Monday, February 23, 2015

a penguin's place

Fact: I am an animal lover fanatic.
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.
Penguin Place became an official safe haven for the yellow eyed penguins more than 20 years ago. The sanctuary is a working sheep farm on the ocean. The farm owner noticed some penguins nesting on shore and wanted to help keep them safe. Part of the farm has been carved out for the yellow eyed penguins, although they are not the only ones to take advantage of the gift. The little blue penguins also live here as do sea lions and other marine life.

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.
She had to yell at them eventually.
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?!


Check out more fun travel stories at Travel Tuesday!


14 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your story about the baby penguins and their mother.. it's really cute having to witness such intimate moment between animals. And I admire the people behind the beautiful Penguin Place for taking care of the animals and their habitat. Kudos to you both! :)

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    1. Thanks! I really admired them too. They took on a pretty significant financial burden to protect these guys but the results have been totally worth it!

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  2. That is wonderful! If I ever head to that part of New Zealand I would visit Penguin Place as well. It is so important to see animals in a way that is healthy for them.

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    1. I agree! I think a lot of people want to be respectful of wildlife but do not always understand the consequences of their actions.

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  3. We went to the Penguin Place many years ago with our sons. It was one of the best experiences we have ever had - just wonderful. We did get lucky. We saw a mother feeding her chicks for ages and really close up. Like you though we were well hidden in a specially built 'blind'. Your post makes me think lots of the guests probably get lucky. #traveltuesday

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  4. OMG, so cute. That place sounds like a penguin and a penguin lover's dream!

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  5. Oh my gosh! I love how the penguin area looks so natural and so... not zoo-like (unless that's your awesome photography at work, haha)! The story about the baby chicks with their mother was adorable :)

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    1. The sanctuary is totally natural. The penguins come and go as they please, straight from the ocean to the farm.

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  6. Oh wow! These guys are so cute! I love that you were able to visit them in their natural habitat and in a way that is best for them. I'll have to keep this in mind for when I get to New Zealand!

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    1. I would highly recommend a trip to Penguin's Place!

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  7. I would love to visit this place one day. One of the things on my to do list is to walk were penguins walk! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes-- this is the perfect place to do it because you know you are not endangering them.

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