Best time to travel to New Zealand

Sea Lions Breeding Season in New Zealand

Better not to intrude into the huge mammals' pre-breeding fights and stay away until they settle territorial disputes

Best time: November–January

Sea Lions Breeding Season
Sea Lions Breeding Season
Sea Lions Breeding Season

Sea lions are known as the largest mammals found in New Zealand. Males are considerably bigger and heavier than females, an average sea lion grows up to 3 meters long and weighs nearly 450 kilograms. Sea lions densely populate sandy beaches of the South Island and the Auckland Islands. The best time to observe huge mammals is during their breeding season that stretches from November to January. The animals are polygamous, and perhaps owing to this fact they are also called Hooker's Sea Lions. Like fur seals, sea lions appear to be quite aggressive, yet this time not because of the fear of a threat, but through their fights for breeding locations which occur between the bulls usually in November​: all the territories must be divided before the females' arrival.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit New Zealand for sea lions breeding season?

To catch the sea lions' breeding season in New Zealand, it's best to visit from November to January. This is when the animals arrive at their breeding grounds, seeking mates and raising their young. Visitors should be careful not to disturb the males' territorial fights which can occur in November prior to female arrival. Show more

Where can sea lions be observed in New Zealand?

Sea lions can be seen in two areas of New Zealand: the sandy beaches of the South Island and the Auckland Islands. Reaching the Auckland Islands requires a charter flight or cruise from Bluff or Invercargill. The South Island is easier to access and has sea lions in Kaikoura, the Catlins Coast, and the Otago Peninsula. Show more

How long do sea lions generally grow and what is their average weight?

Growing to be the largest mammals in New Zealand, sea lions can reach up to 3 meters in length and nearly 450 kilograms in weight, with males being much larger than females. Despite their size, they are generally non-aggressive towards humans unless provoked. Due to their intimidating appearance, many people perceive them as dangerous creatures. Show more

How do sea lions reproduce and why are they called Hooker's Sea Lions?

Sea lions engage in polygamous mating with males mating with multiple females. They create harems of females, defending them from rival males. Hooker's Sea Lions are named after Sir Joseph Hooker, a botanist and companion of James Clark Ross, and were first described by German biologist Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff during the early 19th century. The name 'sea lion' refers to the barking sounds they make and the curiously maned fur around the necks of adult males. Show more

What is territorial conflict among sea lions, and when does it occur?

During breeding season, males of sea lion species fight against each other with vocalizations and posturing to establish dominance for the best breeding locations. These fights occur in November before female arrival and can be vicious, resulting in serious injury or death. Visitors should maintain a safe distance and observe them without interfering. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Sea Lions Breeding Season (Map)

Last updated: