Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations

Monarch Wildlife Cruises, Dunedin

Home > Dunedin > Outdoor | Cruises | Animals and Wildlife
by Neil Follett (subscribe)
I'm a retired photographer living in Lilydale mainly researching and writing on Australian aviation history. Now writing more on general subjects.
Published January 9th 2023
See more shags than you can shake a stick at
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.

Otago Harbour map.
Otago Harbour map.

Port Chalmers Harbour.
Part of Port Chalmers Harbour as we cast off.

My harbour cruise was a shore excursion from the large cruise liner, the Grand Princess, docked at Port Chalmers.

Grand Princess.
Our cruise ship 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.

monarch sign.
Our cruise vessel's name.

Ship's captain.
Our captain in his office.

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.

Spotted shags.
A flight of spotted shags made a low pass.

Otago shags.
Fly past by an Otago shag.

Some birds seem to like just floating on the water such as several red-billed gulls. and a trio of black swans.

Red billed gulls.
Red billed gulls.

Black swans.
Distant vision 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.

Blue penguins.
Two blue penguins after surfacing.

Sitting on a rocky ledge was a black-backed gull, oblivious to our passing and appeared to be posing for us observers.

Black backed gull.
Black backed gull.

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.

Otago shags.
Otago shag rookery.

Otago shags.
Otago shags having close encounters.

Another unusual hillside structure were several concrete gun emplacements built in 1845 to guard against a perceived Russian invasion threat.

Gun emplacement.
One of the gun emplacements which housed an Armstrong disappearing gun.

Perhaps the highlight of the cruise was the sighting of several seals basking on the rocks at the entrance to the harbour.

Basking seals.
Basking seals.

Seal on rocks.
This one was awake.

High atop Taiaroa Head at the entrance to the harbour is a lighthouse built in 1864. It still operates but is now automated.

The lighthouse.

rocky coast.
Lighthouse on the rocky coast.

Taiaroa Head is also the home of a large nesting colony of the royal albatross.

Albatross viewing area.
Albatross colony viewing area.

The vessel Monarch provides open and undercover viewing areas. There is a small inside heated cabin but still provided harbour views.

Snack bar.
Snack bar, souvenirs and heated indoor cabin.

To add to the enjoyment of the cruise warm jackets and binoculars were freely available.

Passengers in jackets.
Jackets and binoculars provided.

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.

 Cruise ship
On our return journey with our cruise ship in the distance.

On boarding the Monarch we were given an illustrated sheet to assist us to identify what we saw.

Illustrated brochure.
Illustrated brochure.

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.

Logs at Port Chambers.
The view from our balcony stateroom aboard the Grand Princess.

A wildlife cruise along the Otago Harbour is a must-do activity when visiting Dunedin and Port Chalmers.

Disembarking passengers.
Disembarking after an scenic and educational cruise.
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  70
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Nature at its best.
When: Daytime
Where: Port Chalmers
Your Comment
Gosh, that's a heap load of shags .... looks like you had a good trip, Neil!
by Elaine (score: 3|9222) 76 days ago
What a great or should I say impressive article - for photography, written information and overall effect - great concept as well - congratulations on bronze.
by T. A. Rose (score: 2|563) 76 days ago
Popular Articles