Wildlife Extravaganza
January 22, 2014

After a full-on week of travel and work at the Catlins, Sam and I were both looking forward to our upcoming rest day and a sleep in… however there’s no way you can sleep in when you’re staying somewhere like the Otago Peninsula!

Otago Peninsula not only packs in great scenery, awesome walking tracks and a wide range of adventure activities, it could also easily be described as ‘the wildlife capital of New Zealand’. Here you are able to view the only mainland Royal Albatross colony in the world, yellow-eyed penguins, fur seals, NZ sea lions and a whole variety of birds and marine life. So there was no keeping us in bed on our day off. We started the day off on a Penguin Place tour, this tour has no doubt been my favourite so far. Using their unique trench system, you are able to view yellow-eyed penguins (both adults and chicks) close-up and personal without impacting their natural behavior or environment in any way. It really is one-of-a-kind and is the best way to view yellow-eyed penguins in my opinion!

Following on from the tour we geared up, packed sandwiches and got ready to make the trek from Penguin Place to Taiaroa Head. We had made a short trip in the truck the day prior with Mel and Lisa and we were anxious about walking what seemed to be a steep hill climb to Taiaroa Head. Turns out we had nothing to worry about and the walk only took 45 minutes (with photo stops of course) – all of the hard work out in the field must be paying off and we must be getting stronger every day! The winds were high at Taiaroa Head and this was great because it meant that the Northern Royal Albatross were out in full force, gliding over our heads looking like small aircraft compared to their smaller seagull counterparts. Excited to see the albatross colony since some albatross are currently nesting, we were fortunate enough to be booked into both an albatross tour and little blue penguin viewing with the Royal Albatross Centre.

The albatross tour was great value comprising of an informative presentation on albatross by our guide, followed by a scenic climb to the observation deck above the centre. Here you are behind glass observing the albatross colony and the reason for this is because the colony is so close! We didn’t see any albatross chicks on this trip but we think we may have glimpsed an egg when we witnessed a magical moment of two adults swapping turns sitting on the egg. Similarly, the little blue penguin viewing blew me away! I knew that the population numbers of little blue penguins was high, but wasn’t expecting to see so many little blues coming ashore, we saw easily over a hundred within 30 minutes! Seeing over a hundred of the smallest penguin in the world running together from the ocean to their nests is a memory I’ll never forget, it was cute, extraordinary and took me completely by surprise!

The following afternoon after working with the yellow-eyed penguins we had been booked in for a Monarch Wildlife Cruise. As people who love the water and boats both Sam and I had been itching to get back onto the water ever since we arrived! Despite being slightly rough on the water and cloudy overhead, the trip was eventful as ever, no weather prevents wildlife enjoying the environment of the peninsula! From the view of the boat we were able to see the all the areas of the shag colony, seal colony and albatross colony which you can’t access on land. We were also fortunate to see an albatross ranger working near the colony and it gave you a great scale to see how big these birds really are! It was a perfect way to conclude our trip to the Otago Peninsula and get ready for a few more days of work in some nearby field sites and then travel to our next location!

Dannie Cullen

Dannie Cullen

BLAKE DOC Ambassador 2014