Elm Wildlife Tours and Monarch Cruise, Otago Peninsula
If you want a close encounter with nature, they don’t come much closer than Elm Wildlife Tours. Heading out to the beautiful Otago Peninsula, be prepared to get up close and personal with the Royal Albatross, Hooker Sealion, Yellow-Eyed Penguin, Blue Penguin and New Zealand Fur Seal, among heaps of other waders and waterfowl, birds of prey and seabirds.
This is a truly magical experience, which should be definitely marked boldly on your `to-do’ list in Dunedin. Heading out from the city at 3pm, and returning at approximately 8.45pm, you’ll get to see the wildlife going about their every day business, and you’ll also learn lots about them and their natural habitats too.
We headed out for a Monarch wildlife boat cruise (optional extra) to see the magnificent northern Royal Albatross, which is the largest of the world’s seabirds. It can measure 1.2 metres from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail, and up to 3.3 metres in wingspan - Yep, that’s pretty big. There’s also a great chance to spot lots of other wildlife, including seals, penguins, and up to 20 species of bird and marine life.
Or just stay on land - the Taiaroa Head breeding colony is the only Albatross colony anywhere in the world which is based on a mainland. The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) is responsible for the welfare of the birds in this colony, and they have ensured the colony has continued its population increase against the general trend. So it’s pretty amazing to see how these majestic birds live in their natural habitat.
Probably my favourite part of the tour was checking out Elm Wildlife’s conservation area, where we got amazing close-up encounters with penguins, sealions and fur seals. We saw the sealions and fur seals lazily wallowing around in the sand, without a care in the world. Our guide told us the rule about keeping a good distance away and not blocking their escape route to the sea, because they can be unpredictable.
Watching the Yellow-Eyed penguins was something I’ll never forget. These are the rarest (5,000 to 6,000) of the world’s 18 species of penguins, and like the Hooker sealion, are only found in New Zealand. They were named ‘’Hoiho’’. Which means ‘’noise shouter’’ by the Maori because of their loud and distinctive call, which is the loudest of all penguin species. And we got to hear it for ourselves.
Watching from a safe distance in viewing hides, we saw the little fellas ambling in from the surf, very slowly and steadily, up to their nests hidden in the coastal vegetation up on the dunes. Once they got closer to the nest, the noise of the females calling for the males could be heard all around. It was an amazing experience to be a part of.
Tour departures vary throughout the year from 1pm to 3.30pm.
Ashuttle bus will pick you up from your backpackers in central Dunedin and drop you off afterwards, so no worries there.
Allow six hours in total for the tour.
Walking shoes/boots are recommended, along with waterproofs. You can take lunch with you or buy snacks there.
For more information call 03 454 4121 or Freephone: 0800 356 563 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz
For more information on Monarch Cruises, email email@example.com
Rachel stayed at Hogwartz Backpackers on Rattray Street, Dunedin, with hosts Gilbert and Maja. Telephone: 03 474 1487.