Wildlife Adventure

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Jan 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
Dunedin YHA

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, April 13, 2007

After my boat trip through Doubtful Sound I went on another grand adventure. I booked a day trip with an adventure tour company to the beautiful Otago Peninsula to see some of the noted marine wildlife of the South Island. While it was not the season nor the area to see the famous whales, I was entranced by my visit to The Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head, all the way out on the tip of the Otago. According to their promotional literature, they have the only mainland breeding colony for any albatross species in the southern hemisphere. Here this protected reserve allows the birds to rear their chicks in safety and has an established colony of about 140 birds.
Welcome to the Royal Albatross Centre

The mighty albatross make use of the windy conditions to take a break from their years out at sea to actually land for a few days to roost, and come back to feed their chicks. However the day I visited the wind was too strong even for these intrepid birds, and the adults stayed out at sea. I was fascinated to learn about these amazing animals, how they spend their lives in the air over the southern oceans, mating for life - although perhaps not seeing each other for years on end - 
sometimes living out at sea for five to ten years, yes years without touching the
earth. I was astonished to learn this, and we kept hoping to see an adult but it was too much of a crazy weather day for them to get near land. While wonderfully adept at flying long distances, they are ill equipped for life on land on even a good day. We were able to see a chick on a video monitor at the visitor center, but no mama bird. We headed out further along the cape to see the sea lions and penguins, which did come out to see us in spite of the crazy weather. Sharing the beach with the mighty Hooker's Sealions, commonly known as New Zealand Sealions, was thrilling. So because they have external ear flaps, they are different from their pinniped cousins, the earless or true seals. And, these guys are HUGE!!! Adult males (bulls) can be up to 10 feet in length, and can weigh almost 900 lbs!! They can dive to depths of 700 feet. Not to mention they are highly agile, even on land. So you don't want to piss them off!!! I readily conceded the big guys were King of this Beach!!! They are also really loud, barking to one another, stroking each other and having conversations. If only I could understand sea lion........It is said they are the most rare sea lion species in the world, hard to believe with the Steller sealion populations being so depleted. Hooker Sealions are endemic to New Zealand, meaning they are found nowhere else on the planet! Because they are unique to this one area, they are highly susceptible to endangerment or even becoming extinct. There is good news for these creatures, however, as they have made a comeback after being hunted almost to extinction. Thanks to modern conservation efforts, healthy colonies are now on the Otago Peninsula and the Catlins, the rugged coast at the southeastern corner of New Zealand. I've gone on and on about the sealions but I also made friends with the yellow eyed penquin and other birds. 
Again soaked to the skin, it really didn't matter because I had a great time and saw coastal wildlife up close and personal, which is what I came to see. One day I may be back to go to Kaikoura and see the whales, but right now I was very happy with the fantastic scenery, the great friends I made, and the wildlife I could  look in the eye. Quite an amazing place to visit, and I'll remember it for a lifetime.
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