Southland New Zealand
From Te Anuau we got back on the road and continued south until we reached the end point of Highway 1 in Bluff, thus completing the drive along the entire length of mainland New Zealand (from Cape Reigna to Bluff). After snapping a few shots from Stirling Point, we kept driving east to the Catlins and stopped by Slope Point (the actual southernmost point on the South Island) before setting up our tent at Curio Bay for the night. We went for a stroll in the Fossilized Jurassic Forest situated west of our camp site and saw Yellow-eyed penguins as they come to shore to feed their chicks at dusk.
We spent the following day surfing in Porpoise Bay where we hoped to swim with some Hector’s Dolphins (the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world) we had spotted earlier that morning. We had fun in the waves even though the conditions got blown out and the dolphins kept their distance. Curniss was within striking distance of a seemingly sleeping New Zealand Sea Lion, which roared and chased her for several meters along the beach. That was our cue to head to higher ground where we regrouped at McLean Falls. After spending the night at Tawanui campground in the Catlins Conservation Park, we stopped by Nugget Point along the rugged coastline before heading up to Dunedin.
In Dunedin, we stopped by the information centre (i-site) and decided to head to the Otago Peninsula to view some wildlife. After grabbing a quick bite to eat in a downtown pub we headed to the Royal Albatross Colony and saw the large birds in flight. We made a side trip to Pilots Beach where we saw two Blue Penguin chicks in a nest on shore. As an alternative to taking an expensive tour, we walked to Sandfly Bay in hopes of seeing Yellow-eyed penguins emerging from the ocean. The 40 minute trek was well worth it as the few tourists on the beach were clustered in viewing hides, allowing us to have the beach almost to ourselves. We don’t know why people wait so long in the hides, since we saw penguins emerging from and heading into the ocean as we casually strolled along the shoreline. Having learned our lesson at Curio Bay, we kept well away from the many Sea Lions lazing on the beach.
After so many amazing wildlife encounters, we had a pretty boring and rainy 360 km drive from Dunedin to Christchurch. The one highlight was the Moeraki Boulders that were well exposed in low tide. In Maori legend, these boulders are said to be eel pots and kumara (sweet potato) baskets that were brought here when the ancestral voyage canoe was washed ashore. Chief Uenuku would have been in this same canoe and is said to have become a prominent 2,885 meter mountain north of the boulders; our next destination!