Birds and more: Dunedin/Otago peninsula

After swimming with the dolphins and having a quick lunch the guys and I drove to Dunedin. Not the prettiest drive in New Zealand (so many sheep!), but it was still New Zealand. We got there a tad late to do much of anything so we decided to just do a little planning and just chill at the hostel.

The next day we woke up decently early and headed out to the Otago Peninsula. It was pretty awesome. The topography of the peninsula was super pretty as were the bays and inlets. We stopped just to take some pictures and say hello to the sheep.

Ian and I decided to take a tour by Nature’s Wonders to see some of the wildlife through traveling in Argos vehicles. I was a little skeptical of a $55 one hour tour, but it was actually really awesome. First we saw some New Zealand Shags or Cormorants. They live right on the side of the cliff and we saw some juveniles and some parents. Then we went to a New Zealand Fur Seal colony of mothers and pups with a few big males. It was really cool to see the babies. Some had been born just a few days ago. And we could actually see gulls pecking at the placenta of one that had literally just been born. So cool to be there! Then back in the vehicle and we saw a little Blue penguin in burrow on the side of the road. Then to a beach and steep hillside with yellow-eyed penguins nesting. We saw one crossing the beach and another by its nest. Then we even got to see one nesting yellow-eyed penguin and chick. And another blue penguin up close.

It was a really good tour agency that actually does predator removal (feral cats are actually a big problem). I really enjoyed the tour and learned a lot and got to see really cool wildlife.

Then Ian went to take an albatross tour and Eric and I went to do a hike to Allan’s beach. It was really pretty with nice waves and driftwood. The path to it wad amazing, covered in flowers so it smelled like an air freshener but better. I do love all the flowers here.

Then back to Ian and the albatross. Really awesome giant birds they are. We wanted to go for another hike and so tried to take a drive but got a little lost. Sheep aren’t very good at giving directions…

Finally as dusk began to fall we headed to another huge event: penguin watching. There’s a beach on the peninsula right by the albatross and nature’s wonders tours that almost 100 blue penguins come back to nest every night. They feed out in the open ocean during the day and then at night they come back to shore to their burrows and chicks.

This beach has predator proof fencing and agents work to conserve the penguins. For viewing a little stage thing with lights was built and a tour organized. It was really really cool.

The penguins come into shore in “rafts”, or groups, and look a little like awkward soldiers storming the beach (too much Madagascar perhaps?). So cute! Then they waddle across the shore and over the rocks to their burrows. The whole affair lasts about an hour or more. There’s something really special about seeing animals like this in the wild doing the things they ought to be doing.

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About Meg LaFollette

I studied abroad in Fiji for 5 months in 2012 and absolutely fell in love with traveling! I went to New Zealand right after and then Peru this summer. When not traveling (and sometimes during) I love healthy, environmentally conscious living. Animals, biology, horses, and behavior are other passions of mine.
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