Elm Wildlife Tours in Dunedin – Day 171
Penguins, seals, sea lions, albatross and more on the Otago Peninsula!
Today we are joining Elm Wildlife Tours for some close encounters with some incredible New Zealand wildlife! If you like this video and want more NZ bucket list inspiration, then you might just find it over on our YouTube Channel! We’re doing 365 Days: 365 Activities!
Today we are going to see the rarest wildlife in the world. I am pumped!
This morning we are being picked up right from the city centre of the lovely town of Dunedin and we’re joining the team from Elm Wildlife Tours in a journey through the best wildlife spots of the area.
The Otago Peninsula is a hot spot for wildlife and the first encounter that we have is with the Paradise shelduck which is a pretty unusual duck because unlike any other duck species it is the female which is the colourful one while the male is usually black and dark grey.
Our guide today is Donna who is giving us absolutely heaps of information she’s super knowledgeable about the wildlife in the Otago Peninsula. And we are seeing so many estuarine and marine birds to start with and we get a little checklist which I am super enthusiastic about so we can tick off the birds we are seeing along the way. And the bird I am ticking off the list right now is the royal spoonbill which is the most unusual looking bird I have ever seen with its spoon-shaped bill.
I am proudly checking it off the list before we arrive at the Royal Albatross Centre. The Royal Albatross Centre is located right on the end of the Otago Peninsula it is super accessible from Dunedin and is an awesome place to visit.
We are watching those gigantic seabirds fly above our heads in fact they are the largest seabirds in the world and the Southern Royal Albatross is nesting right on this peninsula which is one of the largest mainland colonies of such a bird in the world.
It’s really a fascinating bird and we spend heaps of time watching them behave both on land and in the air while donna is telling us a lot of facts about them. It’s a really cool place to visit and in fact, we are going to be spending a whole day visiting the entire centre right here later on and for that reason we’re hopping back in the van toward the next destination because there is much more to see in the area.
We’re now arriving at a really awesome beach full of wildlife and it’s actually private conservation land so you can only access this beach with Elm Wildlife tours. We’re walking down the path then all of a sudden there’s something in front of us. Donna sees a rustling in the bushes.
At first nobody knows what that is but everybody’s super excited we’re here to see super rare wildlife and if Donna spots then that means we’ve found something.
It’s a beautiful specimen of a yellow-eyed penguin. This is absolutely amazing to be right in front of one of those because those are some of the rarest penguins in the world with only a little over 5000 specimens left in the wild.
At first the whole group is super excited and there is some ooos and ahhhs and oh my God everybody’s in awe to be so close to one of those penguins. But Donna quickly quietens us down because she knows that if we are standing still and quiet the penguins gonna come even closer and get on his merry way right before our eyes.
She really has a lot of knowledge on the behaviour of those birds to make sure we have the best viewing experience ever.
The thing that strikes me the most with that yellow eyed penguin right in front of us is its sheer size. I am really surprised that they can grown that big and I’m asking donna a little bit more informations about it and she tells me that yellow-eyed penguins are the fourth largest species of penguins in the world growing up to 79cm long.
This penguin really looks like he’s feeling right at home in this place and this is because this entire conservation area has been made to look exactly like their environment by elm wildlife which are actually planting trees and native bush here all the time and this penguin looks super happy about it. In fact I’m pretty sure right here he’s singing the praises of Elm Wildlife Tours.
Or maybe he was just calling his mate. Anyway we are now making our way down the path actually getting to the bottom of that path too the beach where this whole beach is absolutely full of wildlife. We are seeing another super rare species here which is the New Zealand sea lions. there’s only a population of around 12,000 of these New Zealand sea lions and they can only be found in the Otago Peninsula, around the Southland region as well as well as the sub-antarctic islands.
This beach is full of male sea lions doing some pretty gross things but it’s actually really awesome how close we can get to these sea lions to get some super close up viewings and that’s really thanks to Donna knowing the behaviour of the sea lions and making sure it’s actually safe to get close to them. Because usually they’re pretty confident around humans and they won’t mind being aggressive.
