An ex­pe­ri­ence like no other

Dunedin’s Ta­iaroa Head of­fers a wildlife en­counter like no other.

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Ever ex­pe­ri­enced a gi­ant al­ba­tross shar­ing your space? Ex­plored a hid­den fort? Meet the world’s small­est pen­guin? Dunedin is fa­mous as the wildlife cap­i­tal of New Zealand and of­fers unique ex­pe­ri­ences not avail­able any­where else in the world. Sit­u­ated just 45 min­utes from Dunedin, at the tip of stun­ningly beau­ti­ful Otago Penin­sula, are the world’s only main­land royal al­ba­tross breed­ing colony and the world’s only fully re­stored 1886 Arm­strong Dis­ap­pear­ing Gun. Both these at­trac­tions are iconic Dunedin ex­pe­ri­ences at Pukekura/Ta­iaroa Head, draw­ing vis­i­tors from all over the world. Over 100,000 vis­i­tors each year visit the Royal Al­ba­tross Cen­tre to view and learn about the al­ba­tross and the over other 20 species that call the head­land home. Jaws drop as vis­i­tors are as­tounded by the size of the al­ba­tross. A three me­tre wing­span has to be seen to be be­lieved as the mag­nif­i­cent birds glide silently by, en­joy­ing the wind cur­rents that make Ta­iaroa Head such an ex­cel­lent site for al­ba­tross to raise their huge fluffy chicks from Sum­mer to Spring. 2016 saw the rise of celebrity Roy­al­cam chick Moana, which spent eight months grow­ing up in front of a live we­b­cam. Her jour­ney was viewed over 600,000 times by fol­low­ers from more than 100 coun­tries and tears were shed when she fi­nally fledged, not to re­turn for around five years. More cam­eras are planned for 2017 to fol­low the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of new celebrity al­ba­tross chicks and en­cour­age keener in­ter­est in their story. Sum­mer sees the ma­jes­tic birds well into their breed­ing cy­cle as they nest and pre­pare to raise their chicks through­out the next year. The colony boasts a pur­pose-built ob­ser­va­tory where vis­i­tors are able to watch the al­ba­tross in its nat­u­ral habi­tat with­out dis­turb­ing the small colony. The only main­land royal al­ba­tross breed­ing colony in the world con­sists of about 250 birds with just over 60 breed­ing pairs, the birds breed ev­ery two years, with a year­long break to re­cover. Thirty eggs were laid in 2016, with 26 chicks suc­cess­fully fledged (the record num­ber is 27 fledglings). Pests aren’t the only haz­ard. Each Sum­mer wa­ter is trucked in and a ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem keeps the adults and chicks cool on very hot days as the al­ba­tross can suf­fer fa­tal heat stroke. Al­ba­tross at Ta­iaroa Head are very for­tu­nate to have their own ded­i­cated team of Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion rangers, as well as the sup­port of the Otago Penin­sula Trust, a pri­vate char­i­ta­ble trust, which has run tours here since 1972. Ta­iaroa Head is also home to a wide range of other bird and marine life. Al­ba­tross, seals, cor­morants and pen­guins have all colonised the head­land. Vis­i­tors can see a colony of the rare Otago Shags from

the al­ba­tross ob­ser­va­tory and watch many of the res­i­dent birds fly by as they raise their young nearby. Within the pro­tected area is the only breed­ing colony of red­billed gulls not in de­cline in New Zealand. It’s lit­tle know that red-billed gulls are as en­dan­gered as the yel­low-eyed pen­guin. In the evening, be­low the al­ba­tross colony with its huge in­hab­i­tants, peo­ple can meet Korora, Lit­tle Blue Pen­guins (the world’s small­est pen­guins) in their nat­u­ral habi­tat. Watch­ing them scurry home to their cliff side bur­rows at the end of the day is a de­light­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. There is great view­ing from the pur­pose-built ob­ser­va­tion plat­form and board­walk at the beach. The tour num­ber is capped and this pro­vides the most nat­u­ral way to view the lit­tle pen­guins with­out dis­turb­ing them. Blue Pen­guins Pukekura is op­er­ated as a con­ser­va­tion kaiti­ak­i­tanga part­ner­ship be­tween the Royal Al­ba­tross Cen­tre, the Otago Penin­sula Trust and the Pukekura Trust. The in­creased fi­nan­cial sup­port from vis­i­tors to the area has pro­vided the pen­guin pop­u­la­tion with the chance to flour­ish thanks to the in­creased level of preda­tor con­trol and the con­struc­tion of nest-boxes re­quired to suc­cess­fully raise their young free from harm. Pen­guin num­bers have dra­mat­i­cally in­creased to over 200 breed­ing pairs thanks to the hard work of all of the stake­hold­ers in­volved in

