At Te Anau we took some time to visit the wonderful local bird sanctuary. The highlight was seeing the takahe, a rare flightless bird native to New Zealand. Like much of the island’s wildlife, introduction of predators such as stoats and rats have severely threatened the survival of these birds. They were actually thought to be extinct at one stage until they were discovered in small numbers within remote mountains. Breeding programs are slowly increasing their numbers and predator free islands also exist, acting as a kind of “insurance population” for the future.
From Te Anau our journey took us further east along the southern part of the island through rolling hills scattered with content looking sheep munching on the plentiful green grass.
As we arrived into the Catlin’s national park in the south east of the country the landscape changed from rolling hills to dense forests, rugged coastline and empty yellow sandy beaches.
We were lucky enough to spot some hector dolphins, the world’s smallest dolphin, which are unique to New Zealand’s coastal waters. Warm clothes were a must to shield from the icy Antarctic winds!
Here’s an image of a sea lion in the distance just as it was entering the water (below left). You can see the tracks from it’s sleeping pad into the ocean (below right). The sea lion is another animal which was hunted to near extinction but since their protection in the late 1800’s their numbers have increased.
On a couple of occasions we stopped to try and spot some of the yellow eyed penguins but didn’t have any luck. It took us a day to drive about 50 kilometres so there was still plenty to look at along the way!