West Coast Wildlife Centre - Tuatara Encounter & Backstage Pass Tour

The “behind the scenes” Tuatara Encounter at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef, West Coast of New Zealand, is a fascinating exclusive tour. Here you can view up-close the prehistoric tuatara that is endemic only to New Zealand.


  • Entry into the Behind the Scenes Area of the Tuatara Encounter
  • Journey with an experienced Tuatara guide who will share key information
  • Tailor made presentation
  • See the live food we feed Tuatara

Here you can view up-close the prehistoric tuatara that is endemic only to New Zealand.

Incredibly 230 million years ago when the first dinosaurs arrived on the scene the ancestors of the tuatara were still roaming the planet and thought to be at least 2m tall.

Tuatara have very special significance to Maori and are named for their appearance.” Tara” means spiny and “tua” meaning back. The tuatara living here at the West Coast Wildlife Centre were translocated to Franz Josef by Nelson based iwi Ngati Koata who have the largest tuatara population in the world.

Tuatara were once feared by the Maori, as they signified messengers of (Whio) god of death and disaster.) Today tuatara are regarded as taonga (treasure) and as the Kaitaiki (guardian) of the trails to the realms of the mind and spirit that give humans life.

Tuatara can live to over 100 years of age and became extinct on the mainland of New Zealand last century. Today they live mainly on offshore islands around New Zealand with around 50,000 to 60,000 live on Stephens Island(Takaporaewa) in the Marlborough Sounds.

Adult $52.00
Child $26.00

Child Friendly

  • This experience welcomes families with children.

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Authenticated Reviews & PhotosAll of our reviews are from people who have booked and paid for this activity thru Bookme

Authenticated Reviews & PhotosAll of our reviews are from people who have booked and paid for this activity thru Bookme


15 reviews

Showing all 15 authenticated Bookme reviews

J from United Kingdom wrote on 20 August 2020

Amazing centre - I went back the second day!

Great place to see Rowi Kiwis and hear about work being done to try and boost numbers. Amazing experience to see them, and just sit for half hour watching them do their thing! I did the back stage tour, which was really informative, didnt get to meet any hatching kiwis as it was out of breeding season, but amazing to get up close to the tuatara!

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Penny from New Zealand wrote on 15 July 2020

Excellent Centre

Excellent centre, lovely guide who was knowledgeable and it was so interesting learning about the Tuatara. Fantastic we could also see the Kiwis afterwards as our pass including visiting and seeing them. Highly recommended. Thank you

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grahamm2 from Australia wrote on 27 October 2019


The tour was exceptional. Kate our tour host was passionate - she explained the tuatara in detail and answered all our questions in detail. The added bonus was that we were able to see 2 kiwis.

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ionam1 from New Zealand wrote on 24 November 2019

Tuatara experience.

Great to see the tuatara up close. Great facts but found the guide a little annoying. Felt like she was nervous and kept doing a funny laugh when there was nothing to laugh at. Wasn't asked/allowed a souvenir photo but the rest of the grope was.

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leonj from New Zealand wrote on 22 April 2019

Great Tour

Loved the backstage tour, very interesting and informative guide, with fascinating facts about the kiwi and tuatara. Would recommend the backstage tour as without it, the general entry is quite short and does not really warrant its entry fee

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