Wildlife Encounters

from £4775
excluding flights *
21 nights Year round


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
  • 18 breakfasts, 5 dinners
  • TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth
  • Car rental throughout
  • Airport transfer on arrival
  • 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

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 littlebrown 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.

From prices per person based on 2 sharing a room with private bathroom, including car hire

Departure Duration Car Category Twin Price (pp)
01 Apr - 31 Oct 2019 21 nights Toyota Corolla Hatch (or similar) £4,775
01 Nov 2019 - 31 Mar 2020 21 nights Toyota Corolla Hatch (or similar) £4,959

What's Included

  • Accommodation in rooms with private bathroom (mix of hotels, motels, B&B's, lodges and homestays)
  • 18 breakfasts, 5 dinners
  • Car rental throughout (Toyota Corolla or similar)
  • 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
  • Penguin Place Conservation tour
  • Private transfer on arrival
  • Interislander ferry (Premium Plus cabin)
  • Return ferry between Bluff and Stewart Island
  • 24 hour emergency assistance from our team during your holiday
  • No surcharge guarantee
  • Full financial protection »

Itinerary & Accommodation

Itinerary & Accommodation

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: Heritage Hotel Auckland (2 nights). Breakfast included.

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

Today enjoy a privately guided walk through beautiful regenerating Kauri forest full of fern trees, along the old roads of Puketui, the 1890's gold mining town. Visit an underground jail and discover gold mines where the flicker of miners lamps has given way to illumination by hundreds of glow-worms. Be prepared for fun and entertainment at this time of the day. You will also get the chance to view your guides spectacular collection of quartz and amethyst crystals, Kauri gum, petrified wood, obsidian, minerals, old photos of the Coromandel and beautiful rocks full of gold.

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

Enjoy a 3 hour, 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

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. This evening join a guided walk to see Stewart Island's native brown kiwi in its wild environment.
Overnight: Stewart Island Lodge (2 nights). Breakfast included.

Day 18 Ulva Island

This morning rise early and continue your birding bonanza tour. Take the ferry to the predator-free island of Ulva. The island is covered in ancient rainforest with beaches of fine golden sand surrounded by crystal clear waters. Learn about the primeval rainforest, birds, plants and Maori and European cultural history while viewing ancient podocarp trees, lush tree ferns, delicate ground ferns, mosses and orchids. Hear Kaka, Bellbirds and Tuis while glimpsing rare Saddlebacks, Yellowheads and New Zealand's smallest bird, the Rifleman. After lunch cruise back to neighbouring Stewart Island and enjoy encounters with at least five species of albatross, not to mention penguins, shearwaters, petrels, terns and many more.

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: Mercure 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.

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.

Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge, Hokitika

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Luxury Lodge

An eco-friendly lodge that offers 28 suites in the vast virgin rainforest of Te Wahi Pounamu, this property is both a thriving nature reserve and working sheep farm.

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Mercure Hotel Dunedin

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Hotel

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

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Kapiti Nature Lodge, Kapiti Island

New Zealand

Grade: Standard

Type: Guesthouse B&B

A unique alternative to Wellington's chain hotels, the 5 room Kapiti Nature Lodge is a comfortable, nature-inspired experience in one of the world's great conservation environments.

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Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodgeᅠ

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Luxury Lodge

A 24-unit lodge on a spectacular 2,400 hectare nature reserve, the Arthurs Pass Wilderness Lodge was only built in this rising mountain setting in 1996.

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Fiordland Lodge, Te Anau

New Zealand

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

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Luxury Lodge

An island retreat found huddled in the natural beauty of Half Moon Bay, all 6 rooms feature views of the water from where they rest in the heart of the island's bush.

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The George

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Hotel

Located in the heart of Christchurch, overlooking picturesque Hagley Park and the Avon River, The George is just a step away from key attractions including the arts market, restaurants and Botanical Gardens.

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Heritage Auckland

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Hotel

Located a few minutes from the city centre this Green Globe accredited hotel has 467 luxurious rooms, suites and studios.

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Copthorne Oriental Bay, Wellington

Grade: Superior

Type: Hotel

Located just 2 minutes walk from Te Papa, the 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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Manakau Lodge, Kaikoura

New Zealand

Grade: Superior

Type: Luxury Lodge

Manakau Lodge is home to four purpose-built, supremely comfortable guest rooms all of which include king size beds, deep cushioned armchairs, a writing desk and modern bathroom.

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