green hills, this compact city has great shopping, professional theatre, memorable arts, culture and heritage and great cafes and restaurants all close to untouched nature spots. Spend the afternoon enjoying this wonderful city and visit New Zealand's national museum - Te Papa.
Overnight: Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay. Breakfast included.

Day 8 Wellington - Paraparaumu - Kapiti Island

Make your own way today to Paraparaumu Beach for an overnight stay on Kapiti Island including a guided Kiwi Spotting walk. Leave your car here and take the ferry across to this remarkable island. A stay here is a truly unique eco-friendly experience. As an internationally renowned sanctuary for New Zealand native birds, a genuine native forest and a reserve for New Zealand wildlife, it is also a marine reserve. Tonight enjoy a guided Kiwi spotting walk.
Overnight: Kapiti Island Lodge. Breakfast & dinner included.

Day 9 Kapiti Island - Wellington - Picton - Kaikoura

This morning return to Paraparaumu Beach by ferry and collect your car before driving to Wellington to connect with the Interislander ferry. Drop off your rental car at the ferry terminal and enjoy your journey in the premium plus cabin across the magnificent Cook Strait to Picton. Here collect your new vehicle and make your way to Kaikoura, New Zealand's whale watching capital.
Overnight: Manakau Lodge (2 nights). Breakfast included.

Day 10 Kaikoura

Today enjoy a whale watching excursion. Every whale watch tour is a unique experience and the sightings vary. Giant Sperm Whales are the stars of the show and year-round residents. A typical Whale Watch tour may encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales, and Southern Right Whales. Orcas and Hector's dolphins are common sightings.

Day 11 Kaikoura - Christchurch

Depart Kaikoura today for Christchurch. Enjoy time at leisure exploring this compact, yet vibrant city centered around the River Avon. Punt down the river and enjoy the delightful botanical gardens or visit the famous cardboard cathedral and novel container mall. Later this afternoon return your rental car to the depot in Christchurch.
Overnight: Chateau on the Park. Breakfast included.

Day 12 Christchurch - Lake Moeraki

This morning rise early and board the TranzAlpine, renowned as one of the great train journeys of the world. Travel through spectacular gorges through Arthur’s Pass and on to Greymouth, located on the South Island's wild west coast. On arrival collect your rental car and continue the drive to Lake Moeraki. En route visit the delightful craft shops in Hokitika, the greenstone capital of the west coast. Few places on earth can match the unique natural setting of the Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki in the heart of the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, otherwise known as Te Waipounamu (Maori translation: the place of greenstone jade). The lodge is a paradise for nature lovers and for those wanting a relaxing retreat away from the pressures of the modern world.
Overnight: Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki (2 nights). Breakfast and dinner included.

Day 13 Lake Moeraki

Today enjoy a complimentary guided nature tour (twice daily, 1 to 1.5 hours duration). In addition to this tour the lodge offers a variety of optional guided excursions you may like to enjoy (payable locally). A minimum of 2-4 people is required for these to depart and they are booked directly with the lodge on arrival. Exclusive and privately guided day tours are also available on request and must be pre-booked.

Day 14 Lake Moeraki - Lake Wanaka

Continue south along the West Coast over Haast Pass to Lake Wanaka. This beautiful lakeside town has an abundance of outdoor activities in a stunning natural setting. It is a slightly quieter alternative to Queenstown. It lies in close proximity to Mt Aspiring National Park and is the ideal location for keen hikers and those wanting to explore pristine landscapes.
Overnight: Wanaka Springs Lodge. Breakfast included.

Day 15 Lake Wanaka - Te Anau

Enjoy mountain views and fertile farm country on the wonderful drive to Te Anau. Situated beside a tranquil lake, this charming township is the gateway to Fiordland National Park, thus an ideal base for exploration.
Overnight: Fiordland Lodge (2 nights). Breakfast included.

