November 24th, 2006 – by: roamingduck
The ocean just outside of Timaru
We left Ashburton at about 9.45am after a leisurly breakfast sat in the sun. We met up with the Pacific Ocean again in Timaru a little further south and had a little stop here. Apparently Icebergs have been floating past the southern coast of New Zealand and had reached as far as here - we didn't see any though. We continued south and arrived in Oamaru at lunchtime. We found a campsite and then headed into town. It is quite a distict town as a lot of buildings are built of limestone (as opposed to wood) and they have some quite distinct designs with columns and grand carvings.
Oamaru is said to be the penguin capital of New Zealand, it is possible to see both blue and yellow eyed penguins.
One of the buildings in Oamaru
We had decided that this evening we would go and see the blue penguins. You had to pay to go into the viewing area but once we got in you could see that your money was well spent looking after the colony. After paying and reading a bit of info we headed to the viewing platform which was actually like a stadium looking out to sea. Just after 8.30pm a man with a mic came out and told us information on the penguins whilst we waited for it to get darker and for the penguins to start to arrive out of the sea.
At about 9pm we saw a small 'raft' of them bobing up and down in the distance. It was a while after this that they started to come ashore. Tiny little penguins measuring no more than 30cm (these are the smallest penguins in the world) getting gracefully washed up onto the beach.
We weren't allowed to take pictures of the penguins so this is the closest we could get. When we left at night it was necessary too - they were wandering in the carpark and on the road.
Some of them seemed to be playing - going in and out of the sea - before coming onto the rocks to dry off. They then wandered onto a grassy area where their nesting boxes were. Soon as it was getting much darker a huge 'raft' of black came towards the shore at quite a fast pace, a large number of penguins landed and headed up to the rocks and off to their nests. As it got darker more and more came out of the sea. By the end of the night we found that 203 had come ashore tonight. It was amazing to see these cute little animals coming out of the sea and waddling across in front of us. Some wandering closer than others and appearing to have a good look at us humans. Many hung about on the grass or on the rocks as if they were chatting to each other about their day. When it was dark and we left they were still all stood about, many of them in their pairs stood outside the nest. It was one of the most amazing things either of us had ever seen.