Did you know New Zealand is known for having one of the most unique marine environments in the world? As a hotspot for biodiversity, there are over 17,000 known species and more are continuously being discovered. WOW! And each species has an important role to play to keep their environment healthy!
Exploring the sea in New Zealand means whale watching, swimming with dolphins, diving into a marine reserve, and discovering multiple types of penguins and fur seals. So many emo-ceans about sea life! Let's dive in!
Variety of Marine Wildlife
- 1400 species of fish, 300 of which are endemic (meaning they are only found in New Zealand's oceans)
- 1000 species of seaweeds
- 1100 jellyfish, anemones, and rocky corals
- 1500 species of sponges
- 600 species of sea stars and other spiny creatures
- 3600 species of mollusk
- 2600 species of crustaceans (like a rock lobster)
Exploring Sea Life in New Zealand
1. Whale watching
- Kaikoura, a small seaside town on the rocky peninsula has abundant marine life. If you want to find sperm whales, they can be seen all year round in this area. I'll let you in on a little secret: this is one of the ONLY places in the world where you can easily see them. If you're looking for orca whales (killer whales) they can be seen from December to March. Humpback whales are seen in June and July. Other dolphin species appear almost daily! Whale, that's a lot of whale species to see!
2. Swimming with Dusky Dolphins
- New Zealand has several dolphin species in its waters. Many visitors choose to swim with them and consider it one of the best experiences of their trip. Did you know that dolphins are gentle, intelligent and seek out human company by playing, frolicking, and communicating? The common dolphin and the large bottle-nosed dolphin are two of the dolphin species that are almost 10 feet long. The smaller dusky dolphin is less than 6.5 feet long, and Hector's dolphin is one of the smallest and rarest in the world. They are also only found in the New Zealand waters. That’s dolphin-itely awesome!
3. Different Species of Penguins
- 3 different penguins exist in New Zealand! Penguins are not only amazing birds, but they have unique personalities as well.
- The korora or little blue penguin is the smallest penguin in the world. They usually come ashore at night. They stand over 25 cm and weigh a little over 2 lbs.
- The rare hoiho or yellow-eyed penguin is known for its distinct yellow eye band. They stand between 22-31 inches tall and weigh between 8-19.5 lbs. They are found just south of Dunedin where some of the best wildlife tours are conducted!
- Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki) is one of the rarest penguins in the world. It's spotted in the South Island and some rainforest areas. They grow to be about 24 inches tall and weigh about 8.2 lbs.
4. The New Zealand Fur Seal
- To see these fun animals, you'll have to take a walk along the rockier parts of the coastline of New Zealand. Look closely... those moving rocks aren't rocks at all! They're actually basking fur seals with pointy noses, long whiskers, and visible ears. Years ago, their soft furs were used to make coats, but in 1894 seal hunting was banned. Females grow to be 4.5 feet long and weigh between 66-110 lbs. and males grow to 8 feet long and weigh between 198-242 lbs.
What would you like to see if you were to visit New Zealand? There are so many different species to explore, I just wish I could 'sea' them all!