- Dunedin, New Zealand Adventure -
Princess Cruises‘ Regal Princess crossed the rocking 40s and rolling 50s in fine fashion. Although the seas encountered between the 40th and 50th latitudes on the crossing from Australia to New Zealand are known to be among the roughest on our planet, our crossing couldn’t have been smoother.
Our first New Zealand adventure was cruising Fjordland National Park. The fjords here outshine those of Norway and Canada as natural wonders, and fortunately, we sailed them on a rainy day. New Zealand’s fjords are surrounded by massive rock walls that appear to reach to the edge of the moon. During rainy periods, waters flow through fissures in the rocks, and cascade into the prehistoric lakes below, creating a symphony of waterfalls which overwhelms the senses.
On we sailed, and by morning we arrived in Dunedin, the largest city on New Zealand’s south island. The city, having a Scottish heritage, was originally known as New Edinburgh. Mark Twain wrote this upon his visit here; “The people of the area are Scots. They stopped here on their way to heaven, thinking they had arrived.” It is located in the Otago region, a wilderness originally settled by the Maori people over four centuries ago. The Scots arrived in the mid nineteenth century.
We disembarked the Regal Princess very early, in quest of a guide to direct our Dunedin adventure. Once on shore in New Zealand, we quickly retained the services of Milton, a friendly fellow in his early sixties. He was dressed in a traditional Scottish style, right down to the Tam O’ Shanter on his head, thus setting the mood for our wonderful visit. There are three points of interest which were to highlight our day: the yellow eyed penguin colony, the albatross nesting grounds, and Larnach Castle. The castle came first.
Larnach Castle, New Zealand
Larnach castle sits on a swath of land overlooking an inlet off the Pacific Ocean, its elevated perch providing views of the countryside and the waters below which are so magnificent that no-one’s imagination is so detailed as to do it justice. Its gardens and lawns are manicured, giving the visitor an almost surrealistic sense of the environs. While nothing can match the natural beauty of the castle grounds, the interior of the castle is a wonder as well. Each room is filled with art and tapestries. The furniture is made by local artisans, from the finest woods New Zealand has to offer. The castle is open to the public, but a section is inaccessible since it is home to the castle’s owners, the Barker family. We had a good laugh when during our tour a black cat crossed our path, and Milton placed it around his neck as if it were a shawl. There it remained for the duration of our visit.
New Zealand’s Yellow Eyed Penguins
Next we visited Dunedin’s famous Yellow Eyed Penguin colony. Yellow Eyed Penguins are the third largest of the penguin species. They are monogamous, but known to divorce on occasion. Scientists have followed mating pairs who have stayed together for decades, but on occasion they were surprised when a female appeared in the company of a different male. These birds require nesting caves which offer complete privacy, with the openings positioned so that pairs from nearby nests cannot look in. Wood blinds have been built to allow visitors to traverse the entire nesting grounds of these magnificent birds without disturbing them. The blinds are partially underground, have thatched roofs, and are designed with narrow slits through which to view the penguins. Wood “caves” also have been constructed for the birds, and positioned with care to encourage the penguins to nest in them. These man-made modifications were designed to increase the number of chicks produced annually, and improve the chances for survival of these endangered creatures, a plan which appears to be working.
New Zealand’s Albatross Nesting Grounds
Our last stop was to be one of the few known albatross nesting grounds in the world. Along the way we encountered a strange looking seagull. The gull had bright crimson feet, and bright red rings around its eyes. As we were watching the gull on the roadside, a large seal appeared from the underbrush. I stood there in amazement and tried to capture it in a photo when suddenly it charged. Milton quickly pulled me out of the way, just in the nick of time.
Albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds. With wing spans of up to eleven feet, they are engineered for soaring above the oceans. These magnificent birds mate for life, spend years at a time at sea, and nest mostly on remote islands. Each nesting pair produces one egg, and the process of breeding can take up to a year. The New Zealand albatross colony was on the side of a hill, and was visible from a wood viewing tower positioned so as not to disturb the nesting birds, or discourage them from producing chicks. While the Albatrosses were amazing to see, they were quite far away, disappointing us somewhat. A year later we were feeding mallard ducks in a park in Halifax, Nova Scotia when an adult albatross swooped in to partake in the feast, giving us the opportunity to see one up close after all.
Dunedin, New Zealand is an amazing port of call, and we only scratched the surface of the wonders to be experienced here. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to return some day soon.
Happy cruising - Andrew Kruglanski, Cruisin Susan Cruise Blog
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