Day 239 on the Road
Encounters with Albatross and More Awesome Seabirds in Kaikoura
Today we are joining Albatross Encounter for a fascinating wildlife experience in Kaikoura. If you like this video and want to see more 365 Days: 365 Activities in New Zealand then all you got to do is head to our epic YouTube Channel. Easy as!
Today we’re gonna be getting closer than ever to the world’s largest seabirds.
This morning we are waking up at the beautiful Dusky Lodge Backpackers right here in the heart of Kaikoura and the weather is not really awesome today. It is kind of rainy but because it’s New Zealand the weather clears out super quickly that’s one of the things that I love the most about this country.
For our activity today we are meeting Gary and the team from Albatross Encounter. We gives us a quick safety briefing and we are already hitting the waves. We are going to meet some of the largest seabirds in the world.
Although Kaikoura is more known for its whales and other marine mammals like the dusky dolphin and the Hector’s dolphins and a ton of other awesome creatures it’s a hotspot for birds.
And that’s the very reason why we decided to join this tour. We really love to show you guys a little bit more than what the brochure usually pictures. So here you are today we are taking you on a journey to find amazing bird life.
And one of the awesome things that we notice right out of the gate during this tour is that Gary, which is our tour leader, has an encyclopedic knowledge about all those birds. It’s absolutely fascinating the amount of facts that he knows about each of the individual birds that we’re gonna be seeing today.
So after taking a short boat ride to a really well known spot for marine birds in the Kaikoura Peninsula. Gary is throwing out of board a massive net with heaps of fish guts and other bird food and that seems to attract a wealth of bird species.
One of the first birds that’s attracted to our crate of fish guts is the wandering albatross and this is one of the largest seabirds in the world it’s pretty much around the same size as the royal albatross and it has a wingspan of up to 3.5 metres. You don’t really get how huge these birds are until you are right this up close to them.
This huge seabird also lives to the right old age of about 60 years old and just so you know the wandering albatross is that giant white bird, basically the biggest bird that you can in this whole frenzy of seabirds right here.
Another bird that totally takes our attention is the giant petrel they’re basically the giant brown birds here that are super aggressive they are more scavenger type eaters. They’re really opportunistic and they mostly feed on carcasses they find around the coast and plus they are super aggressive against the other birds it’s really interesting to watch them behave.
Just to tell you have aggressive those bullies of giant petrels are, they actually produce a very weird as stomach acid that they can use to spray on other birds as a defense mechanism. it’s quite fascinating they are really making sure that they get their fair share of that meal.
One of the other birds that catches our attention is the Buller Albatross and it catches our attention just because it’s so good looking. It’s this flamboyant bird right here that looks really angry. This bird has some really peculiar moeurs as well which is quite fascinating. He’s the only one of the marine birds which actually needs to be in the forest to mate. Yes, contrary to all the other albatross that can usually mate anywhere on the coast, the Buller albatross is really pretentious and wants to be covered by lush forest in order to be able to nest, mate and have babies. It’s quite fascinating.
They really were not exaggerating when they said this was an Albatross Encounter. I can’t believe how close we are getting to these birds. they are only about a metre away from us and they’re just waiting around for us to feed them more food. They’re not afraid of us whatsoever.
You really don’t appreciate how beautiful these birds are until you get this close. And what’s really cool is that Gary has so much knowledge on all these birds. He even tells us what they are about to do before they even do them so we can get awesome photos and everyone in the boat is super super appreciative.
Gary also knows the exact location which is best to attract the most seabirds. We’re right on the edge of the Kaikoura Canyon which is a deep ocean trench with network of complex currents which are warm and cold and that makes all the nutrients rise up to the water’s surface super close inland to the Kaikoura coast and that’s what attracts all the famous whales and dolphins and seals in the area.
And that’s what all these birds are waiting for. They are waiting for the marine mammals to scare all the schools of fish up to the water’s surface so it’s easy pickings for these guys.
Between all the bird chaos that we are witnessing right before our eyes, we get to see some really unique behaviour like the giant petrel expanding it’s wings all above the other birds to make it make it look much bigger and much more threatening it’s just one of their ways to bully themselves closer to the food source.
Gathering of birds is super rare in the wild especially with so many different species. it rarely happens it only happens basically when carcass of a marine mammal or fish is floating at the surface and all the scavengers are gathering together so all the little nets that Gary is using right here with parts of fish inside is the perfect tool to get them up-close to us. And today we got to see so many different species. We saw some Wandering Albatross, we saw four species of petrels five species of shearwaters, shags, terns and gulls. It’s awesome.
And as the feeding comes to a really fiery end and Gary empties the net into the water. The birds are fighting and we are starting to make our way away from the school of birds.
And one of the really fun birds that we see is this one right here which is the Cape Petrel. It seems to be following the boat which is quite cool. The Cape Petrel is one of the smallest birds that we’ve seen today but they are one of the fastest being able to reach 18m per second that’s fast.
Believe it or not, this tour isn’t just about the Albatross and other seabirds. We’re next heading to this huge rock with a massive seal colony on it. Kaikoura is known for having so many seal colonies and right here on this rock is really awesome because we get to see some seal pups as well they are super fluffy and playful and it’s a really awesome addition to this tour to get to see those guys as well.
We get plenty of time to snap up loads of photos of these ridiculously cute New Zealand fur seals as well as see some more colonies of seabirds like terns and gulls and shags.
But as we’re making our way back to the shores of Kaikoura and following the coastline we see another wildlife surprise. In the water are a couple of Hector’s dolphins which are the smallest species of dolphins in the world.
Thanks to the water being super clear and the fact that these dolphins are really attracted to the bow of the boat because of the pressure waves giving the lots of fun waves to play in, we are getting an amazing viewing of these couple of dolphins which are playing around with each other and they are coming so close to the boat as well we’re getting amazing pictures.
Hector’s dolphins are quite rare around the Kaikoura Harbour in fact they are usually more around the Banks Peninsula and the Akaroa town that we show you a few weeks ago so it just goes to show that any wildlife tour in Kaikoura is bound to surprise you. There is wildlife everywhere and you’ll get some sights of a lifetime.
And as we are leaving those two dolphins having fun in the waves, they just don’t want to give up they keep on following the boat they are trying to play on the bow of it. It’s just so cool how inquisitive they all are.
Once we get back to the albatross encounter base, Gary is giving us loads of guides on where to see more awesome birds in New Zealand.
Tomorrow, believe it or not, trekking with some llamas. Llamas on the beach you say? You’ll have to be here tomorrow to watch what that is.