At this point of the tour we start making our way further down the beach because now we’ve just spotted that the yellow-eyed penguins are making their way from the ocean after a long days fishing so hopefully we’ll get to see them reunited with their mates.
And this is really one of the main drawcards to join Elm Wildlife Tours because we really want to see the Yellow-eyed penguins coming back from a long days fishing and reuniting with their mate which is usually staying a shore minding eggs newborn chicks or even just minding the nest and this is a much better and safer way to see the yellow-eyed penguins than doing it on your own where you’ll be very much tempted to behave recklessly around those very rare birds.
Elm Wildlife Tours has built some kind of hidden houses in the cliff where we are able to follow the whole journey of those yellow-eyed penguins up the cliff to reunite with their mate. It’s a really cool thing and we are moving on from one house to the other all the way up to the nest.
Usually yellow eyed penguins are pretty antisocial aside from their one mate and that’s one of the reasons why they are living in those kind of bushy grassland because if they cannot hide then they usually cannot breed. And the hope in this very area is to provide them with the perfect conditions for breeding.
So right here we are getting the ultimate pleasure to see the male reuniting with the female and he’s taking really good care of himself and is super clean for her to see him.
[Gasp] it’s exciting!
Oh my God the nest right outside has a couple of yellow eyed penguin chicks I can’t believe that we’re getting this close to spotting those little chicks being fed by their mother. Even Donna who does these tours every single evening was not aware there were chicks already born in this nest so we are getting to be the first people to see these little yellow-eyed penguin chicks. But it looks like we’re a lot more excited to see these chicks than the male is cos he’s just cleaning himself and doing his own thing outside of the nest.
I can’t believe how much we have seen on this wildlife tour so far and we are only half way because we are making our way back up the track to go to the next section of the elm wildlife tours. here, we are getting an amazing viewing of a super active seal colony.
Admittedly we have seen quite a few New Zealand fur seal colonies before but this one is so much more active than anyone that we’ve seen. We are in prime position right on this cliff edge hidden by the hides so we are not disturbing the seals whatsoever. And that way they are doing their own thing and actually doing some pretty entertaining stuff.
It is actually really rare for us to see New Zealand fur seals behave that way so up-close because they are a protected species in New Zealand and you have to stay at least 10m away from them when seeing them in the wild. this is where this hide is so important because we can stay 10m without scaring them and with being able to see so much it’s so cool.
New Zealand fur seals spend most of their day at sea fishing and obviously gathering a lot of fat and it’s quite interesting to see them when it’s the evening like today cos that’s the time when they’re most active they’re coming back from fishing gathering back doing a bit of social stuff like biting each others nose and a little bit of fighting trying to sway a couple of females or the very small seals playing with the really massive ones and then after they are tucking themselves to sleep. It’s really interesting to be able to see all of that it’s basically the best time of the day to do such a tour.
And this seal colony and the yellow-eyed penguin viewing that we got today explains why this tour is starting so late. It usually starts around 4pm and although it does last between 5-6 hours really time flies. It’s incredible how much we’re seeing and how little we’re seeing the time pass.
It is super hard to tear ourselves away from the fur seal colony. Donna is really asking us to leave it’s like oh yeah it’s time we have to get back to the shuttle but we just can’t pull ourselves away from it it’s so cool. So before the nights taking us out of this hide I’m gonna give you one last fact about the New Zealand fur seal just time to tell you that New Zealand fur seals are often said not to be true seals because they have ears and that’s the only seal species in the world to have some.
It’s been an awesome introduction to Dunedin but make sure to join us tomorrow as we have a little change of pace as we go to Cadbury World for a chocolate factory tour. It’s a kids dream.
And i’ve never seen one of these in New Zealand before so I am consider me spoonbilled. So consider me spoonbilled.