Australia & New Zealand | Destination Guides

6 Unmissable Wildlife Encounters in Australia and New Zealand

Inspired by the astounding new nature documentary with David Attenborough, Planet Earth 2, we take a look at the wildlife people can see up close on a trip to Australia or New Zealand with Trafalgar. Here’s our pick of unmissable wildlife encounters in the South Pacific.

Kangaroo Island, Australia

Wildlife Encounters

This island may have been named after Australia’s beloved marsupials by Captain Matthew Flinders when he first landed here in 1800, but kangaroos are just one of the animal species people now come here to see. Seal Bay Conservation Park is home to the world’s third largest colony of long-nosed fur seals, as well as a thriving colony of Australian sea lions, all of which can be seen up close on guided walks.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia 

Wildlife Encounters

As the world’s largest coral reef system, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is a truly astounding environment. Within the 3,000-kilometre-long marine park, which encompasses hundreds of islands, there are thought to be more than 400 different types of coral, over 1,500 species of tropical fish, and bountiful marine mammals and turtles. The best way to see this marine life is to set out by boat from the coastline and snorkel beneath the water’s surface. 

Phillip Island, Australia

Wildlife Encounters

By travelling from the vibrant city of Melbourne, visitors can easily reach Phillip Island, which is most famous for the sight of a procession of penguins making their way from the sea to the sand dunes of Summerland Beach each day at sunset. By waiting on a viewing platform, visitors can witness this natural phenomenon without disturbing the penguins.

Port Stephens, Australia

Wildlife Encounters

This coastal region of New South Wales is well known for its string of pristine beaches and secluded bays, with an outstanding food and wine scene, too. But this coastline is also home to around 150 bottlenose dolphins and on the migration route of the whales that pass through each year from June to November. This makes Port Stephens exceptional for both whale and dolphin watching opportunities, with boat trips departing from Nelson Bay.

Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Wildlife Encounters

As its own subtropical micro-region, the Bay of Islands offers turquoise waters and around 140 white-sand-fringed forested isles. What’s more, a wealth of wildlife thrives within these sublime surroundings. Boat trips between the islands afford visitors the opportunity to see dolphins, whales and penguins, as well as the region’s bountiful birdlife.

Kaikoura, New Zealand

Wildlife Encounters

In striking contrast to these subtropical islands is the town of Kaikoura and its surroundings on the east coast of South Island. Here, mountains provide the backdrop for Pacific Ocean boat trips that offer an up-close experience with the marine mammals seen frequently in the region; whales, dolphins and fur seals live off the coast year-round. 

Experience these wildlife encounters on a trip to Australia or New Zealand with Trafalgar. Join the Australian Highlights trip, or the Contrasts of New Zealand itinerary, or combine them both on the Highlights of Australia and New Zealand trip.

Image credits: Cover photo of koalas on Kangaroo Island © iStock / HakBak1979. A seal on Kangaroo Island © iStock / Swee Lee. A Clown Fish on the Great Barrier Reef © iStock / hypergurl. Australian Penguins © iStock / Mo Morad. Dolphins in Australia © iStock / photosbypierre. Dolphins in the Bay of Islands © iStock / georgeclerk. A whale in Kaikoura © iStock / choongmin63.

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