Monarch Wildlife Cruises, Dunedin
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Port Chalmers is the sea port for Dunedin on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. It lies midway along the Otago Harbour.
My harbour cruise was a shore excursion from the large cruise liner, the Grand Princess, docked at Port Chalmers.
Our small cruise ship was the Monarch. The captain's informed cometary added to the enjoyment of our wildlife cruise.
At no time were we out of sight of birds, either continually flying overhead or passing our boat at a low level. Some of those seen were red-billed gulls, many shags and several albatrosses.
Some birds seem to like just floating on the water such as several red-billed gulls. and a trio of black swans.
Frequently seen in Otago Harbour is the blue penguin, the world's smallest at 30 cm tall. Our captain spotted a pair early in our cruise and slowed his vessel and circled them from a safe distance for viewing and photographic enjoyment. They are briefly seen on the surface between dives as deep as 20 metres in their search for their diet of small fish and squid. They can stay underwater for as long as 60 seconds.
Sitting on a rocky ledge was a black-backed gull, oblivious to our passing and appeared to be posing for us observers.
On the side of a steep hillside, a light coloured bare patch became visible. As we neared it manifested into a rookery of 100s of Otago shags.
Another unusual hillside structure were several concrete gun emplacements built in 1845 to guard against a perceived Russian invasion threat.
Perhaps the highlight of the cruise was the sighting of several seals basking on the rocks at the entrance to the harbour.
High atop Taiaroa Head at the entrance to the harbour is a lighthouse built in 1864. It still operates but is now automated.
Taiaroa Head is also the home of a large nesting colony of the royal albatross.
The vessel Monarch provides open and undercover viewing areas. There is a small inside heated cabin but still provided harbour views.
To add to the enjoyment of the cruise warm jackets and binoculars were freely available.
After a leisurely cruise to the mouth of the harbour, a welcome snack of coffee and bickies were served by the very attentive crew who were always on hand to answer questions and point out items of interest.
On boarding the Monarch we were given an illustrated sheet to assist us to identify what we saw.
Port Chalmers is the port for Dunedin. It was settled in 1848 and is one of New Zealand's busiest ports. The view from our docked cruise ship indicated that timber was a major export from the port.
A wildlife cruise along the Otago Harbour is a must-do activity when visiting Dunedin and Port Chalmers.
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