“Vis­it­ing Ta­iaroa Head is one of those bucket list places that richly re­wards trav­ellers and leaves them mar­vel­ling.”

the Blue Pen­guins Pukekura project. The pen­guin pop­u­la­tion has been grow­ing 11 per­cent an­nu­ally. Vis­i­tors can also learn an­other side to the wildlife par­adise. The ar­eas also boasts a rich cul­tural his­tory and is a sig­nif­i­cant mil­i­tary site. Ta­iaroa Head has been­for­ti­fied since the ear­li­est Maori set­tle­ment of the re­gion. In the 1880s, Fort Ta­iaroa was in­stalled to counter the threat of Rus­sian In­va­sion and the fort con­tin­ued to be used un­til the end of World War Two. Nowa­days, guided tours al­low vis­i­tors to ex­plore the his­toric Vic­to­rian Fort and see the world’s only fully re­stored 1886 Arm­strong dis­ap­pear­ing gun hid­den be­neath the peace of the al­ba­tross colony. Vis­it­ing Ta­iaroa Head is one of those bucket list places that richly re­wards trav­ellers and leaves them mar­vel­ling. GTNZ

Olve­ston is a must visit for lovers of arts and cul­ture. ‘Olve­ston’ was the home of busi­ness­man, col­lec­tor and phi­lan­thropist David Theomin. De­signed by the English ar­chi­tect, Sir Ernest Ge­orge, the house was built with ev­ery mod­ern con­ve­nience, in­clud­ing cen­tral heat­ing, a gas gen­er­a­tor for elec­tric­ity, a shower in each bath­room and heated towel rails, an in­ter­nal tele­phone sys­tem and ser­vice lift. David Theomin was a pas­sion­ate col­lec­tor and the house was ex­ten­sively and lav­ishly fur­nished with ex­otic arte­facts and fur­ni­ture, prized art­works and an­tiques, car­pets and rugs, ce­ram­ics, bronze stat­ues and weaponry all pur­chased dur­ing the fam­i­lies many trav­els around the world. In­her­ited by Theomin’s daugh­ter Dorothy in 1933, she con­tin­u­ing the fam­ily tra­di­tion of col­lect­ing and phi­lan­thropy, sup­port­ing many of the artis­tic and com­mu­nity causes cham­pi­oned by her par­ents in­clud­ing Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the Plun­ket So­ci­ety. Fol­low­ing Dorothy’s death in 1966, Olve­ston, com­plete with the orig­i­nal con­tents, was gifted to the peo­ple of Dunedin and opened as a house mu­seum the fol­low­ing year. Olve­ston is a time cap­sule, as lit­tle has changed in­side the house since it was oc­cu­pied as a fam­ily home. A feast for the eyes, a tour of Olve­ston is for those who ap­pre­ci­ate (or as­pire to) the finer things in life. Set within a 1-acre ‘Gar­den of Na­tional Sig­nif­i­cance’, at 42 Royal Ter­race, Olve­ston is within walk­ing dis­tance from the Oc­tagon. Vis­it­ing in­side the house is by guided tour only, which re­veal the ex­tra­or­di­nary lives of the Theomin fam­ily and al­low a glimpse of one of New Zealand’s wealth­i­est fam­i­lies with strong artis­tic and com­mu­nity fo­cus. Guided tours com­mence daily at 9.30am, 10.45am, 12noon, 1.30pm, 2.45pm and 4pm. Pre-booked group tours are avail­able at any time (8 peo­ple or more, 8am un­til 8pm, daily). Group tours are avail­able with English, French, Ger­man, Span­ish, Ital­ian, Ja­panese, Man­darin and Can­tonese speak­ing guides. Morn­ing and Af­ter­noon high-teas op­tions and evening drinks and canapes are avail­able for groups, please con­tact the re­cep­tion@olve­ or +64 (03)-4773320 for more de­tails. For de­tails of other ac­tiv­i­ties and events held at the house through­out the year, visit www.olve­

Royal Al­ba­tross

Pukekura Ta­iaroa Head

Royal Al­ba­tross Image Credit: Stephen Jaquiery

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