A Travellerspoint blog

Penguins. Times two.

When in New Zealand...GO SEE PENGUINS!

What are we doing this afternoon we wondered as we headed into town...after a quick stop at the information center, we'd decided and booked a penguin tour!

We drove out to the Otago Peninsula, on a very narrow winding road, with no guardrails!

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We arrived at the Penguin Place and learned a bunch about the rare yellow-eyed penguins that we were hoping to see. The land they are currently nesting on was private farmland that has been converted back to penguin land (regrown and protected). Yellow-eyed penguins are unique in that they are the only penguins that are "anti-social"...they are shy and don't want to see other penguins (aside from their mate) when they're nesting. There's a lot of threats to these penguins, they're the rarest of the 18 species of penguins.

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Penguin trenches are underground throughout here with lots of nesting boxes...
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Penguin Trenches
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Since these birds are anti-social and so shy, we had to be silent and hidden when viewing them. The property has built 'trenches' for people to walk in, undetected from the penguins. These are covered with greenery and level enough the penguins can walk right over undisturbed. There are "viewing rooms" that have slits looking out, that are below penguin eye level so we seem small if they notice.

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We were amazingly lucky and there were 2 penguins right near the viewing room, even a chick! This baby was 42 days old and was adorable.

We were so close to him!
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They get the yellow stripe from the fish they eat as they grow up, and it can be a good indication of how healthy their diet is. The nesting boxes provide shelter and protection for the penguins.

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Despite our thoughts of the water being cold, the penguins actually get hot swimming and fishing all day and will air their wings out to cool down when they are back on land. They're also surprisingly good at climbing, this was way up on a big hill!
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We loved this tour so much, and would definitely recommend The Penguin Place for yellow-eyed penguin tours!
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We loved seeing penguins so much, we splurged and stuck around for another penguin tour down the road, to see the Little Blue Penguins!
These penguins are only 13" tall! They spend all day fishing at sea and come home at dark, in groups. They're hard to photograph as flashes blind them, so I have tons of blurry little penguin pictures. Adorable!

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If only I could bring some penguins home...

Posted by smr1188 13:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged wildlife new_zealand roadtrip south_island Comments (2)

The Edge of the World

Well, actually the Southern edge of NZ

Driving along the southern coast of the South Island of New Zealand, we encountered some sheep and helped herd them with our car!
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We stopped in the town that is the farthest south on the South Island, Bluff, for some classic pictures.
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Then we drove along a dirt road, for quite some time, to get to the 'real' southern most point of the South Island...
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We also drove up to a lookout (as opposed to hiking an hour up...we've gotten lazy with a car!) and got to watch a storm come in :)
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Bluff lookout

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The next day, we drove through The Catlins, which had several pretty waterfalls. One claimed to be the "most photographed"...I wonder how many more pictures are taken when one is labeled as the "most photographed...

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There was also a cool lighthouse we stopped at called Nugget Point (named after the rocks sticking up out of the water).
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We made some friends, borrowed some binoculars, and even saw some birds and seals below!
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Posted by smr1188 13:46 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand roadtrip south_island Comments (0)

Glaciers and the Fjordlands

First stop, Franz Josef Glacier. Without a helicopter and a guide, you're not allowed to walk on the glacier, and there is a fence showing how close you can safely get.

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It's retreated quite a bit in the past couple years!
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We also stopped by Lake Matheson which is famous for it's gorgeous view of Mount Cook and typically has great reflections. We got there a mid morning and the wind had already picked up, so the optimal reflection was lost, but it was gorgeous walk around the lake with several neat view points.

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7 hours away in the southwest part of the South Island is the small town of Te Anau, which is another hour away from Milford Sound. Milford Sound is actually a fjord and not a sound, and we had booked an early morning boat ride. Everyone said the best way to see Milford Sound was from the water, and they were right!

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But first....we met a fjordland crested penguin in the road. Never graceful on land, he was just crossing the road and heading back to the water.

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There are 5-10 different companies that you can take a boat cruise with, and looking at them online they all sound very similar. They all take the same basic route and have around the same amount of time on the water. We finally opted for the smallest boat, reading a review that mentioned the small boats get closer to the shoreline and waterfalls. There are 2 main falls here, Lady Bowen and Stirling Falls, but after rain (most days) 100s of small falls appear everywhere. “One of the few places that's gorgeous in the rain or shine” we heard a lot. And our boat had free tea!

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Milford Sound is surrounded by 4,000ft cliffs. It's an amazing place that I had a hard time capturing on camera...how do you portray that scale?

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We definitely picked the right boat and had an awesome time! The weather was sunny and we cruised along slow enough that the wind wasn't cold. We even went right up under Stirling Falls, and got soaked.

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Lady Bowen Falls, 530 feet tall, provides electricity and water (just like a spring, it's untreated and tastes so clean and fresh!) for Milford Sound businesses and residents (less than 150 people).

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We went out to the Tasman Sea briefly, and passed some sunbathing seals!

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There were also lots of walks in the area and wildflowers.
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Posted by smr1188 16:03 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

It may not have felt like Christmas...

...But it was still a good day

Situated between the beach (Tasman Sea) and the rainforest (Paparoa National Park) we celebrated Christmas Day by going for a walk in the rain.

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There was a lovely trail and so much greenery everywhere.

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The trail was quite wet and muddy with all the rain so we tried to avoid a lot of the puddles.

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We found a swing bridge that had recently been built and enjoyed hearing the birds in the trees.

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We stopped at the Pancake Rocks on the way back to our hostel and then relaxed on our balcony overlooking the water.

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Posted by smr1188 18:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rainforest beach new_zealand roadtrip south_island Comments (0)

An afternoon on the water in Abel Tasman

The best way to see Abel Tasman is from the water!

Step 1. Get in the water taxi boat to get a ride up the coast.
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Step 2. Have the water taxi boat pulled to the water's edge behind a tractor and loaded with kayaks.
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Step 3. Water taxi ride up the coast.
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Step 4. Unload the kayaks and get organized on the beach. Get skirts on.
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Step 5. Out on the water.
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Step 6. Seals!
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Step 7. Check out a cave.
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Step 8. Take a break on the beach.
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Step 9. Sail back to the beach with a major tailwind.
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Step 10. Wish we could do it all again!
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Posted by smr1188 14:48 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand roadtrip south_island Comments (3)

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