" New Zealand Holiday ... 14 . . . The Otago Peninsular "

Date & Time: Friday to Monday 18th - 20th November 2011.

Locations : Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular, East Coast, South Island.

Places visited : Dunedin, Sandfly Bay, Portobello, Otakou, Taiaroa Head.

Accommodation : Nisbet Cottage , Dunedin with Hildegard and Ralf Lübcke.

With : Ann and myself.

Weather : A strong, southerly early morning blow then clearing to lovely sunshine.

" NZ 14 . . . The Otago Peninsular " at EveryTrail

[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]


After a drive up the coast from The Catlins we have arrived at the City of Dunedin on the Otago Peninsular.

Our accommodation is at Nisbet Cottage with our hosts, Hildegard and Ralf.

Nisbet Cottage is a grand brick house, once a children's home but now a really nice guest house and B&B.

We settle into our room easily now . . . as we've had plenty of practice at packing and unpacking this holiday !


So it's hello from me . . . and pass the wine !

We have borrowed Nisbet's laptop to check our emails and send a few messages home

and the wine ? . . . Nisbet Cottage once again, very much appreciated.

Our host organises the " Nature Guides Otago " experience

and we have booked this accommodation as it offered an integrated wildlife day on the peninsular.

Hildegard would be our guide for the daytime tour . . . but before that we have requested places on the early morning Penguin Walk

We are collected at 4.20 am in order to be down on the beach for sunrise . . .

but by the look of the weather perhaps we should just say . . . in time for daylight.

Full waterproofs and torches are the order of the day.

Our guide is Steve Broni a well-travelled expert on Southern Ocean wildlife

and is a trustee of the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust . . . and we have him all to ourselves for the morning.

Sandfly Bay . . . so called for when the wind blows . . . the sand doesn't half fly !

We've made our way across the beach to the Nature Guides wildlife hide, a haven on a blustery morning.

Our first sighting of the Yellow Eyed Penguins was as we crossed the beach . . . but it was to dark for photography.

At first light however, we were able to make out what turned out to be two seals (one out of shot) down on the rocks.

A late penguin making its way across the beach to start his day on the water.

Steve is monitoring the sightings for the local penguin trust and the DOC.

This hide is in fact one for the general public . . . we are standing in the larger NG one just above

where we spent a couple of hours viewing and keeping warm with a drink from the hot thermos flask.

Time to make our way slowly back across the beach.
Sea Lion tracks across the sands. (Brown sand is the tide line)

Our way back to the beach was temporarily blocked by this youngster.

An adorable face but don't get to close . . . we diverted away from the main path

and I used the telephoto lens to catch that smile.

I believe it was called Lion Rock, but I think it has a distinct likeness to the classic Queen Victoria portrait.

Driftwood logs on the beach . . .

But wait . . . that one moved !

This adult male Sea Lion may be sitting quietly

but that eye is wide open and watching our every move.

Too close thank you !

There are quite a number of Sea Lions on the beach so we give them a wide berth.

Telephoto lens in action again !

This was a younger female . . . identifiable by her colour and size.

Steve went over to identify her tag number . . .

recorded as 9004 for checking later.

Steve is qualified guide and has wide experience of these rather unpredictable creatures.

For details of how you and I should interact with these creatures

check out the Sea Lion Trust web page here.


Sea Lions are different from seals as they can walk (and run pretty fast) on their four flippers.

Sea lions, however, are generally not afraid of people, and sometimes approach out of curiosity, playfulness . . . or aggression.

Ok Steve . . . which one of the three is this ?

She was a nice lady but very attentive to our little group.

Steve stayed back and distracted her while we retired a safe distance.

Me . . . curious, playful or aggressive ? . . . I only wanted to say hello !

High above the bay now, on the way back to the car.

We can look down on the bay and see what we didn't see due to the darkness earlier this morning.

Back in time for a lovely Nisbet Cottage breakfast . . . well earned I think.

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By ten o'clock that morning we were out again, this time with our host, Hildegard.

We took the road out onto the Otago Peninsular once more.

Looking back at the city of Dunedin

and at the Rugby stadium that hosted the World Cup Rugby games recently.

Out towards the open sea along the north of the peninsular.

This stretch of water is relatively shallow and so there's a deep water harbour at Aramoana in the distance.

Click here or on the photo for a larger Loweswatercam panorama.

Sandwich lunch was collected from the cafe in Portobello along the way.

The sheltered bay of Portobello, named after their old Scottish town by early settlers.

This was an important anchorage and was the second most important township of the area, after Dunedin, for these early settlers.

Looking down the peninsular we could see Sandfly Bay, where we were this morning.

Hildegard wanted to show us more of the wildlife of the area today.

This was an adult, one of a small family group of Pukeko.
Those look a little like Paradise Ducks again.
A white faced Heron searches for his lunch.
A Stilt standing one-legged, perhaps relaxing after his lunch.

They take flight . . . as we sit and watch from them from the roadside.

Sifting the deeper tidal areas . . . the Spoonbills.

Conveniently their legs are the same length as their bills and they can take advantage of deeper waters than the Stilts.

Nature is a clever thing.

Hildegard is a keen supporter of the Dunedin Bio diversity Project and she has invited us to plant a native tree on the peninsular.

She tries to plant one for every group of visitors she takes on these tours.

Friends of hers have a private area of land that needs re-planting and by the look of the work going on there, she has had had lots of visitors like ourselves who have come along and done their bit for the woodland project.

On the way up, Hildegard points out Jasmine flowers . . .
. . . and I spot another fantail bird

A few moments wait and he flew a little closer for his portrait to be taken

Little does he realise how far his photo will travel . . . I hope he didn't want royalties !

