Thursday, 1 March 2012


The next morning we caught a bus into town and wandered around central Dunedin. The Scottish influence over the city was very evident – loads of fish and chip shops and pubs on every corner! A statue of Robbie Burns sits in the middle of the Octagon surrounded by granite buildings.  The railway station, complete with a Royal Doulton mosaic floor and the Town Hall both look like they have been lifted from Scotland’s capital and transported half way around the world.
But there was one building we found and couldn’t resist a look around….

Cadbury’s opened the Dunedin factory to produce and distribute to the whole of New Zealand. Inside the factory they make most of the favourites we know in the UK, plus loads of bars just for Kiwi tastes. We went on a guided tour, but as it is working factory no cameras were allowed. Shame, as we were both in hair nets!
We saw chocolate buttons being produced, Milk Tray being sorted and packaged and ate pretty much everything in sight! It has to be said, the Kiwi love of marshmallow makes for a waste of Dairy Milk though.
The purple tower in the picture houses the world’s biggest (only??) chocolate drop / fountain thing. A ton of dairy milk is stored in a tank before being released to fall 3 storeys into a tank below as you stand halfway up on a platform. Smells great but the chocolate was 8 months old and fell at least 10 times a day for a whole year before the tank was cleaned down and the chocolate sold to Kinnerton to make nasty Easter eggs and advent calendars (not true!).

In need of some proper sightseeing (not just beer and chocolate) we booked ourselves on to the Elm Wildlife Tour.  Elm are a privately run NPO who specialise in conservation tours limited to groups of less than 10 people. The cost of the trip covers the transport, wages and the running of their own conservation site on the Otago Peninsula.

We were picked up and given binoculars and a species information sheet, detailing the animals and birds we may see during our 6 hour trip.

First stop was Taiaroa Head, the world’s only mainland Albtross breeding colony. Not knowing much about the Royal Albatross (just aren’t they just big sea gulls??) we weren’t too fussed. But when we actually saw one with a wing span of over three meters and a body a meter long gliding over the water we changed our opinions! The sea gulls nesting close to where we were viewing were still a bloody pain and that is an opinion that won’t change!

 Next to the gulls was a colony of Little Shags (we call them Cormorants in the UK but the Kiwis like to be different).

The Little Shag is the most common sort of Shag in New Zealand. Turns out our guide was a keen Shag enthusiast, pointing out Spotted Shags, Stewart Island Shags and Black Shags too.

We drove to the Papanui Inlet to spot some waders and waterfowl. We saw lots of regular ducks and a few rarer birds too:
Black Swans - odd
Grey Ducks – dull ducks
Grey Teals – rare ducks
Paradise Shellduck – big ducks
Pied Oystercatchers – pied means black and white
Pukekos – blue and black pea hen type of bird
Pied Stilts – you can guess what this looks like
White Spoonbill – cool
Spur Winged Plovers - noisy
Variable Oystercatchers – colour can be white, black or anywhere inbetween
White Faced Herons – you know what a Heron is!

On our way to the Elm conservation site we also spotted a Little Owl (that’s the breed not an adjective!)

At the conservation area, we parked up and walked a mile or so downhill to a beach side hide.

Almost as soon as we sat down our first Yellow-eyed Penguin (the world’s rarest of the 18 species of penguin or ‘pinguin’ in NZ!) swam ashore!

Closely followed by another couple!

The Yellow-eyed Penguins are only found in New Zealand, and do not migrate. They fish all day and return to their nesting sites each evening, usually in the forest vegetation. Elm have reintroduced this style of vegetation and long grasses within the reserve, as well as trying to eliminate wild cats, possums and other predators to protect the penguin population. Creatures of habit, they will always try and follow the same route from the shore to the nesting site.  This way it makes it easier for them to spot anything out of the ordinary and potentially dangerous.

They walked across the beach, up a steep cliff, across some grassland and into the bush – a long commute for something with little legs!

Most were returning home to feed chicks.  In our next hide, further up the cliff, we found some chicks awaiting their parents return.

And when they finally did return home, they weren’t camera shy (although they couldn’t see us anyway!)

We left the Penguins to feed and do their Penguin parent stuff, and headed back to the beach to see the 400kg Hooker Sealions. These creatures are slowly on the increase after being hunted to the brink of extinction by Maoris long before the arrival of Europeans. It’s easy to see how they were hunted; they lay on the beach, semi covered in sand to keep cool with us only a few feet away!

Although when they did move we were glad to be further away as they are huge but very fast and very agile.

Our last stop was back up the steep hill and down the other side. On the way we passed the Blue Penguin nesting area. Blue Penguins are the world’s smallest, and judging by the fact we only saw one, probably the most shy too!

Here on the rocky headland was a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals. Fur seals have a very dense second layer of fur, and it was this that made them attractive targets for the European settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when large numbers of seal hunters hunted them to extinction in the south. Reintroduced through captive breeding, they are now protected and numbers have increased dramatically over the last few years. Breeding occurs in November / December so a large number of pups were noisily playing below us.

We left the reserve and headed home, just in time for a lovely sunset!

No comments:

Post a Comment