Otago Peninsula

Not much time today, plus the weather was a bit bad, so we didn't bother to go to a nearby beach in search of wildlife. Went to the albatross area instead, which is quite close to the penguin area which we would be visiting in the afternoon. We were quite lucky to see a fur seal and, next to him, a blue/fairy/small penguin just chillin'. The wind was really picking up so the stop at the albatross viewpoint was pretty brief. Didn't bother with the albatross centre - too expensive, plus the kids would get bored.

Managed to slip into a tour half an hour earlier than the arranged which works out better all round (we get to head out earlier, and they don't have to set up a tour only for us). The Penguin Place is private property, a farm here 10% of the land has been put into a trust. It is on of the only animal conservation projects funded solely by visitors. Their "hospital" is also the only place where yellow-eyed penguins are allowed to be kept in captivity (they are the only "anti-social" species of penguin and form no bonds with humans). The penguins that live on the trust land are 100% wild, the only human influence (apart from the hospital and tagging and measuring) is that some nesting boxes have been put up while reforestation gets underway (with 100% native tree species it may take 100 years, so the boxes are needed as yellow-eyed penguins need shade to nest). There are also a series of trenches with hides dug around the nesting sites.

The tour takes you through these trenches in search of the elusive penguins. At this time of year they are changing feathers (moulting) and so aren't looking their best. We saw a few here and there - being anti-social they don't congregate in huge numbers anywhere, they do form colonies but stay apart from one another in the colony. Later we saw a few more next to a group of juvenile fur seals.

There are 17 species of penguin. With today's two we passed the halfway barrier, bringing the count of the species we have seen in the wild to 9: yellow-eyed and blue, plus magellanic, gentoo, adelie, chinstrap, macaroni, emperor (just a single baby) and galapagos.

Quite a mission finding accommodation. Started by going to the DOC site near Moeraki but it can get flooded and it was raining so we decided to give it a miss. Then we went to 2 different paying sites and they only had grass sites (it being Easter) which they definitely didn't recommend as we might get stuck in the mud. Finally, after over an hour going from one place to another, we ended up freedom camping next to the sea.

Lesson learnt today: the CampingMate app is a lifesaver, it has all sorts of essential spots (sites, dump stations, gas stations...) pinpointed on a map of New Zealand.

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