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Wild and Wintery Encounters

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Even in the winter, Dunedin is still the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand, with the Otago Peninsula being one of the world’s best examples of eco-tourism (thanks, David Attenborough). On any given day you can spot wildlife on beaches, in the sea or up in the skies; better yet, take a tour that’ll see you tip-toeing through trenches, riding 8-wheeled Argos and on the bow of ocean-going vessels to get up-close with some of the world's rarest creatures.

Royal Albatross Centre

Lions might be the stars of the show on an African safari, but in Dunedin the main attraction is the Northern Royal Albatross. This impressive seabird with its three-metre wingspan spends most of its life at sea, with juveniles only landing after a few years, and adults each year, to breed. The fact that they’ve chosen Taiaroa Head as their only mainland breeding colony is what makes the Royal Albatross Centre such a special place to visit. Watch the birds from a glassed viewing area as they nest, socialise and glide gracefully on the wind. Afterwards, you can explore the rest of the centre and discover more about the wonderful wildlife that calls the peninsula home.

Natures Wonders

For a true Dunedin wildlife adventure, nothing but an 8-wheel all-terrain vehicle will do. On a Natures Wonders tour, you’ll traverse the rugged hillsides on an 8-wheel Argo ATV to private beaches teeming with penguins, fur seals and birdlife in their natural habitats.


The OPERA (Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance) on the Otago Peninsula, is a tourism-funded rehabilitation centre and conservation reserve for yellow-eyed penguins. A tour will introduce you to recovering penguins as they convalesce, followed by a meander through a network of trenches and hides, enabling you to pop up right next to them in the reserve. You’ll hear about threats to their survival and the ongoing efforts to save them, efforts in which you’re playing a part just by doing the tour.

Blue Penguins Pukekura

In terms of cuteness, Kororā (little blue penguins) are the aquatic meerkats of Dunedin. Agile and effective in the water, the little blue penguin is awkward and adorable on land. To ensure you’re in the right place at the right time to see these rowdy little birds waddling ashore, book a tour with Blue Penguins Pukekura. Beginning at dusk, the tour will fill you in on the lives of the penguins, the challenges they face, and the ongoing conservation efforts.

Tūhura Otago Museum

Packed to the rafters with all things wild, resident lions, Sonia and Sultan, take pride of place in the Animal Attic, a fascinating taxidermy gallery. As you walk around this Victorian-style menagerie you’ll encounter all sorts of other wonderful and bizarre animal specimens – birds, mammals, insects and even a whale’s eye – seem to be watching as you move from display to display. For a bit more colour and life head to the Tūhura Tropical Forest downstairs for butterflies, turtles and tarantula amongst the lush tropical fauna.

Port to Port Wildlife Cruises and Tours

Travelling on board the Sootychaser, a nimble little boat that can explore all the nooks and crannies of Otago Harbour, you’re likely to see seals, sea lions, penguins and albatrosses. Keep your eyes peeled and fingers crossed for a glimpse of dolphins, too, as you cruise around islands and bays. With riveting commentary provided by the captain, you’ll see and hear a side of Dunedin that you’ll remember for years to come.

Monarch Wildlife Cruises

Step onboard the Monarch to experience a wildlife safari by sea. Is that a pride of sea lions basking on the beach? A mighty elephant seal galumphing in the shallows? On any given day on a Monarch Cruise, you’ll see an array of the incredible wildlife that lives in and around the Otago Harbour and they'll get you closer than  anyone else.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Escape the rat-race to Orokonui Ecosanctuary (you won’t find any rats up here) and admire the native flora and fauna in this predator-free paradise. Kiwi, tuatara, ruru and geckos, may not reveal themselves to the unkeen eye, but if you home in on the clues of the forest, you might get lucky. The native birds like kākā, tūī, and takahē (among dozens of others) are a little less shy… you’ll have no trouble spotting them as you traverse the various ecosystems of the sanctuary.

Clearwater Wildlife Tours

With a family history going back generations, the Clearwaters have been caretakers of the Kaimata (Cape Saunders) area for over 180 years. You’ll see the usual array of Dunedin wildlife – just more of it on their small, guided tours, with their private conservation reserve being home to a huge number of sea lions, and yellow-eyed penguins.