Northern Royal Albatross (Toroa) Spotting at Taiaroa Head

Tairaroa Head, at the end of the Otago Peninsula (30 minutes drive from Dunedin, New Zealand’s most southern city), is the only mainland place in the world to view Northern Royal Albatrosse (listed as an endangered specie) in their natural habitat. We went there twice—once during the day, and once at dusk—to see if we could see an albatross or two (as well as a little blue penguin or two). The wing span of the albatross can be three metres wide, so you are definitely going to know if you see one or not.

No luck either time, unlike Dean and his girls who just stand there for a while (in probably the same place we did) and one flies past. I’m envious. I guess it gives us a good reason to go back again.

It’s currently nesting time, and the nests are on the other side of the cliff from where we were. If you visit the Royal Albatross Centre  and do a tour, then you can visit the viewing observatory to see them.

We did see hundreds of red-billed gulls and lots of other birds. The bird in this photo is a gull, but you can pretend it’s an albatross if you like. I was thinking of photoshopping in an albatross, but then that would be cheating.

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Taiaroa Head also has a strong historical connection. From Maori settlement in the 1300’s to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi: the establishment of the lighthouse and fortifications in the late 1800’s, and its use as a defence base during World War I and II. I’m not entirely sure, but it appears the only way to visit Fort Taiaroa is by doing a tour of the Royal Albatross Centre. Yet another reason to visit the area again.

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