Visiting Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre was one of the highlights of our recent trip to New Zealand.
Pūkaha is a 942-hectare unfenced wildlife centre located in the Tararua District in the lower North Island of New Zealand. It is home to a variety of native New Zealand wildlife, including birds, reptiles, aquatic life, and invertebrates.
The Haggis and I spent 7 hours here, wandering around the native forest trying to identify birds by their calls, and hiking the 4km trail that climbs the hill behind the sanctuary, offering gorgeous views over the Ruahine Ranges.
I hope these images I captured inspire you to visit!
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15 Photos of Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre
The most exciting part of visiting Pukaha National Wildlife Centre was seeing the beautiful native New Zealand birds.
We saw the three types of kākāriki [parakeets] – the red-crowned, yellow-crowned and orange fronted parakeet. The latter is endangered, with less than 100-300 birds remaining in NZ.
We also met Kahurangi, the wolf-whistling kōkako who took a real fancy to the Haggis, purring like a dove and letting him stroke her through the aviary wire.
Pukaha National Wildlife Centre is also one of the best places you can see kiwi in New Zealand.
We met Poto, a baby kiwi! He is just 7 weeks old and spent the majority of his time sleeping and hiding away in his aviary.
We visited the kiwi house three times before Poto made an appearance.
The Haggis gestured excitedly to me when he spotted wee Poto foraging for insects.
When he noticed us, he stood upright, his golden beak pointed to the sky, inquisitive. He went back to foraging for food and even came right up to the front of the glass during his search for dinner.
It was a pinch-me moment!
The bird that made the biggest impression was the kākā, aka the New Zealand bush parrot.
These birds are so cheeky, there are even signs up around the cafe saying ”Do not feed the kākā! Beware, they WILL steal your food!”
Not only did I spot one mischievous kākā run off with a kids sandwich, but these birds also enjoyed following us around, nibbling at our clothing and even licking the sweat off our feet!
Pukaha National Wildlife Centre is also home to tuatara– the last survivors of an order of reptiles that thrived in the age of the dinosaurs.
They are the slowest moving creatures I’ve ever seen – frozen in position, watching and waiting.
The tour guide told us it was mating season for the tuatara – a rare event that happens every four years.
One moment that the Haggis will never forget is when he got to feed the eels!
Eels are very common in New Zealand and live in most rivers and caves.
Pukaha National Wildlife Centre usually have two eel feeding displays per day. You can watch, or take part!
The Kererū is New Zealand’s native pigeon. This pigeon is large (and generally quite round too) and can grow up to 50cm in length!
We spotted a few wild Kererū on our walk out the back of the wildlife centre.
After exploring all the exhibits at Pukaha, we wandered up the path at the rear of the centre to walk the 4-kilometre loop. This was a wonderful experience to spot birdlife in the wild.
We saw Kererū, Tui, fantails and more.
One of my favourite parts of this hike was when the scenery opened up, and we had gorgeous views across the Ruahine Ranges.
I couldn’t help but feel a tug in my chest, an urgent feeling of wanting to help protect all the beautiful and natural things in my native home of New Zealand.
All in all, our time at Pukaha National Wildlife Centre was incredible. The tour guides and staff do a wonderful job of caring for and protecting the native wildlife.
Do make sure you visit – our day here was certainly a highlight during our trip to New Zealand.
Tips for visiting Pūkaha
- Bring some binoculars- they help you to spot wild birds flying around the sanctuary and also birds hiding in their aviaries!
- Do the 4km walk around the native forest. It takes under 2 hours and you can spot plenty of wild native birds including tui and kererū.
- Don’t rush. While we anticipated on staying for just a few hours, we ended up staying much longer to soak it all in.
- Attend the kiwi talk at 12pm, and later in the afternoon go to the eel feeding.
Do you have any more tips for visiting? Pop them in the comments section below!