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Published: June 14th 2008
Panoramic View: Horse Rides On Otago Peninsula
Dunedin - Celtic For Edinburgh
Eager to get to Dunedin, we packed the van and headed south relatively early in the morning. Thankfully the wind had died down during the night and the driving conditions had improved. The drive south was really nice and rather entertaining, especially as we passed near a number of towns and streets with Scottish names like Iona, Glencoe, Cullen and Hampden.
Arriving in Dunedin we parked the van just outside of town at the 'Monarch' Offices where we booked a Wildlife Tour and Cruise for 1pm. Having a few hours before the cruise we headed into town for a stroll around the shops and through the Scottish streets. Instantly we both felt very at home here and Gary was in his element when he discovered a Scottish Shop which sold Irn Bru and various Scottish other merchandise/food.
After lunch we headed back to the Wharf, with various Scottish "goodies" in hand, just in time to meet the boat. There was only one other person on board the boat due to the tourist industry being quieter during the winter months giving us more space to move freely
around the boat and pick a seat with a good view.
Otago Peninsula Cruise & Penguin Habitat
As we headed out of Otago Harbour we began to spot a number of different types of wildlife such as the Black Swan, Little Shags, Black Shags and The Stewart Island Shag.
It was not until we got further out of the harbour and towards Taiaroa Head that we began to see the various different types of Albatross swooping to the sea to feed. It's weird how they never actually go on land despite flying so close.
Further around the head there were numerous New Zealand Seals basking on the rocks. It is mostly females and their young that can be seen here. The females don't bother with the boats, however the babies are slightly more curious and like to watch the boats passing by.
We headed further out to sea, where it got slightly choppier, in order to get closer to the Albatross feeding. There was so many of them swooping down to the see to catch their dinner. As we turned off the engines, they came in even closer, in the hope that we were gutting
fish. We were also lucky enough to spot two blue penguins in the water before heading back into the harbour mouth.
On the return journey we spotted a New Zealand Sea Lion which had pulled itself up onto a sand back while we had been out at sea. We were dropped off at Wellers Rock where we were met by a bus which was taking us to the 'Penguin Place', a Yellow Eyed Penguin Reserve, while the boat returned to the harbour with the remaining passenger.
The nature reserve is part of a working sheep farm, the conservation project was extablished in 1985 and today they attempt to create as much of a breeding opportunity for the penguins as possible while minimising the loss of grazing ground for their sheep. In 1985 there was only 9 breeding couples today the reserve has 20 breeding couples, a great achievement considering the small population of Yellow Eyed Penguins around today. They can only be found in New Zealand and are one of the rarest penguins in the world.
The Yellow Eyed Penguin gets its name from the yellow iris and characteristic yellow head band. They are the 3rd tallest
penguins (around 65-70cm tall) and weigh between 5-6kg, however they still looked rather small up close. The average live expectancy of the Yellow Eyed Penguin is 6-7 years however some have been know to live for 20-25 years.
The Reserve has provided nest boxes for shelter, shade and privacy which is required for successful breeding. These also provide protection against predators such as ferrets and wild house cats, one of which we spotted while observing the penguins. However before too long another farm worker was down on the reserve in hunt of the cat.
New bush and shrubs are planted each year by the farmer and they also have a 'sick station' for injured penguins or orphaned chicks. A number of pathways, covered trenches and observation huts have been created for human observation, allowing the penguins to go about their daily business unperturbed by our presence.
Walking through the pathways towards the coastline there were a number of brown seals lazing on the grass. Despite getting very close to them they did not seem to be too bothered by us. There was also a blue penguin nestled in one of the shelters.
As we headed down
from the cliff we spotted a penguin making its way across the beach. It is amazing how fast they can walk, and how far they are willing to travel in order to get the best possible shelter. Heading down to the observation shelter for a closer look, it changed its mind and remained on the beach, perhaps waiting for its wife to return. Rumour has it she found a new partner while he was staying in the sick station following a ghastly bite, perhaps from a seal or a small shark.
While walking through the reserve we were able to get up really close to one of the Yellow Eyed Penguins, which was basking on top of a grass bank. Our guide reckoned that he was around 18 months old as he did not have a tag on and all the older penguins were tagged just over a year ago.
We spent some time observing the penguins in the reserve and as we were heading off back to bus we noticed a number more emerging out of the sea and strolling up the beach back to their secure shelter. It was a great experience being able to observe
these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
After a 45 minute bus ride back to Otago harbour, Dunedin, we jumped back into our campervan and headed to the petrol station in order to fill up for the following day, only to find that the petrol had gone up 6c a litre since the morning. Typical!! After paying over the odds for the petrol we headed to Dunedin Camp Site for some warmth and a DVD before bed.
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