Experience Two: Spotlight on the Kiwi

Nope, we don’t mean the fruit (though we like that, too). This is your mini guide to New Zealand’s national symbol: the shy and flightless kiwi.

Fast facts about kiwi: there are around 68,000 kiwi left in New Zealand; the population is shrinking by 2 per cent each year (that’s roughly 20 birds a week); they’re nocturnal types; they’re forest dwellers; they are the only bird to have nostrils at the very end of their long bill and they use these nostrils to sniff out invertebrates and fallen fruit. There are five types of kiwi: brown kiwi, which live on the North Island; great spotted kiwi, on the South Island; little spotted kiwi; tokoeka; the smallest, most vulnerable kind, and rowi, which live in the Okarito forest, on the South Island’s West Coast.

Visitors have a few choices when it comes to deciding where to spot kiwi in New Zealand. Rainbow Springs Nature Park on Rotorua, North Island (just under a three-hour drive from Auckland), has 22 acres of parkland where you can watch kiwi foraging on the forest floor. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, so you can see these elusive birds when they’re at their most lively: at night. If you sign up for a Kiwi Encounter tour, you might also see incubating, hatching and nesting chicks.

Zealandia Sanctuary in Wellington is another great place to spy on kiwi; alternatively, go kiwi-spotting on Rakiura (Stewart Island). To get there, take an hour-long ferry trip or a 20-minute scenic flight. Rakiura means ‘land of the glowing skies’: the Māori name stems from frequent sightings of Aurora Australis. This unspoiled island is dominated by a national park that sprawls across 85 per cent of it. You’re more likely to spot kiwi here than humans: it’s a haven for brown kiwi, who are active day and night, but home to just 400 or so Stewart Islanders.

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