Otago Peninsula


When you arrive in Dunedin, you can see almost immediately where the original settlers came from: Scotland. Driving through the city, you might even think you're in Scotland. The city's architecture is just the first hint. And when you see someone walking around in a kilt, you're absolutely sure you're in Scotland. Only the weather made us clear this was NOT Scotland after all. When it's 30 oC under a bright sun, Scotland is out of the question.

Although Dunedin looked like a cool city, and definitively worth a longer visit, we didn't stay here long. Just a short walk trough the city centre and a short visit to the tourist information, to collect some brochures about the Otago Peninsula. The Otago Peninsula is the only place in the world where you can see albatrosses nesting, without having to travel to some very remote rocky island somewhere offshore. We found ourselves a nice camping on the Peninsula, and after a good night sleep we were ready to see the albatrosses at the Royal Albatross Centre.

Original photo

Too bad, during the night the weather had changed. The wind had gone, it was dead calm. And there was a fog (again). When you want te see albatrosses, this is the worst weather you can have. These large birds need the wind to fly. If there's no wind, the only thing they do is sit on their nests, or float around somewhere at see, just waiting for the wind to return.

And when there's a fog ? Well, you can visit the Albatross Centre, and you can come quite close to the nests, but you just can't see the birds. The picture on the left shows you what we saw from the observation hut.

The picture on the right show the same view from the observation hut again, but now we used Photoshop to enhance the image a bit (ehhh ... a lot). Now you can see the albatross, and a ranger who's checking on the albatross and the eggs. With the ranger so close the the albatross, you can see how large these birds are.

To be honest, even in this lousy weather, a visit to the Albatross Centre is a unique experience. Being the first group of the day, the two of us had the private tour by guide Alan. His enthusiasm for the birds stuck to us.

Enhanced photo

Flying albatross (thanks to John)

Although we didn't have the opportunity to see albatrosses flying, we can show you a picture. This picture was made by our friend John Gray from Australia, who we met at the Milford Track. He visited the Otago Peninsula a few day later than we did. He had wonderful weather, lots of wind and a clear sky, so he could make this great photo of an albatross in flight, with another one in the background.

Next stop, the Yellow-eyed penguins. These penguins are the rarest kind of penguins in the world. They only exist in New Zealand, and the Otoga Peninsula is one of the few places where you can see them. To see the penguins, we took a tour with these 8 wheel drive amphibian vehicles. With all those wheels, these things generate a lot of dust. That's why you have to wear one of those rain-and-dust-coats Mirjam is showing in the picture on the right.

 8x8 vehicle

Mirjam showing a fancy garment

This rain-and-dust coat really suits her, doesn't it ?
Before you arrive at the point where you might see the penguins, there is a stop. Here you can see a seal-colony. Sure, we know people in New Zealand hardly know any stress.

These seals however, they take "not knowing any stress" very seriously. Just look at them ! The only thing they have to do all day, is just lying around on some rocks, have a bit of a swim to catch a fish and go back to the rocks again.

Lazy seal

Kelp, nature as art

At the same place where the seals are, there is a lot of kelp. Kelp is something like seaweed (but completely different). In New Zealand, they make all sorts of useful things from kelp. And we think it's cool stuff to make nature-as-art photo's, like the one above.

Yellow-eyed penguin, far far away

After quite some time, Leon discovered this one. He even saw it before the guide did.

From the observation point where you might see the yellow-eyed penguins, the only thing you can see is just an empty beach. You have to look very careful, have a lot of luck and good binoculars to spot a penguin. You know there should be penguins somewhere, because you can see the tracks they made on the beach. You just can't see them, they hide themselves very good.

Penguin tracks

We also learned why the yellow-eyed penguin is the rarest kind of penguin. It's because they are shy. When one of these penguin happens to see a tourist, it instantly dies of heart failure (the penguin, not the tourist). They are even afraid of each other, they don't want to come closer than 50 meters from another penguin. Knowing this, we thinks it's a miracle some of these penguins still exist.Next to the observation point there is another kind of penguin to be seen. This blue penguin is a lot more common than the yellow-eyed. This young blue penguin is sitting in a 'nest' right next to the observation hut, you can see it through a little window.

Blue penguin