May 2024

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula


We made it all the way to Dunedin yesterday, with plenty of time to explore the town. Dunedin is the most “European” town in NZ, due to its architecture. Victorian churches, red telephone booths and numerous pubs make it seem just like Scotland. We spent most of the time around the “Octagon” – the most happening center of town. We were there right at 5 p.m on Friday – the perfect time to watch locals all flocking together for end-of-the-week beers.

Scott giving Robbie Burns a warm thank you.

Scott giving Robbie Burns a warm thank you.

After visiting good old Robbie Burns, and Scott giving him a warm greeting and nice gesture of thanks for all the years he was forced to eat haggis for his birthday, we took off to the Speight brewery hoping to get a tour for 6 p.m. Unfortunately, they were all booked up, so we just decided to sample the beer at the brewery pub ourselves. We tried six delicious flavours, with the fruity light beer and the very dark ale being our favourites.

After that, we were going to take some wine down to the beach and enjoy it with some chocolate, but the rain started pouring really hard, so we spent another evening in the campground common room watching TV and reading.

Today, we wanted to tour the Otago Peninsula, right outside of Dunedin, which is renound for wildlife including the only Royal Albatross colony in the southern hemisphere, sea lions, seals and penguins (including blue penguins, aka fairy penguins in Australia, and yellow-eyed penguins). We tried to get a glimpse of the albatross colony, but you had to pay a decent fare, so we decided against it.

Yellow-eyed penguins in their natural nest

Yellow-eyed penguins in their natural nest

The penguiun colony, however, sucked us in. Two farmers back in the 80s discovered 15 penguins on their land (which does include mostly sheep) near the ocean. Now, there are about 90 of them that are protected through a conservation project. We were told all funds would go to supporting the project, so it made us feel better.

We spent 1.5 hours walking around the penguin habitat. The conservation people have very cleverly dug walkways and hideaways for humans to go so as not to disturb the penguins. We didn’t see very many, though – most were out fishing for the day. We saw a few adults and a few really cute chicks (who are completely brown and really dopey looking), so that was fun. The yellow-eyed penguin is an endagered species due to predation brought by humans, including cats, ferrets and possums. They are a very solitary species, and unlike most other types of penguins who flock together and spend most of their times in large groups, the yellow-eyes choose a partner and mate and live with them in their own private nest. I discovered from looking at a few of the histories that their fidelity can be somewhat flux – one female had “divorced” two of her partners, one had gone missing, and she had gone back to the first partner several years later!

A little yellow-eyed penguin crossing the beach in front of us

A little yellow-eyed penguin crossing the beach in front of us

After the penguin conservation, we decided to check out Sandfly Bay, where you can see sea lions and penguins in their natural habitat (and it’s not monitored or toured). After an intense hike down a sand dune in gale force winds, we started walking down the beach…and saw a penguin pop out of the water and walk into the dunes right in front of us! Well, he wasn’t THAT close to us, but still. He was another yellow-eye, and they are very sensitive. They won’t come out of the water if humans are too close, so you have to stop and let them go by or their young can starve because they won’t cross the beach if you are too close. He waddled up the beach into the sand dunes (which humans are not supposed to go so as not to upset them), and it was such an amazing sight for us. We walked further down the beach and came across a very large and regal sea lion. As we were keeping a good distance (the recommended 10 feet) and walking away from him, he got a little purturbed and started charging us a bit…which was pretty scary. He was really fat with big teeth. He chased us right into two birds (I think some form of Herring) which got really mad because they were protecting a nest and they totally dove at us. Whoops. Sorry birdies. It was pretty scary but amazing to be so close to the wildlife.

On our way back down the beach, I spotted another penguin in the water trying to beach itself, but it was too scared of us…so we kept walking further away a bit and it swam further down the beach in the opposite direction, and then popped out and walked up the dunes! Another amazing experience for us. We think we hit the beach right at the time when the penguins come back from feeding, so we got a good view of two of them. It was actually better to see them in a natural manner, even though we were further away, than in the conservation.

Us on top of the Moreaki boulders

Us on top of the Moreaki boulders

We then decided to make some headway with our driving and continue North. We made it to the Moreaki boulders this evening (about 1 hour North of Dunedin) which are giant bolders right on the beach that eroded from the mudstone cliffs behind them. They were not formed into their spherical shape by the elements, but scientists believe they were formed by the mudstones themselves. Their spherical shape is due to the fact that the minerals crystallized equally from an organic nuclei. Tres cool. We spent some time checking them out and climbing on top of them.

Tomorrow is another long driving day to make it to the Akaroa Peninsula near Christchurch. Our time in New Zealand is rapidly coming to a close…only 5 more nights in Happy Diwali. 🙁

2 comments to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

  • Dad

    Not sure when you wanted it but the first part of your Birthday/Christmas present should be accessible today

    Love Dad

  • Dave

    Look really cool over the past few days. I am sure you are not that disappointed to be leaving ms. The weather in oz is over 25 all the time. Everyone loved to see you guys last night for dinner. Merry Christmas and have a safe flight to oz on Saturday

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