It’s difficult to believe that the ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience is just five minutes’ drive away from Wellington city centre, as it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere once you arrive.
The sanctuary is home to more than 30 native bird species, some having vanished from mainland New Zealand over the past 100 years. A unique predator-proof fence ensures the birds are kept safe and the forest is able to regenerate to its former glory. There are also two scenic lakes to check out.It’s a great way to meet lots of native critters, from the tuatara to the little spotted kiwi.
Probably the best time to visit is at night, when there is a guided tour by torch-light through the sanctuary. This is a pretty good time to spot a kiwi in the wild, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for the patter of tiny feet and the rustle of bush as the bird - which is better known as New Zealand’s national icon - goes about its business.
You’ll also be blown away by the magical displays of native glow worms.I checked out the sanctuary during New Zealand Frog Week, so was lucky enough to see one of the world’s rarest frogs – the nocturnal Pakeka or Maud Island Frog – which was so tiny and cute. Very cool.
"You’ll also be blown away by the magical displays of native glow worms"
It’s pretty easy to get to Zealandia, even if you don’t have a car. Just take the no.3 bus to Karori Park, which goes through the city every 20 minutes or so. Then just jump off at the first stop after the Karori Tunnel.
The sanctuary is open daily except Christmas Day from 10am until 4pm in winter from April to November and 10am to 5pm in summer from December to March.
Last tickets are sold one hour prior to closing.
General admission is $14 for adults. Guided tours are extra
On the Sanctuary by Night tour, there is a chance to hear and see a little spotted kiwi. The two hour tour costs $60.
Or try out the Sanctuary Escape day tour which includes a ride on an electric boat. The two hour tour costs $55.
There is also a one hour Sanctuary Introduction Tour which costs $28.