Au great barrier reef Citizen Science Tour Surveying The Marine Life Photo Credit Passions Of Paradise
Au great barrier reef Citizen Science Tour Surveying The Marine Life Photo Credit Passions Of Paradise

5 animals to swim with in Australia and New Zealand

Muscular kangaroos, yellow-eyed penguins, cuddly koalas, sunbathing seals, and an assortment of colourful birds. They are just a few of the special and unique animals found in Australia and New Zealand. And they are probably the animals that you would most like to meet during your holiday, Down Under.

However, you can also admire are many fascinating animals that are living in their natural habitat, underwater. From friendly whale sharks, dolphins, turtles, and manta rays to the colourful birds of the ocean, unique fish, and sunbathing seals that also enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean now and then.

These amazing Australian and New Zealand animals live in the wild, can swim anywhere, find their food naturally, and are not touched or overrun by tourists. At TravelEssence , we only work with small-scale organisations that not only ensure a fun day out for you but also care for the animals. Our local guides know the area like no other and have a lot of knowledge about the animals. You will be instructed in advance on what to do, and especially what not to do.

Swimming with dolphins | New Zealand wildlife
Kaikoura is one of the best places in the world to encounter dolphins in the wild

1. The whale shark: the great gentle giant of the sea

While your local guides are on the alert to spot a whale shark, you can enjoy the beautiful Ningaloo Reef from the boat. Start to get excited because you will be swimming with the largest fish in the world. The skipper will be delighted to inform you when a whale shark has been spotted. Pop on your snorkel and your flippers, and get ready by the edge of the boat. The experienced guide will help you into the water, and as soon as you put your head under the water you will see the whale shark. Marvel at this fascinating creature and all of its little fish friends as they float by.

Swimming with this big fish in an even bigger ocean is very impressive. A whale shark has an average length of 12 metres and can weigh up to 12 tons. Do not be put off by the size of this fish, because it is not called the gentle giant of the sea for nothing, and also lives on plankton.

The area around Ningaloo Reef is one of the few places in Australia where whale sharks can be found: Usually, between April and July. To complete the experience, stay at one of our unique accommodations, on the Ningaloo Reef.

Snorkel with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reefs unique ecosystem attracts hundreds of whale sharks
© TravelEssence

2. Swim with intelligent dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially in their natural habitat. In the wild, the dolphins are in charge and you are a 'guest' in their living environment. In New Zealand, Kaikoura is the place to swim responsibly and safely in the open sea with these clever and cheerful animals. Depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, between 100 to 1000 dolphins live off the rugged coastline of Kaikoura. With the cliffs and mountains in the background, this coastline is a beautiful backdrop for the dolphins that gracefully jump in and out of the water.

It is also possible to swim with dolphins in Australia. Port Phillip Bay on the Mornington Peninsula, a favourite holiday destination for the Melbourians, is one of the places in Australia, where you can watch the playful antics of the dolphins.

Unique encounter with dolphins | New Zealand wildlife
Dusky dolphins can be found all year round in Kaikoura
Swim with dolphins | Australia active holiday
Swimming with dolphins is an unforgettable experience

3. Snorkel with turtles and manta rays in Australia

At various places in the waters around Australia, you can encounter turtles or manta rays. The Great Barrier Reef in particular is a favourite place for these sea creatures. Small-scale boat trips are organised to various locations, including Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Island.

These paradise islands lie south of the Great Barrier Reef. Here, you can swim with the manta rays and sea turtles while snorkelling or diving, as if you were playing along with the BBC's Blue Planet II. For this tropical experience, visit the East Coast of Australia from October to December.

Swimming and snorkelling with turtles in Queensland
Snorkel with turtles at The Great Barrier Reef
Did you know? Male sea turtles spend almost their whole life out at sea

4. New Zealand's most beautiful dive site: The Poor Knights Islands

It's not only in Australia that you can find beautiful diving locations with a diversity of fish, but New Zealand also has beautiful places, where you can dive and snorkel. In fact, one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world. The 11-million-year-old, The Poor Knight Islands have been uninhabited since 1820.

As a result, the island group is rich in special flora and fauna, both above and below water. But impressive rocks, caves, and arches also characterise The Poor Knight Islands, 23 kilometres from the beaches of Tutukaka Coast. In the far north of the North Island, you can swim amongst subtropical fish, some of which even resemble aliens.

The warm current from the Coral Sea near Australia ensures that the temperature of the water around The Poor Knight Islands is warmer than on the direct coast of New Zealand. This makes the water crystal clear so that you usually have a good view of up to 30metres. While snorkelling or diving, you have the chance to come face to face with colourful fish, manta rays, humpback whales, and turtles.

Spectacular dive to spot many fishes | New Zealand active holiday
Your instructor will find the perfect dive location and share their local knowledge
Fishes at Poor Knights Islands | New Zealand wildlife
Admire subtropical species
© TravelEssence
Go diving and discover an amazing underwater world | New Zealand active holiday
Discover the fascinating Tutukaka shipwreck
© TravelEssence

5. Take a splash with the seals in Australia and New Zealand

After sunbathing on the sandbanks of the Australian and New Zealand coastlines, it's time for some water fun with seals. The seals are just as friendly and playful as dolphins, so you can play with them too. Boat trips are organised from the coastal town of Narooma in Australia to the Montague Island Nature Reserve. This beautiful place is home to groups of fur seals all year round. Seals are very curious, so chances are they will come and greet you when you enter the water. In New Zealand, you can dive into the water at Kaikoura and Akaroa for some “playtime” with the seals.

Kangaroo Island wildlife | Australia wildlife
Montague Island is a natural wonderland and home to a colony of fur seals
© TravelEssence

Are you also curious about the unique animal species that live on the land of Australia and New Zealand? We previously wrote about the top 10 animals in Australia and the top 8 animals in New Zealand.

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