Ann with spade . . Mmm . . a prospect for our garden ? ( No way says Ann )
Hildegard helps me remove the soft plastic grow bag.

One Kowfhi Plant dug in . . . weed-protected with the sack, animal-protected with the chicken wire, watered with the bucket !

Let's hope it thrives like the others.

"Work" done we continue upward with the prospect of lunch with a view . . . looking out over Hooper's Inlet.

What we spotted up here was the first instance of European style dry-stone walls that we had noticed on our trip.

The summit of this small hill was surrounded by an almost circular wall and a cairn or foundations of an old shelter at the highest point.

With more time it would have been interesting to find out the history of the place, as it matched many of the structures we see back here in the UK.

Click here or on the photo for a full 360 degree Loweswatercam Panorama

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Lunch over, no time to lose on what is turning out to be a busy day.

All aboard the good ship "Monarch" for a wildlife cruise around Taiaroa Head.

Hildegard has fitted an hour long cruise into our itinerary . . . great organisation.

Taiaroa is at the north eastern-most tip of the Otago Peninsular and is an important area for several species,

both flying above, floating on and swimming in the waters around the Head . . . the first are seabirds.

Remote cliffs and headlands are always good spots for nesting.

Here we have a colony of Shags nesting on the grassy cliff . . . safety in numbers as usual.

Zooming in on the colony's nest site . . .
. . . and further to some of the individual birds and large chicks.

Another smaller group has been nesting half way down the cliff on an undercut rock shelf.

. . . their white droppings covering the rocks.
Above them, a nesting Albatross on the headland

Taiaroa Head is most famous for these Albatross.

It is the only "mainland" nesting colony in the world of this quintessential southern ocean seabird.

Their main breeding colonies are found on the island chains much further south in the remote southern oceans.

Unfortunately nature can be a harsh environment and here is an example of the food chain at work.

A black backed seagull has scavenged a young chick, probably a young shag off the colony opposite.

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Below them on the cliffs . . .

A first year youngster from last season's brood . . .
. . . and a mature New Zealand Fur Sea basking on the rocks.

Plenty to see as we round the headland.

On the cliffs, nesting in thicker vegetation . . .
. . . a colony of Spoonbills.

The skipper turns the boat out to sea ( the land ahead is the eastern coast of South Island by the way )

He is looking for "longer wingspans" out on these wider horizons.

Spot the Albatross . . .
closer now . . .
He decides to fly.
Powerful feet paddle away . . .
as he gains speed for take off . . .
Graceful once again.

The Northern Royal Albatross, flying high on the ocean winds . . . as Mr Attenborough would say.

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Let's not forget the other birds . . .

A Northern Cape Petrel flies close by.
Maybe even a White capped Albatross this time.

The Stinker, the Stink-pot, the Boneshaker, the Stinking Nellie, the flying garbage can, the vulture of the ocean,

The Southern Giant Petrel fly on a wingspan of up to 6 ft 6 inches (200cm)

They are a world migrant, related to the Albatross family, whose breeding grounds are also in the southern oceans.

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I promised you sightings of wildlife swimming in the seas too . . . so view on . . .

Suddenly our boat was joined by two outriders . . .
. . . and more swim and plunge around the bows.

These are rare Hector's Dolphins.

Our skipper grabs his camera as he believes this one is a new dolphin.

They keep records of as many of the dolphins as possible and photos are a very useful to establish identity.

Three swim past, obviously enjoying themselves as they duck and dive their way through the water.

They move much faster than our boat.
Another close up as he surfaces for air.

On the way back into the harbour we have another example of the ever-present food chain of life.

This time it is a Stewart Island Shag catching a flounder for his late lunch.

Somehow he has to swallow that whole !

Cockle pickers on the sandbanks as we make our way up river.

Behind them a cruise ship docks at Aramoana harbour.

Back on shore, Hildegard takes us up onto the headland for a closer look at the area

and a visit to the Albatross Centre close to the lighthouse.

Does that cloud looks like a giant Albatross to you ?

Our initial walk, however, was down and not up . . . we're off towards the small bay at the base of the cliffs.

Walking down we watch the Monarch already sailing down channel on her next wildlife voyage.

It you get chance to visit Otago, make sure you take a ride.

Down at sea level once again . . . and a bonus for you . . . life underground.

Over ground . . .
. . . under ground.

But this one is no rabbit . . . it's a Blue Penguin making use of the unused rabbit burrow.

A hands and knees job this one . . . ensuring first and foremost that the camera flash was definitely turned OFF !

Some of the nests are artificial hence the square wooden surrounds.

Photo details . . .taken at 1/8th of a second (rather slow) at aperture 2.8 (rather wide open) no flash.

Up the many steps and we find ourselves at the

Taiaroa Head Albatross Centre


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Can't find an Albatross webcam but try this one of Taiaroa Head

or click here for the centre's current news page.

The indoor visit complete, we walk down to edge of the cliffs that we looked up at from the boat.

More Spotted Shag nests . . . and a different view down . . .
to the clear waters and the shoreline seaweed below.

Zooming in on the lighthouse . . . and catching a passer-by (Giant Petrel again) in mid turn.

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That's it folks . . . time to return to the car.

On the way back around the bay we passed this very colourful floral display.

The purple flowers of the Ice Plant
. . . The names escape me at present . . .
. . . the red of the Southern Rata.

Back in Dunedin after a busy day.

Time for a shower and get ready to hit the town . . . in search of a small, quiet restaurant for tonight's dinner.

If you have five minutes spare . . . sit quietly and review the days pictures as I did.


Many thanks to Steve and Hildegard for a wonderful day out on the Otago Peninsular.

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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Fuji Finepix T300, my Canon G10 or 1100D digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . a nice, quiet meal out after a long day.

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