The Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula, guarantees close-up viewings of the rare yellow eyed penguin. Plus you’ll get to see Hooker’s sea lions, NZ fur seals ,little blue penguins and the Royal Albatross. All this New Zealand wildlife can be on Dunedin’s restricted wildlife conservation sanctuary.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Bus ride
You’ll be collected in Dunedin by a Mini bus. With a guide on-board, there’s a quick briefing and then a bus ride out to the Albatross Centre. This is an incredibly scenic and relaxing ride – you’ll get plenty of variation on this tour.
The bus ride to the Albatross Centre takes about 50 minutes. We chose to go in the late afternoon and it was perfect timing. The weather was calm and quite warm. Unfortunately this type of weather is not so good for spotting Royal Albatross. Its actually only on the windy days, that you’ll see these majestic creatures soaring the skies. However the weather turned out to be perfect for sea lions, fur seals and Yellow-Eyed Penguins. In fact, most nature lovers consider it a privilege to see these penguins – they are so incredibly rare.
Along the way, we spotted the most elegant black swans floating by – on the lookout for the fresh water creeks that flow into the sea. But that’s not all we saw. For bird lovers, this is an awesome photo opportunity. That’s because you’ll almost always see Oystercatchers, Kingfishers, Spoonbills Spur wing Plovers and Shags. This is why the Otago Peninsula is called the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Albatross Centre
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, is a great combo. It also helps when they have such an engaging personality!
The Southern Royal Albatross has a wingspan of over 3 metres. So you can imagine that in windy conditions, they look spectacular. Its pretty special to see them catch the wind currents around the breeding colony. There is an enclosed viewing platform from which you can see these guys without getting blown off your feet. In fact, some may liken this to being in an enclosed Zoo. The difference here of course, is that the wildlife are totally free in their natural environment. They behave according to their rules.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Papanui Beach
This is the part of the tour I loved. After reboarding the bus at the Albatross Colony, we set off to Papanui Beach. This is where the fur seals can be found – more often than not from this rugged vantage point.
You only need to take one look at this turbulent sea, to be reminded that nature is in charge.
We moved on for a closer look at the fur seals. These guys can often been seen draping themselves across the rocks below. They come in all sizes, ages and temperaments. Unlike the Sea Lions, who fear absolutely no one, Fur Seals are very shy. However, they are still a little curious.
You’ll quickly find that they probably have better things to do, than look at humans.
The stroll down to the stunning Papanui Beach is quite a highlight. Just a note of caution here folks, the walks to and from the beach can be quite challenging – on the warmer evenings, you will work up quite a sweat. However, it can be the total opposite – cold and extremely windswept. This turned out to be our lucky day.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Yellow-eyed Penguin
The Yellow-eyed penguin is the rarest penguin in the world and can only be found in New Zealand! I find it ironic that the majority of New Zealanders never get to see these penguins. Its the international visitors – the ones who take this tour – that get this privilege. Its quite a sobering moment when you see the first one. And believe me, they are extremely precious and beautiful little souls. They waddle pass you, totally unaware of your presence – their little wings pressed at right angles to cool the body.
I admit this photo, was not so good. However, out of respect for an endangered species, we had to keep our distance. However, I can tell you, it was still a thrilling moment. The Yellow-eyed penguin struggles to maintain and increase their numbers. You can imagine how exciting it was to see three of them in just the one day! Just look at those yellow eyes. Yet no one knows why they are this colour.
Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula – Sea lions
A misty haze descended on the beach below which created a nice humidity. We continued our walk towards what looked like a large piece of kelp lying on the shore.
We quickly discovered, that it was in fact a sleeping Sea Lion. Now Sea Lions have no fear at all of humans. This one was intent on sleeping off a hard day out at sea. We retreated to a safe distance before we began taking photos.
This particular Sea Lion was a bull male. It was covered in sand, except for a one large eye that remained opened. He may have been sleepy, but he was forever on the lookout.
I loved every minute of this tour. I saw the rarest penguin in the world. You’ll never forget seeing the joyful reunion between penguins, as one comes ashore – its a magical moment. We left our sea lion to his slumber and said goodbye to the Elm Wildlife Tour Dunedin Peninsula. This is the stuff dreams are made of.