Albatrosses, Sea Lions, and Penguins

On the 20th of July, Jos and I decided to go with my friend Ruth to visit the most well known brewery in the South Island, Speight’s Brewery. The brewery is about a 20 minute walk from my flat – convenient.

Speight’s is the only gravity-fed brewery still in operation in the Southern Hemisphere (one of very very few in the entire world), so the tour took us through several floors, showing the various stages of the ingredients passing from the top of the brewery all the way down to the bottom.

Out of the 6 beers we tasted at the end of the tour, my favourite was the Chocolate Ale, a very very limited release for the chocolate festival that was going on a couple weeks ago. None was bottled, and only 2 or 3 bars in Dunedin were given the right to serve it. It really tasted like chocolate, but at the same time like beer. Unlike the chocolate cheese we tried in Australia which was pretty gross, this was really delicious.

The following day, Jos and I decided to check out the Taiaroa Head Royal Albatross Colony. It’s the only mainland albatross colony in the world! My flatmate, Erin, gave us permission to borrow her car to get there, and Vania drove. We paid $25 for the tour, and it was interesting. It wasn’t worth the $25, as the actual bird watching portion consisted of watching about 5 albatrosses sitting on their lazy butts for about half an hour. Apparently there’s normally a 70% chance of seeing them fly, but the wind died down right before we got there so they weren’t flying.

Albatrosses have a wingspan of about 3 metres! That’s 10 feet! Unlike most birds, the albatross can fold his wings into THREE sections, not just two. Crazy, eh? Imagine having arms that hang to your ankles and having a second elbow…

The weather was nice so I took a few pics of the sun as it lowered toward the horizon.

Here’s one of the albatrosses just chilling, shaking it’s wings a bit for whatever reason.

After the albatross colony, we drove to Sandfly Bay, where I have gone several times in the past to see the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguin. We got there as the sun had disappeared over the mountains in the west, and the moon had just come up over the cliffs to the east.

On our walk from one end of the beach to where the penguin watching hut is, we bumped into several sea lions – one of which was not too happy about our presence and chased us a bit. Jos had to take a back route through the sand dunes to get around him safely. There aren’t supposed to be any sea lions living at Sandfly Bay – normally there are only seals, but this is the second time I’ve seen them. They eat penguins, so hopefully they move out soon or have an easier time eating fish.

We saw a lot of penguins – around 10! In past visits, the most I ever saw was 5 or 6. We were really lucky to see one come out of the water to shore very clearly, waddling on the sand and hopping on the rocks.

To be continued…