Day 16 Doubtful Sound

This morning travel to Pearl Harbour, Manapouri from Te Anau. Here board your vessel and cruise across the lake to West Arm before travelling by coach through dense rainforest across Wilmot Pass. Once at Deep Cove board a catamaran for your 3 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound. Enjoy spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest and majestic mountains and watch out for fur seals or resident pods of bottlenose dolphins. On the return journey the engines are turned off and you are witness to the incredible "Sound of Silence".

Day 17 Te Anau - Bluff - Stewart Island

Follow the Waiau Valley to the south coast. Leaving your vehicle at the port of Bluff, take the ferry to Stewart Island, a must for naturalists. On the ferry look out for wildlife, including seals, dolphins and a variety of sea birds, in particular the huge mollymawks (albatross) which often follow the vessel. On arrival you will be met by your hosts and transferred to your accommodation. You may wish to consider joining an evening kiw-spotting tour (additional cost).
Overnight: Stewart Island Lodge (2 nights). Breakfast included.

Day 18 Ulva Island

Today you will join a guided to tour to Ulva Island Bird Sanctuary, a unique predator-free environment with easy walking tracks through temperate rainforest. This half-day tour is led by experienced natural history guides and birding specialists, who share their love of this special island and its wild inhabitants. Discover New Zealand's rare and endangered birds and plants at close quarters and take away the knowledge that you have glimpsed a part of a unique and primeval world. The tour includes return water taxi transfers to Ulva Island.

Day 19 Stewart Island – Bluff – Dunedin

Return to Bluff on the ferry this morning and drive to the delightful city of Dunedin. Be sure to spend some time in the Catlins Forest Park en route. Set amid rural heartland, native forest, hidden lakes, stunning waterfalls and remote golden beaches this area is a hidden gem. Spend the remainder of the day at leisure.
Overnight: Heritage Dunedin Leisure Lodge (2 nights).

Day 20 Dunedin

Explore Dunedin today, both the city with its wonderful historic Edwardian and Victorian architecture and the Otago Peninsula with its abundance of unique and rare wildlife, including the yellow-eyed penguin. Enjoy a guided tour through the penguin colony for some close-up viewings of the birds. Covered trenches and observation huts will hide you so the penguins will not be frightened and you can observe them going about their daily business unperturbed. You may also be interested in visiting the nearby Royal Albatross colony (additional cost).

Day 21-22 Dunedin - Christchurch

Depart Dunedin today and make your way to Christchurch. Spend the remainder of the day at leisure before returning your rental vehicle. The following day make your own way to the airport and depart.
Overnight: The George Hotel.

Hotel Grand Windsor, Auckland

Grade: Deluxe

Type: Hotel

The heritage-listed, beautifully characterful Hotel Grand Windsor offers 79 guest rooms and suites, each tastefully decorated in an opulent, classical style.

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Copthorne Oriental Bay, Wellington

Grade: Standard

Type: Hotel

Located just 2 minutes’ walk from the Te Papa national museum, this 118-room hotel is within easy reach of vibrant Courtney Place and a variety of the city's best restaurants, bars and shops.

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Kapiti Nature Lodge, Kapiti Island

Grade: Simple

Type: Unique And Boutique

Kapiti Island Nature Lodge offers a comfortable stay and immersive wilderness experience in one of the world's great conservation environments.

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Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Hokitika

Grade: Superior

Type: Unique And Boutique

The award-winning Wilderness Lodge Lake Moeraki enjoys a stunning setting in the heart of Te Wahipounamu, the southwest New Zealand UNESCO World Heritage Area.

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Fiordland Lodge, Te Anau

Grade: Deluxe

Type: Luxury Lodge

Constructed with native timbers and local stone fireplaces, this 10-room lodge has stunning views of Lake Te Anau and the mountains of Fiordland National Park.

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Stewart Island Lodge

Grade: Standard

Type: Luxury Lodge

Nestled in native bush, the family-owned Stewart Island Lodge offers comfortable bed and breakfast accommodation close to Oban.

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Mercure Hotel Dunedin

Grade: Superior

Type: Hotel

Found near Dunedin's centre, this is a newly decorated boutique hotel with 50 spacious rooms.

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