Because of its remote, isolated location and the fact it’s surrounded by water, New Zealand houses species of birds found nowhere else on the planet. Unfortunately, decades of growth and introduced species have had drastic effects on their habitat, with many species having gone extinct from hunting, disease, and predation. One place the birds are thriving, however, is the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center, located 2 hours north of Wellington in the Wairarapa region. When visiting this captive breeding sanctuary, you’ll see rare birds like takahe, stitchbirds, saddlebacks, and kokako, and this is the only place in New Zealand where many of these birds are living in captivity. Follow along with daily talks as staff discuss the bird species, and get the chance to feed playful kaka at one of the numerous feeding stations. You can also see New Zealand’s only white kiwi that’s currently found in captivity, and venture inside the nocturnal house for a look at its brown-feathered cousins. You’ll also find slippery, long filled eels and learn their fascinating history, and maybe even lend a hand in planting some native trees.
General admission includes daily talks as well as access to the aviaries. For an added fee, you can also experience multiple tours that range from foraging for tuatara food to wandering the center at night.
Trains are available from Wellington to Masterton, where you can rent a car, take a taxi, or board a Tranzit bus for Palmerston North and disembark at the wildlife center.