ALBATROSS & MONARCH - ECO-TOURISM ROYALTY
There's no way of reaching the end of Otago Peninsula without being overwhelmed when you get there.
We take the low road, past bays, small islands, boat houses and villages before arriving at the Royal Albatross Centre. It's only just opened for the day but the car park is filling and cameras are everywhere.
We soon see why. As well as the scenery - and the scenery truly overwhelms - there are albatross flying overhead. Real, 3-metre-wide albatross.
We're booked on the 90-minute "Unique Tour" which starts with a short presentation. We assume housekeeping will be the focus but our guide arrives, her face adorned with a moko. She tells us her ancestors lived on this headland for hundreds of years. Most were born on it. She speaks of the albatross and her people in the same breath, with the same reverence.
We're led to an observatory and the headland opens up. Ocean, cliff, hundreds of shags and several baby royal albatross. Through Victorian war-time tunnels we reach the next observatory, this one just a few feet from a resting albatross. We leave feeling overwhelmed, by the tour, our guide, everything.
Then it's on to Wellers Rock wharf and a boat tour of the headland. The beautiful MV Monarch arrives and the captain tells us a wintery southern change is coming - things might get choppy. But the boat keeps us warm and dry, the scenery, somehow, gets even better and the wildlife - albatross, petrels, seals - are everywhere. The captain's commentary is thoughtful, informative, personal.
We drove out on a wintery day expecting little. We drive back, this time along the mesmerising high road, agreeing we've just experienced one of the best days of our lives.
Post submitted by Craig Borley