Two sea lions on Sandfly Beach, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand © Sven Klerkx

The wondrous wildlife of Otago Peninsula


‘The most accessible wildlife in the South Island’ is the catch-cry here. Well, there are wheeling seabirds, honking sea lions and all manner of other natural noises, but you get the point.

In a land bespeckled with birds, and flora and fauna of all trappings, often in places that involve four layers of clothing and a Thermos, that accessibility is really saying something. Just drive on out from Dunedin and in less than an hour, check this lot out: albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins, fur seals and sea lions all live here.

The noise at feeding time, jeepers! And they reside amongst an area of stunning scenery, some exceptional historical sites and unique natural land formations. The peninsula gets lots of visitors of the human species, yet remains kinda peaceful, weirdly.

If you’re tired of little, flitting birds or pesky parrots, and are in need of some serious wingspan, well, you’re in the right place.

At Taiaroa Head out on the end of the peninsula is the world’s only mainland royal albatross colony.

Between December to February, you can watch one parent swoop in and feed their young while the other parent keeps guard. They are awesome. Blue penguins nest on the peninsula too, and being the world’s smallest penguin you’ve got scale, scope and an avian theory of relativity all in one spot. The big and the small. Tweet that!

There is a yellow-eyed penguin reserve out here also, where the species has been cared for, protected and encouraged back to some sort of decent existence. They are seriously shy and you must view them only from ‘hides’, but view them you should. And a trip to Allans or Victory beaches should net you a view of sea lions (Hooker’s sea lion, to give them their due), and you might even see a sea elephant.

Great walks with fantastic views seal the deal; this is a wonderful, thriving, special spot. Oh, and all that wildlife can bring on the warm fuzzies, too, apparently: CNN named the Otago Peninsula one of the 10 best places in the world to propose marriage. Just hope you hear the ‘I do’ over the sea lions’ bellow!

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