Otago Peninsula New Zealand

Lisa and I had no clue what time the penguin tours started and ended, but after about a 45 minute exhausting drive on a very narrow highway that curved sharply back and forth along the coast of the Otago Peninsula we finally arrived at the penguin reserve parking lot. We quickly dashed to the lobby to see if we were too late. Luckily for us the last tour bus was just departing and we managed to get on board.

Highway along the edge of the Otago Peninsula

Highway along the edge of the Otago Peninsula

We took about a 10 minute bus ride on a winding farm road until we came out into an opening on the other side of the peninsula. In the past 20 years, the land owner has setup a penguin reserve and has been restoring the original vegetation in the area and encouraging penguins that once populated the area to come back.

4 buses each carrying about 20 people unloaded in the parking area and each group split off into different directions led by the bus driver. Our group walked up and down through the specially made paths on the hills that surrounded the beach. Lisa and I could see four or five penguins walking up from the beach and a few more scattered amongst the field below as we were walking. The section of the field below us was setup with trenches and was covered with camouflage netting; we could see the other groups walking through the trenches trying to get a better view of the penguins without being seen. We were told the yellow eyed penguin scares very easily and this is the reason for all the trenches and camouflage netting.

Penguin Reserve - Restored Beach

Penguin Reserve - Restored Beach

We followed the guide through the trails and trenches for about an hour getting within two or three feet of some of the penguins for some up close encounters, with the penguin never even knowing we were there. Each trench led to a little look out tower that sat a few feet above the ground, this is where I setup my camera and managed to get a few up close photos of the penguins. Nearing dusk we loaded back onto the buses and returned to the main parking lot. Once back at the parking lot we hoped back in our rental car and headed back down the Otago Peninsula road.

Penguine

Penguine

On our drive back I was watching the gas gauge like an eagle. I didn’t get the chance to fill up with gas in Dunedin before leaving because we were in such a rush, and I didn’t expect the drive out to the location of the penguin tour to take so long. I knew that the road back required a lot of breaking and accelerating and I couldn’t recall if I had seen any gas stations on our way to the penguin tour. Lisa finally noticed me being a little paranoid and she started to become a little worried. Needless to say I managed to drive almost the entire way back without touching my breaks; it was actually kind of fun once I knew we were going to make it back. Lisa and I stopped at the first gas station we found in Dunedin, fuelled up the car, grabbed some snacks and headed back to our hotel for the night.


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