Wildlife in Dunedin - Dynamic land & stunning vistas
As the sun slowly sets out on the tip of The Otago Peninsula and the lights of Port Chalmers begin to glitter on the bay, people await the first run of the world’s smallest penguin to arrive. Blue Penguins, also known as Korora in Maori, only stand around 25cm tall and if you want to experience seeing these little birds arriving back to their homes from a day fishing at sea then look no further than The Blue Penguins Pukekura. Every night tours descend onto platforms above Pilots Beach about a half hour before sunset. The decks that you stand on are lit up beneath you with lights illuminating the seashore. Only returning under the cover of darkness, these tiny birds arrive back in a group, or run. The people at this conservation group are passionate about teaching the public about the life and habitat of these petite marine creatures and using the money they charge to experience the penguins directly back into their preservation. Joining you on the decks are conservationists that are there to make sure you enjoy and learn about what you are witnessing. Our tour guide Ma explained to us that, “The conservation comes first. Our enjoyment of these animals are directly related to our work conserving this beach and these dunes. This is their home and we are just visiting.” This message is stressed throughout the tour. No flash on your cameras, no loud talking or fast movements are allowed. When you take a tour with The Blue Penguins Pukekura you are there to respect and enjoy, respect the land and the wildlife and go away with more memories than photos. Watching a run of blue penguins fly under the dark water to the shore is a breathtaking experience, one of nature’s pure moments that you can witness up close and personal and The Blue Penguins Pukekura do an outstanding job at maintaining it for the next generations of both penguins and people.
These compact swimming foal are just one of the species of wild animals that you can see coming to Dunedin. On the other side of Pilots Beach on Taiaroa Head is the only mainland albatross colony in the world. Preserved and run by The Royal Albatross Centre, that oversea The Blue Penguins Pukekura, the same standards of care and respect are given to this species. They have a wing span of over three meters that classifies them as the world’s largest sea bird. Seeing these birds in flight as they cruise over the peninsula’s end is a majestic and noble thing to observe. Breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The work that The Royal Albatross Centre does is an excellent example of how eco-tourism should be conducted. Having access to see this wildlife so close and still be having a positive hands off approach that benefits not only the animals but the people there to enjoy them as well.
Taking the lessons learned out on Taiaroa Head make your way to Sandfly Beach. Here you should be able to see New Zealand sea lions kicking up sand as they relax on the beach. Here you are free to walk the shore. These beast of the sea will barely take notice of you as you stroll by. Bring a lunch and find a spot on the beach to watch. If you stay long enough you will be able to see these animals ride the waves into and out of the beach, talk about the ultimate body surfing. Alasdair Burns, a Wildlife Management post graduate student at The University of Otago informed us as we walked along the shore that the New Zealand sea lion is one of the rarest seal species, not only in New Zealand but the world. “With only one substantial colony left it’s really hard to say what the future of these sea creatures will be. Through the monitoring that is done we know there are roughly 10,000 left, which categorizes them as critically endangered, although the numbers seem to be declining.” Sad to learn when you get to watch mother nature first hand and so close.
On the same beach you also have the chance to see the more prolific species of the fur seal. These are smaller than the sea lions and prefer to hang out in the rocks while the sea lions like to chill out on the sandy beach. Checking out these smaller fur seals you can see the day to day interaction of the animals, the fights, the naps, the return home from the sometimes fierce waves. It’s all there for you to see and not behind glass. it is the real thing, mother nature at her best and all open to see on the Otago Peninsula. It’s a steep walk up from Sandfly Beach but after viewing two species at home on the beach and the rocky shore you will be smiling all the way back up.
If you still can’t get enough of the fauna there are options to see more species like yellow eyed penguins, dolphins and lots of other marine birds.
When it comes down to it, Dunedin is an excellent destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Not only do they have outstanding examples on how to correctly conduct eco-tourism but there is a variety of animals to observe and enjoy. Get to Dunedin and explore all that the city and the Otago Peninsula have to offer, you won’t be disappointed.
Post submitted by The Travelin Chicks