DUNEDIN

Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Bren­dan Cody, im­ages Cather­ine Cody

It was a beau­ti­ful au­tum­nal af­ter­noon when we set off; the leaves on the trees looked like a golden fleece draped across the land­scape set against a pow­der blue sky. We were greeted at the Dunedin In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre by the tour bus, con­ve­nient given most of the ma­jor ho­tels are within five to 10 minute’s walk. Our guides John and Donna were friendly and help­ful. In fact, the first im­pres­sion was of a tour that was truly home­made like grandma’s jam recipe; what you see is what you get and cer­tainly no pre­ten­tious win­dow dress­ing. A great start.

Once all were on board we were given an in­for­ma­tion sheet, avail­able in sev­eral dif­fer­ent lan­guages. It was ap­prox­i­mately a 40 minute ride out to our first stop Ta­iaroa head on the Otago Penin­sula, the Penin­sula our guide John ex­plained was the side of an an­cient, long dead shield vol­cano that once spanned 40 kilo­me­tres in di­am­e­ter.

We ar­rived at the Royal Al­ba­tross Cen­tre at the edge of the Penin­sula it was a rugged and beau­ti­fully iso­lated land­scape.

Ap­proach­ing the view­ing plat­form, the group was told the Royal Al­ba­tross were not as ac­tive to­day, a dis­ap­point­ment to be sure. Then sud­denly, like an an­gel de­scend­ing from the heav­ens, a num­ber of Al­ba­tross glided ma­jes­ti­cally past the plat­form.

Masters of their do­main, these crea­tures glided above us sur­vey­ing their territory and prac­tis­ing their flight as they pre­pare for an epic six-year odyssey at sea. Their jour­ney will be long and one of dis­cov­ery, a jour­ney that would ri­val even Cap­tain Cooks.

Our next des­ti­na­tion, now this is the part of the jour­ney that only Elm Wildlife Tours can of­fer you.

Headed off down a nar­row gravel road, we were greeted by a cou­ple of wannabe hitch­hik­ers as two cheeky Pukeko stared at us as we drove past.

The view from our next stop, at the top of an emer­ald green hill, was worth the wait. A beau­ti­ful, never end­ing sea greeted us but the best was yet to come.

Af­ter a short des­cent down a small pad­docked hill, avoid­ing the res­i­dent sheep who paid us know mind as they grazed hap­pily in the sun, we came to the nurs­ery of the fur seals.

It was quite a sight, see­ing the young pups play­ing hap­pily and laz­ing about, while they waited for their par­ents to re­turn with din­ner.

To wit­ness this was to see that even na­ture par­al­lels the hu­man con­di­tion of teenagers loung­ing about while they wait for din­ner.

The nurs­ery sur­round­ings were breath-tak­ing and the only sounds were the noise of the pups play­ing and the sea crash­ing against the rocks, stir­ring and churn­ing as it went.

Time to move on to the grand fi­nale of the Elm Wildlife Tours ex­pe­ri­ence.

Af­ter a steep des­cent down a track that ran along a cliff, though as a nice touch those whom walk­ing was a dif­fi­cult un­der­tak­ing were of­fered a ride with Brian the owner. We ar­rived at the beach the king­dom of the Yel­low Eyed Pen­guins.

As we ar­rived at the edge of the beach we turned to our left to dis­cover a pen­guin star­ing back at us, guard­ing his realm and mak­ing sure we were safe to be granted pas­sage.

Once on the beach we en­tered a land that time had for­got­ten. Very lit­tle hu­man pres­ence was no­tice­able, other than us and the pen­guins.

Sea li­ons did their dan­ger­ous dance as the pen­guins did their best to avoid cap­ture. This was a dance that seemed to have been go­ing on since the dawn of time and was quite a sight to be wit­nessed.

Look­ing up we no­ticed a pen­guin atop a cliff-face mak­ing a pose as if to say he was the king of the world, this was a nat­u­ral be­hav­iour we were told, though I am con­vinced he was dis­play­ing his own self­im­por­tance.

The beach we stood on was of spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance. It is a re­serve that is be­ing looked af­ter and re­planted with na­tive flora and forna by Elm Wildlife Tours.

Brian has ded­i­cated 20 years of his life and a por­tion of the com­pany’s rev­enue to the up keep, pro­tec­tion and pest con­trol of this par­adise and it has to be said Elm sets the gold stan­dard in New Zealand eco­tourism.

So if you are a trav­eller who loves the out­doors and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing na­ture at its rarest and un­touched, then this is not to be missed. Know­ing a por­tion of your fee plays a part in en­sur­ing the sur­vival of this most rare and pre­cious of species is cer­tainly a com­fort.

Elm Wildlife Tours is an amaz­ing trip de­liv­ered in that uniquely per­son­able way that only a truly Dunedin ex­pe­ri­ence can of­fer. This tour is truly a par­adise that is far from lost.

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