wildlife, wildlife, wildlife!February 22, 2017 in New Zealand
So I am currently sat on a beach, which also happens to be a petrified forest, waiting for yellow eyed penguins to come from the sea. They may have just arrived so my idea of sitting here writing might have been silly.
False alarm! No penguins, my eyes keep trying to convince me that a pesky seagull is one of them though!
The petrified forest is pretty cool, lots of stumps that contain the wood from the trunks in the centre and they are surrounded by what looks a bit like mud that has cracked and become solid around them.
Back to the day we have had. It has been a day of driving along some of the Catlins coast in a quest to see rugged coastlines and wildlife. It has delivered!
First stop was Oreti Beach. 26km of driveable beach. We drove a little way down and enjoyed the freedom of being able to weave lots...very fun! Really nice beach, huge and flat. We then found out that the beach is home to Paua which are sacred shells and struggling at the moment to thrive, because people drive high on the beach during high tide. This made us feel very bad, I think this warning should be with the rest on the big sign as you drive on the beach, not in the car park that we only visited to try and find a bird if prey we had seen.
Next up was Bluff. This sticks out from the coast and is extremely windy! We visited the international signpost here and I drove up a very steep hill to get to the lookout. Surprised the car even made it!
We then drove to Waipapa lighthouse. Beautiful lighthouse on the top of grassy dunes next to a crash my waves. This coastline is so so windy it is ridiculous! Everywhere has wind...just no shelter! We walked along the cliffs and looked for New Zealand sea lions, one of the rarest species in the world. We were looking out at the beach when Rob suddenly spotter one right at the Base of the cliff where we were standing! He looked half dead, and very big too! Half covered in sand where he has been laying for some time clearly.
We carried on walking towards the lighthouse and then followed the edge as it lowered towards the beach. The dunes looked so golden against the rocky shore and deep blue sea. We spotted people on the beach taking photos and lots and behold there were two more!! Right there infront of us. The signs say keep at least 10m distance, but there would have been nothing to stop us getting closer. No fences, just common sense :) they were gorgeous...as far as sealions go, once again barely moving and half covered in sand.
We took photos and watched them a while before wandering further around the point. It was so windy that seabirds practically hovered in the air, more good photos ops!
After taking in the sights and sounds of the crashing waves we....(OK so penguins just happened! I will continue now from the warmth of the camper) returned to the sea lions and sat from the dune to watch them. They barely moved but we couldn't stop watching them. So incredible to be so close to them here in the wild and it was just so humbling to sit and watch. I decided to try some filming too and we waited for quite a while for one to do something a bit more interesting. Finally after waiting for what seemed like ages the big guy moved. In fact he didn't just roll over or shuffle more sand on him like the other, he did the whole pose like a sea lion stunt. Yay!!! We think it may have been because some idiot boys were leaping off the dunes onto the sand right near them (some people will always be stupid) but it was still awesome. After a couple of yawns to show off his gums he flopped back onto the sand, clearly that was an exhausting couple of minutes.
After this we visited the most Southerly point of New Zealand called Slope Point. Again it was very windy, so windy in fact it was hard to breathe. I managed to act the child and use my jacket as a sail to stop me falling and Rob was very happy to throw a stone into the Southern Ocean :) another one to tick off the list.
Finally we came Curio Beach, which is where we are now, and it has been amazing... It has made a true dream of mine come true! Seeing dolphins in the wild...up close!!! I have seen them before from a boat, here and in Portugal and even Wales. As amazing as those experiences were, this was just...ahhhhhhhh!!!!! I was leaping with excitement and I'm not ashamed to say I cried a little with joy. We got to see Hectors dolphins right in the surf by the beach. They were surfing the waves right infront of us, in the very water I was standing in and leaping high into the air. Just incredible! They are gorgeous dolphins, beautiful colours if black, grey, silver and white. They enjoy the bay here and I think are here most calm days, about 20 are resident. They are threatened by people though, lots of people who try and swim with them, there were people doing it today. I don't think it's an issue if they join you as you swim (they can be curious) but people and kayakers purposefully try and seek them out which isn't helpful.
Talking of which we saw two naked men run into the sea in front of us and considering how cold it is they were in there for ages. We looked back from the high dunes and watched as they were surprised by a dolphin that surfed in the wave right next to them.
I could have watched them all day (the dolphins not the men) but we wanted to try and see the penguins too.
We ate dinner and then headed to the petrified forest beach I already mentioned. And now that I am in the camper and my fingers are warm enough to type again I can say that we saw three yellow eyed penguins. One jumped out while we had quite a but if light left and stood for ages grooming himself. There were a fee people trying to.walk where they shouldn't (again people not respecting the nature) but mostly people were watching patiently and from a distance.
As dark drew in and the sun went down Rob regretted not bringing all his warm clothes. We didn't want to leave the beach though so we huddled like penguins and I tried to take the wind seeing as I had been sensible and worn all my gear. It meant we lasted a lot longer and once there were only about four couples left watching and the light was only shades of blue, two more penguins joined us.
You have to remind yourself it isn't on TV and they are really there. They always surprise me as to their size, always bigger than I imagine and they are such fun to watch when they waddle and hop up the beach.
Eventually we could barely see them save for the white bellies and it was getting very cold. We made out way by torchlight over the rocks and back to camp.
Rice pudding, tea and a hot water bottle later we are ready for sleep!
What an amazing day of moments we will treasure forever.Read more