Monday, June 6, 2016

New Zealand, Part V: Around Dunedin

The area around Dunedin, on the South Island of New Zealand, offers some spectacular views. After our stay in Timaru, we headed down the coast to Dunedin and the nearby Otago Peninsula, where we had rented an Airbnb cottage.  A few days later, our friend Stu joined us, so we had a little more time to reminisce--and to build some new memories.

Our explorations included a visit to the Royal Albatross Colony on the Otago Peninsula. The albatross is the world's largest seabird, and it spends more than 85 percent of its life on the sea. The colony near Dunedin is the only place they breed on the mainland.
No doubt the colony would no longer exist but for a local biology teacher, Lancelot Eric Richdale, who began studying the albatross in the area back in the 1930s and protected their nests. 

The albatross is a magnificent bird to see in flight. We were lucky to see aerial displays and to view three chicks on the nest, two of whom were fed by their fathers, regurgitating food into their open beaks. (It's difficult to get close in the viewing station though, so my photos are a bit blurred. Kevin shot the first one below.) Albatross have the longest wing span of any bird--as much as 11 feet.

If the chick appears as big as the father (standing), it's true. They actually get bigger than their parents before they finally slim down as they learn to fly. The center has 25 or 26 nesting pairs. Once fledged, the young birds will stay at sea for 5 or 6 years before they return.

If you're interested, check out the live webcam from the Royal Albatross Centre on this peninsula of great scenic beauty.

There are yellow-eyed penguins in this area too, which we have seen in the past, but we didn't find any on this visit. (There is a center for penguins nearby, but we had already spent a lot of money on the albatross center, so we didn't go.)

However, we did encounter this fellow on a beach. Kevin named him Bullwinkle.

We discovered there is a reason you are advised to keep 10 meters  (about 32 feet) away from the sea lions. They will let you know if they are irritated. Kevin was barely 10 meters away, but Bullwinkle still didn't like him that close. He charged! And boy could he move fast! 

Here's Bullwinkle after the charge, considering whether photographers would make a tasty lunch:

The city of Dunedin offers several attractions too, including its marvelous 1906 railway station that Traveller magazine called one of the top 16 rail stations in the world.

At the Otago Museum, Kevin found time to try and hatch a reproduction egg of an ancient moa, an extinct flightless bird that grew up to 12 feet tall. 

The museum also featured a butterfly garden, perhaps the best I've seen for variety and quantity.

We thoroughly enjoyed our cottage, a New Zealand house of the 1940s with original woodwork and features. Not only was it cozy, but we really enjoyed meeting our hosts, Shukuru and Neil. Shukuru is from Tanzania, one of our favorite countries, and she met Neil when he delivered a boat to Tanzania. They were both warm and inviting, and sadly, I can't find my photos of Neil, but here is one of Shukuru with me. She looks so young and pretty that it's hard to believe she and Neil have a teenaged son! She is also a talented artist.

Thanks Shukuru and Neil for a lovely stay!
Between Dunedin and Timaru, another attraction drew us--the Moreaki Boulders. Large, spherical boulders, they are actually concretions. They have crystals on the inside. They looked a little like stranded sea creatures among the seaweed.

This boulder had broken open to show the crystalline features inside.

Too soon we had to say goodbye to the South Island. But you can catch a glimpse in this blog of why we returned and why we would like to return again.

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