When visiting Dunedin and travelling by rental car, you can choose your own timetable for sightseeing, and no visit to the area is complete without seeing the Royal Albatross Colony.
The Otago coastline is home to a range of incredible bird species, including a royal albatross colony. These rare birds have a massive wingspan, and they can ride air currents for days. A visit to this colony will give you the opportunity to see these majestic creatures during the nesting season in their natural habitat.
From Dunedin, you can take your hire car towards Taiaroa and then the Otago Peninsula. Upon arriving, you will find a colony of gulls and an education centre.
The Royal Albatross Centre is only about 30 kilometres from Dunedin and is an easy and beautiful drive in a hire car. This is the only mainland Royal Albatross colony for breeding in the world, and it is located on a nature reserve. Here, you will have the opportunity to see the giant albatross throughout the breeding cycle from courtship to raising their adorable chicks.
These birds have a three-metre wingspan, on average, and they soar through the air in silence as you watch their bodies against the backdrop of the sky. You will see their giant chicks, which are white and fluffy, and marvel at seeing these animals on land, something they only do when breeding.
These are very private animals, and a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre will give you a rare glimpse into their lives. There are a number of ways to take advantage of the centre, and you will find many tours and attractions to fill the day. These include the following:
One of the tours available is the Unique Taiaroa Tour. This is the most popular tour available at The Royal Albatross Centre. It is a 1.5-hour tour led by a guide who will tell the story of the royal albatross and the history of the area.
You will learn how the land turned from a small Maori camp, which was established in the 1300s, to the place where the signage of the Treaty of Waitangi occurred. You will also learn how it became a military base in WWII to a nature preserve and wildlife attraction.
The Classic Albatross Tour solely focuses on the albatross, and will give you an insider look at their secret lives. You will get an intimate knowledge of these unusual creatures whilst on this tour, and the guide will share the history of the albatross, explain their behaviours and define their characteristics.
This information session is followed by a short film from Natural History NZ and then a walk to areas on Taiaroa Head where the albatross are often seen.
Though people often come to this area to see the birds, history buffs will love the historic significance of this area, too. You may choose to take a 30-minute guided Fort Taiaroa tour were you will have the chance to see the Armstrong Disappearing Gun.
This underground fort was constructed in the late 1880s to counteract the threat of a Russian invasion. Later, it was used for defence and training during both WWI and WWII. This is a short tour, yet very informative, and ideal for anyone interested in military history.
There is no argument that most tourists come to the Royal Albatross Colony for albatross viewing, but there are other birds here, too, including the Korora, or Little Blue Penguin. This is the world’s smallest penguin, which only grows to a height of about 33 cm, and this is their natural habitat. These little birds only weigh about 1.5 kg, and you will love watching them congregate in their groups and vocalising with each other.
They spend much of their day frolicking in the water, but as dusk approaches, they make their way back up to roost. Since the best viewing is in the evening, it may get dark during the 55-minute tour but the platform for viewing has lighting available.
If you are looking for a good overall tour of the Royal Albatross Colony and much more, the Unique Albatross Tiki Tour is perfect for you. On this tour, you will get a guided tour of the Otago Peninsula where you will have a chance to take in the scenery, rare wildlife and historical treasures of the area.
You will travel the length of the peninsula and have a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences including a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre and Fort Taiaroa. The tour leaves and arrives in Dunedin and lasts about 3.5 hours.
Similar to the Unique Albatross Tour, you can also take a 3.5-hour tour that will allow you to see the Little Blue Penguin, the smallest penguin in the world, in their natural habitat. This is a guided tour and you will learn all about the lives and behaviour of this tiny penguin.
In addition to learning all about the Blue Penguin, you will also learn about the history of Pukekura, which was a Maori settlement on Taiaroa Head and information about the Kai Tahu tribe.
The ultimate package to see the best of the Otago Peninsula is the Sundowner package. When choosing this package, you will take a cruise around the peninsula with stops at both the Royal Albatross Centre and the Blue Penguins Pukekura. You can view the albatross colony from both land and sea, plus stop and see the little blue penguins in their natural habitat.
This tour includes transportation through Monarch Wildlife Cruises from Dunedin, a drive along the Otago Peninsula, an hour wildlife cruise and a guided tour of the Royal Albatross Centre. Additionally, the tour includes a dinner of traditional Maori Hangi-style food, a tour of the Blue Penguin Pukekura and a drop off back in Dunedin. This tour lasts for 7 hours.
When in Dunedin, you are in for a treat if you take your hire car out to the Otago Peninsula. You will see the adorable little blue penguin, have a chance to learn about the history of the area, and see the great albatross, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most who visit. With so many tour options, you can easily find the right tour to meet your needs.
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