And when I found out that there were penguins in New Zealand, I almost wept for joy.
About once a year, my guy and I go to visit a zoo.
My favorite, favorite, favorite exhibit is always the penguin exhibit.
So the chance to see penguins in the wild was too good to pass up.
I did my research and found out that New Zealand has three kinds of penguins: the little blue penguin, the yellow eyed penguin and the crested penguin.
While we were in Dunedin, we had the opportunity to see the little blue penguins and the yellow eyed penguins. I was sad to learn that the crested penguins lived in a part of New Zealand we were not going to visit.
While randomly seeing penguins on public beaches is not a rare occurrence in New Zealand, I wanted to visit Penguin Place, which is a penguin sanctuary for the endangered yellow eyed penguins.
It was a truly magical experience to see a penguin emerge from the water and waddle up the beach and grasslands.
This mother came out from the water and walked straight to the pond where her two kiddo penguins were waiting for her. As we hid behind a dug out, we watched her two kids emerge and then start fighting over who got dinner first.
It was pretty funny.
But everything got sorted in the end and both got to have their dinners.
Hands down, seeing these creatures was one of my favorite experiences in New Zealand.
However, I am very glad I researched this widely and chose Penguin Place to make this happen. Why? While there are a few tour opportunities to choose from in Dunedin alone, our guide's words of caution made me feel so relieved that I chose to see the penguins at Penguin Place rather than from a different organization or just randomly on the beach.
Penguin Place is designed to ensure that the penguins have maximum privacy. They were in no way, shape or form bothered by our visit. We were nearly silent the entire time and spent all of our time while near penguins hidden behind dug outs. An expert was with us the entire time to make sure these two rules were followed. This is vitally important for the yellow eyed penguins, which are not social creatures at all. Any disturbances by people will often mean that the penguins remain longer in the water rather than coming on shore, which is where they spend most of their time. The longer they are in the water, the more opportunity there is for predators to get them. This is a huge deal because these penguins are endangered.
Other tours I looked at in Dunedin asked visitors to essentially "hide behind rocks" while on the beach and did not build a system to ensure the penguins would not be disturbed. In my opinion and understanding the consequences of such behavior, it is not worth it to see these rare penguins if by doing so you are putting them in danger.
Plus, Penguin Place is a beautiful farm. Our visit allowed us to walk around the grasslands and seaside and observe all kinds of marine life. Even better, it's a win-win for the visitors and the penguins! The money visitors pay goes right back to the endangered penguins both in habitat renewal and the onsite penguin hospital that rehabilitates starving or injured penguins up and down New Zealand's coastline.
What more could you ask for?!
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