In the south of the South Island,  buffeted by sub-Antarctic winds and freezing rain or snow, lies the city of Dunedin, founded by suitably hardy Scottish pioneers. Drive east of the city and you’ll find yourself on the The Otago Peninsula, a long, hilly indented finger of land which is volcanic in origin, forming one wall of an eroded valley that now makes up Otago Harbour. The Otago Peninsula is famous for its micro-climate and wildlife, especially the yellow-eyed penguin and Royal Albatross. At the end of the peninsula at Taiaroa Head is the Royal Albatross Centre where you are told — and I believe them — that it’s the only mainland Royal Albatross breeding centre in the world; the only place where you can see these magnificent birds close-up. To get any nearer you’d have to visit some remote, windswept lump of rock in the wild Southern Ocean. Although I visited the centre with a streaming cold, exacerbated by the icy gale blowing that day, it didn’t lessen the wonder of  seeing these immensely powerful birds soaring past the windows of the observation building at high speed, riding the fierce wind with wonderful skill. Very hard to focus the camera on an albatross whizzing past the window at breakneck speed and most of my attempts were a dismal failure. But I did catch one bird wheeling on the wind, it’s 9.5ft wingspan spread beautifully, for an instant. Later we tried unsuccessfully to find some seals and penguins, but it was half-hearted effort. Instead we took shelter in the warmth of the car, enjoying the beautiful scenery the peninsula has to offer. If you’re ever down Dunedin way, do yourself a favour and visit the Otago Peninsula, especially the Royal Albatross Centre.

A tour boat approaches Taiaroa Head to get an alternative view of the Royal Albatross colony.

One of the many boat sheds positioned on the Otago Harbour


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