Heading into the town of Oamaru, we were impressed by the beautiful architecture through the downtown and waterfront vicinity. Many of the old structures were built of limestone, which is mined locally. Learning that yellow-eyed penguins lived nearby, we wanted to make an effort to see the rare bird. Living in nests near the shore, at the Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve, we headed out around sunset. With only around 4,000 of these penguins in existence, we knew that sighting the critters may be difficult. These penguins live in this area year round, but at this time of year the eggs have recently hatched. One of the parents goes out before sunrise to fish for the chicks (there are usually 2), returning around sunset to feed the youngsters. The other parent stays behind to protect the chicks. At this location an overlook is provided and people are supposed to clear the beach by 3 PM, so the penguins will come in. After a half hour wait, three penguins came into shore at the far end of the beach. We were thrilled, and now hooked on these cute creatures, we were anxious to see more.
South of Oamaru, we stopped to walk down the beach to see the Moeraki Boulders. These spherical rock concretions first started forming 55 million years ago. While I questioned the decision to walk down the beach on this chilly, windy morning, once we got there I was glad we had made the trek. The boulders lying on the beach reminded me of the alien pods from the movie, Cocoon. Split boulders display beautiful yellow crystals of lime.
Katiki Point Lighthouse and penguin hide is located a little further down the road. Seals climbed on the rocks leading down to the hide, where we sat and waited a while, but didn’t see any penguins. Alan explored down a narrow, slanted trail behind the lighthouse. At the end of the trail, he found a couple of yellow eyed penguins, one just a few feet away.
|Penguins on left, seagulls on right|
Moving down to Dunedin area, we planned another penguin adventure. Staying in the nearby waterfront community of Portobello, we traveled down to Otago Peninsula after sunset to see Little Blue Penguins. In a specially lighted beach area, the birds start swimming in around 9 P.M. and continue coming in groups for a few hours. The birds would hit the beach running, and didn’t slow down until they reached their burrows up in the hills. We wound up staying for a couple of hours, as wave after wave of penguins came to shore. At an average of 13 inches in height, these are the smallest penguins. This is the same penguin we had missed seeing on Penguin Island, south of Perth in Australia.
|Katiki Point Lighthouse|
|NZ fur seal|
|Drive along the coast|
|Peninsula (at low tide) where penguins came in an hour later|
|Little Blue Penguin|
|Overview on drive near Portobello|
|Split Moeraki Boulders|
|Alan with Boulder|