Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular

Dunedin Travel Blog

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Yellow Eyed Penguins. Otago Pen.

Dunedin is known as the "Edinburgh of the Southern Hemisphere".  Whilst we didn't quite think that it was on the same sort of level, it had a nice and pleasant feel about the place, although we really loved it because of its proximity to the Otago Peninsular, a real must for any sea bird and marinine mammal viewer.  Like any other NZ town or city, it had a great selection of cafes and bars and we found another excellent cinema.  It will make visiting the miserable Odeon in Exeter an even sadder experience after the comfortable cinemas we have visited here!

We did the Taieri Gorge Railway on the first day.  It was a nice enough trip and the scenary was very nice, but it wasn't as great as it was made-out to be!  Nonetheless, it is essential for the railway enthusiast and an impressive feat of engineering (although the grumpy staff we met were definately the exception to the rule that everyone in a customer facing job in NZ is exceptionally nice!).

Albatross, Otago Pen.

The following day, we made our way out to the ominously named "Sandfly Bay" (anyone who has been bitten by sandflies will find it ominous, anyway!) to see if we could see any penguins.  The Peninsular is known as being an excellent place to see Yellow Eyed Penguins, which are teetering on the verge of extinction.  They are very unsocial creatures and for the most part are very shy towards humans (unlike the hugecolonies we saw in Argentina!) and it is very rare to see one without being on a tour.  We hung around for a while on the off chance (you wouldn't be able to miss anything walking on the brilliant white sand!), but decided to make our way up to the very tip of the peninsular to see the Albatross Colony.

The Albatross colony was very interesting.

Sea Lion on Victory Beach, Otago Pen. He was huge!
  We got to see the huge chicks fairly close-up and they were immense - bigger than the adults!  What surprised us more was that they were so incredibly gentle birds.  The conservationists at the colony were able to lift the huge chicks off their nests to be weighed without any agression from the adults.  Given that both of us have seen how agressive seagulls can be it was very strange to see! They have a wingspan of about 3.5 metres which is hard to comprehend how long that span is without seeing them - they were really huge birds.

We also made our way round to some of the numerous beachs on the Otago Peninsular to look for other wildlife.  We found a couple of  fairly uncommon Sea Lions on various beaches.  They are very large indeed (around 300kgs) and can be very agressive - you are told in no uncertain terms to keep over 10 metres away from them and not to get between them and the sea!  Most of the ones that we saw were very docile and paid very little attention to us, although on the 2 or 3 times that we got to a beach, the sea lion was hauled-up away from the shore so we didn't risk walking along any further because they can move pretty quickly when they want to!
We figured that it was unlikely that we would see a Yellow Eyed Penguin in the "wild" so we went to visit a colony on an organised tour.

Sleeping Seal. Otago Pen.
  This allowed us to get close to the chicks (at one point just a foot away when we were in the hide) and got some great views of this dangerously rare bird.  Because of the depletion of their natural environment (such as bushland and trees very near the beaches) because of farmers using it for cattle grazing, they are dangerously close to dying-out. 

Otago also allowed us to see the much less endangered New Zealand Fur Seals at close quarters.  Most of them very happy to haul themselves out on rocks on only a few metres from where you stood, before lying in the most uncomfortable looking positions and fidgitting every 15 seconds to equally uncomfortable looking positions!

We moved onwards up the coast to Oamaru, another town that is known as an excellent place to view penguins.

Yellow Eyed Penguins. Otago Pen.

 

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Yellow Eyed Penguins.  Otago Pen.
Yellow Eyed Penguins. Otago Pen.
Albatross, Otago Pen.
Albatross, Otago Pen.
Sea Lion on Victory Beach, Otago P…
Sea Lion on Victory Beach, Otago …
Sleeping Seal.  Otago Pen.
Sleeping Seal. Otago Pen.
Yellow Eyed Penguins.  Otago Pen.
Yellow Eyed Penguins. Otago Pen.
Seal, Otago Pen.
Seal, Otago Pen.
Sea Lion.  Victory Beach
Sea Lion. Victory Beach
Yellow Eyed Penguins.  Otago Pen.
Yellow Eyed Penguins. Otago Pen.
Yellow Eyed Penguins.  Otago Pen.
…
Yellow Eyed Penguins. Otago Pen.…
Dunedin
photo by: crystalware