The Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula, guarantees close-up viewings of rare yellow eyed penguins, Hooker’s sea lions, NZ fur seals ,little blue penguins and the Royal Albatross. All this is seen on Dunedin’s restricted wildlife conservation sanctuary. We were collected by Mini bus and once our guide accounted for all 18 passengers, we set off.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Albatross Centre
First we took a 50 min scenic drive to the Albatross Centre. The late afternoon weather was calm and warm, but not so good for spotting Royal Albatross. On windy days, these majestic birds love soaring through the skies. However it was perfect weather for sea lions, fur seals and Yellow-Eyed Penguins. On a clear day like this, the views are wonderful.
Elegant black swans floated serenely by on the lookout for the fresh water creeks that flow into the sea. We saw Oystercatchers, Kingfishers, Spoonbills Spur wing Plovers and Shags. It’s easy to understand why the Otago Peninsula is called the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand.
We arrived at the Albatross Centre on the Taiaroa headland and for the next half hour, Joel, another guide gave an excellent presentation on the Royal Albatross. Having guides with a passion for wildlife, plus an engaging personality, is a great combo.
The Southern Royal Albatross has a wingspan of over 3 metres and in windy conditions they soar spectacularly around the breeding colony. Although the enclosed viewing platform provided panoramic views, the weather was too calm today to see them. But we reminded ourselves that this was not an enclosed Zoo. The wildlife here are in their natural environment and behave according to their rules.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Papanui Beach
After reboarding the bus, we set off to Papanui Beach to see fur seals from this spectacularly rugged vantage point.
One look at the turbulent sea, reminded us again that nature is in charge.
We moved on for a closer look at the fur seals who have draped themselves across the rocks below. They come in all sizes, ages and temperaments. Unlike Sea Lions who fear no one, Fur Seals are very shy, though a little curious.
Others had better things to do with their time, than look at us.
We strolled down to the stunning Papanui Beach. Just a note of caution here folks, the walks to and from the beach are quite steep and on an unusually warm evenings, you’ll work up quite a sweat. Sometimes it can be the total opposite – cold and extremely windswept. This was our lucky day.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Yellow-eyed Penguin
The Yellow-eyed penguin is the rarest penguin in the world and is only found in New Zealand! It’s ironic that the majority of New Zealanders will never get to see one of these penguins, yet for international visitors, its a highlight. Today, for the very first time, I did. A precious and beautiful little soul waddled passed us, wings at right angles for cooling the body.
Admittedly the photo is not good, but out of respect for the species, we had to keep our distance. Still a thrilling moment. These penguins struggle with maintaining and increasing their numbers, so we were so lucky to see 3 of them.Just so you know I’m not kidding about the cuteness factor, here’s a closer look. No one knows why they have yellow eyes.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Sea lions
A misty haze descended on the beach creating a moistness in the air. We continued our walk towards what look like a large piece of kelp lying on the shore.
We quickly discovered, this was not kelp but a sleeping Sea Lion. Sea Lions have no fear of humans and as this one seemed intent on sleeping off a hard day out at sea, we retreated to a safe distance.
This bull male was covered in sand, except for a one large eye that remained opened. He may have been sleepy, but definitely not stupid.
I’ve loved every moment of this tour. Seeing the rarest penguin in the world making a dramatic dash to the beach to greet another penguin, was magical. We left our sea lion to his slumber and said goodbye to the Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula. There’ll be sleep in the valley for me tonight.