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Southern Scenic Route: penguins, sealions and rainforests

We’ve spent the last few days weaving in and out along the east coast of the South Island. Our first stop was the Moeraki boulders - spherical rocks that are over 1m in diameter. They started to form around 55 million years ago and are made of mud, pebbles, shells and calcite.

Next we visited Otago Peninsula - a great place for wildlife. Unfortunately we didn’t see any albatross though.

We followed the Southern Scenic Route to the Catlins - an absolutely stunning drive with so much to see. We made quite a few stops in the Catlins starting with Nugget Point, where we played a game of ‘is it a seal or is it a rock?’ If you look closely, you might be able to see a mother and baby seal in the last photo of the slideshow below, to the right the male seal (and down a little bit).

Having failed to see any sealions, we took a detour to Surat Bay and it paid off. We watched this one flick sand over itself - they do this to cool down as the sand reflects the sun’s rays.

Sealions previously bred all around New Zealand’s coast, but now their breeding is almost entirely confined to Auckland Island and Campbell Island. This is because of how heavily they were hunted for food by Maori, and for skin and oil by sealers, however they have been fully protected since 1872.

Further along the route, we stopped off at McLean Falls before heading to Curio Bay.

Curio Bay is home to one of the rarest breeds of penguin in the world and we were lucky enough to see yellow eyed penguins both in the evening (returning from the sea to their nests) and the following morning (heading out to fish). Penguins swim up to 25km out to sea, feeding at depths of up to 80m!

Our last adventure in the Catlins was a three hour hike through the rainforest on the Waipohatu Waterfall Track. There is also a beautiful 30 minute forest trail which is suitable for wheelchair users.

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