Wandering and Wondering in Dunedin

Endangered and elusive: Beautiful, quirky yellow-eyed penguins found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand

Endangered and elusive: Beautiful, quirky yellow-eyed penguins found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand

In the first thriller of the 2015 cricket World Cup, Afghanistan were so near to creating history but still so far, due to three missed run-outs. My cricket travel partner, Jagath and I were lucky to be there at the University Oval, Dunedin to enjoy a pulsating game of cricket, amidst unprecedented hospitality of the host city. Where else would you get sweets and drinking water delivered to your seat for free?

A visit to the First Church of Otago made us unwind the tension of the previous day’s heart-stopper. Located in the heart of Dunedin, it is the city’s primary Presbyterian Church and regarded as the most impressive of New Zealand’s 19th-century churches.

Then, on a Cadbury World tour, we learnt how chocolate derives from the cocoa bean to the wrapped goodies you find in the store. Olveston House, occupied as a family home between 1906 and 1966 and converted into a historical museum after 1967, was next. Furnished with fine art, furniture and artefacts purchased from all around the world, Olveston depicts the life of a wealthy merchant family in the early 20th century. From one historical home, we hopped into another – Larnach Castle & Gardens. The 43-room castle built in late 19th century is visited by over 100,000 annually. Considered as New Zealand’s only ‘castle’, it offers an insight into a wealthy Victorian lifestyle, with an intriguing story of scandal and suicide thrown in for good measure.

Beautiful, quirky yellow-eyed penguins, found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand and, minutes later, we spotted the first one. Then a few others popped up here and there, from nowhere.

We then cruised the length of the Otago Harbour and its beautiful bays, passing Carey’s Bay historical fishing village, Port Chalmers, hills, farmland and forest. Watching New Zealand fur seals playing and swimming at close quarters was fun. Out of the many ocean bird species, the northern royal albatross was the crowd’s favourite, closely followed by the little blue penguins, the world’s smallest at 33 cm. A short bus ride then took Jagath and me to Penguin Place, a private conservation reserve. Our mission was to see one of the most endangered species in the world in its natural habitat. There was pin-drop silence as we waded through the wild on foot, through unique ‘covered trenches’ into ‘viewing hides’.

Our guide, Chris, who doubles as a tree climber for the reserve, whispered, ‘The smaller the group, the better the chances of seeing.’

Beautiful, quirky yellow-eyed penguins, found only on the south-east coast of New Zealand and, minutes later, we spotted the first one. Then a few others popped up here and there, from nowhere. Some were even less than ten metres away. With my flash turned off to kill the sound, I added a few memorable photos to my cricket travel collection.

(Adapted from Winds Behind The Willows)

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