A highlight of the holiday so far alert!!:
[Note: the above picture is copyright of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, as we purchased this from them as were not able to take photos of the penguins ourselves when in the viewing area.]
It has been a busy few days with quite a bit of travelling, but we have continued to have an amazing adventure here in New Zealand – and we especially enjoyed seeing the most amazing little blue penguins – for more details see Tuesday 16th update.
Monday 15th October: Curio Bay to Kaka Point
The wonderful sound of the waves washing against the shore outside our gorgeous studio in Curio Bay awoke us this morning. It was with a heavy heart that we packed up to leave as this is probably our favourite place we have stayed. Despite not being visited at night by the lovely little blue penguins (other people in the visitor book mentioned this had happened to them – as they nest below the studio) we did hear them calling out last night on the beach which was still exciting. Back on the road we stopped at the humorous named ‘Niagara Falls’ – which is one of the smallest waterfalls in the world! Lake Wilkie was our next stop – to which we took a nice walk through the forest looking at all the lovely trees. We ate lunch in the Catlins cafe in Owaka which was again delicious, before completing our drive to Kaka Point (via a rather windy Cannibal Bay – reached by a very precarious narrow gravel road on the edge of the cliff!). After checking in to our room at Cardno’s Accommodation we headed to Nugget Point Lighthouse. We took the walk up to the lighthouse and noticed the weather was closing in – but also saw a nice rainbow. The lighthouse was quite a sight and we took some pictures here. We then drove back to Roaring Bay (after passing a camper van hanging over the edge of the cliff being rescued!) for a short walk to the hide but decided not to wait for the penguins here (because we were really high up on the cliff and they would have been tiny dots – and we had already seen them much closer up in Curio Bay – see previous post). Returning to Kaka Point we stopped for some chips and took them back to our room to eat to end a good day!
Tuesday 16th October: Kaka Point via Dunedin to Oamaru – and the little blue penguins!
We got on the road quite early this morning and were driving to Oamaru. We stopped at Dunedin (gaelic for Edinburgh!) on the way – and really enjoyed the few hours we spent here. The city is really quite pretty with lots of nice old buildings. We discovered a lovely food place (after a recommendation from a man in the information centre) called Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders. They played cool music (Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes, Radiohead) and had delicious pizzas – we ended up with a ‘special’ half metre pizza as there was an offer on. After visiting the old train station (apparently the most photographed building in New Zealand!) we got back on the road. Stopping at Moeraki Boulders we were a little underwhelmed but only because it was high tide and we knew it was best visited at low tide and/or sunset/sunrise – plus there were tonnes of people there so it felt very touristy.
The highlight of the day was still to come though as we headed in to Oamaru. We checked into our nice room at Highfield Mews after stopping at Countdown for food. After a few hours relaxing here we drove over to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony to see little blue penguins come ashore. These penguins are amazing because they are only 40cms tall! As we had purchased Premium Seats for this we headed to the Premium viewing area to watch the penguins come ashore. The people working there gave a commentary explaining how the site is set up for conservation and how the penguin colony’s natural habitat is preserved and they are protected in their colony from predators and encouraged to breed (so their numbers increase 10% each year). They also gave extra details about how they use special lights which helps us to see them but which the penguins don’t recognise so they think it is dark etc. The details are important though as some people might think the place could be exploiting the penguins but it isn’t at all – it is really helping them. Anyway, on to the evening – once seated we waited for the various ‘rafts’ (groups of penguins) to arrive. You can hear each raft as they are in the sea from the little ‘quacking’ noises they make and then you see them slowly one by one come out of the ocean on to the beach and start to climb the cliff. On the evening we saw them a seal (luckily not a predator of the penguins!) was lying on their route to their nesting houses. This caused the little penguins to slowly creep up behind him before then running (and falling!) off to their houses. The way they run is so cute – they stoop onto their front and rise again, flapping their wings and waddling along. One of the three rafts we saw had 91 penguins all running together up the beach to their homes – which was the most the woman working there said she had ever seen in one go! It really was an incredible experience to see them. As I mentioned earlier we weren’t able to take photographs of them but I have posted one above which I was able to purchase from the shop. Before we left the colony we went outside and headed down the road to see a few more come in along the shore and managed to get a picture (without a flash which was allowed outside!) which ended a memorable evening!: