Just 30 minutes drive from the bustling centre of Dunedin lies a remote wilderness area filled with wonderful wildlife.
For lovers of nature, and birdlife in particular, the Otago Peninsula needs to be high on your must see list while touring the South Island of New Zealand.
Penguin Place is just one of several locations you can visit to experience nature, in a wild and natural environment. It is home to a small breeding colony of Yellow Eyed Penguins. The Hoiho, as they are known to the Maori, are the worlds most endangered Penguin and it is humbling to be allowed to see them in the wild.
I visited late in the afternoon in time to catch the sunset and the penguins as they returned to shore after feeding out at sea for the day. It is an almost amusing experience to see the small penguins ride in on the surf and stumble to their feet as they then scramble up the beach to avoid being knocked over by the incoming waves.
Once on shore individually the penguins start to make the journey back to their hides and it is then that the fun begins for us as we make our way through a complex array of covered trenches to carefully obscured viewing areas. You get so close you could almost reach out and touch the penguins as they make their way past you.
Our guide knows the individual birds and their homes so she takes us to several different locations within the colony to ensure everyone gets their share of photos, video and all the information we could want on the birds.
Our 90 minute tour was over long before we wanted to leave but darkness wasn't far off so back to the car park we returned with fond memories of our time.
Penguin Place is a privately run conservation reserve on a local farm. The project is entirely funded by the guided tours. Tours last 90 minutes and depart several times a day all year round. Advance bookings are essential.