New Zealand is famous for its scenery and wildlife and nowhere demonstrates this more than the Otago Peninsula. About 30 kilometers in length, you could spend days exploring its riches. The road follows the water’s edge and you can view all types of animals and birds.
We drove directly to the tip of the peninsula so that we could visit the Royal Albatross Colony Conservation Center…and we would have went, too, if it didn’t cost an outrageous $80 NZ per person. When the attendant told us the price, we were more than ready to dish out the $80 for the two of us, for the half hour talk and half hour in the observation tower, but for each of us, come on….let’s just stick it to the tourists! We chose to enjoy the albatross just as they soared through the air, not on the ground.
At any rate, it got us out to Taiaroa Head nice and early and we were almost alone at the(free) lookout point, where we stayed for at least an hour marveling at not only the albatross, but a multitude of sea birds as well as a couple of rafts of Hooker Sea Lions.
On the other side of the tip, there is Pilot’s Beach. Unfortunately we didn’t come here the night before, because every night right after sunset, the little Blue penguins come back on shore and waddle to their nests. So, alas, we’ll have to wait for our next visit to see them.
What we did get to see were a bunch of adolescent sea lions. As we walked along the rocky shore, there was one who we watched doze for a few minutes completely unaware that we were practically surrounded by these potentially dangerous and, might I add, huge marine mammals. As we became more and more aware of them, we must have stumbled onto a whole raftslumbering on the rocks and even in the grass.
It is amazing to me how camouflage really works. They were incredibly difficult to see until we were within mere feet of them. We didn’t really notice one of them, until he ceremoniously announced himself with a loud snort. They weren’t too worried about us, some not bothering to keep even one eye open, but we also didn’t overstay our welcome. It was very calming, only these sleeping giants and us on the beach.
On the way back to Dunedin, we really took our time and meandered in and out of all the bay on both sides of the peninsula. The landscape changed at every turn. On the opposite or southern side, the environment seemed more wind-blown and there were tall, marshy grasses where flocks of sheep were hiding. Whereas on the northern side, it was less swampy and more rugged and rocky. All of it was beautiful.
Lots of backpackers like New Zealand for its pristine outdoors life, and here you can find a Backpacker Guide to New Zealand.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.