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Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Virginia Beach...
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Best Marine Wildlife Trips

As planning/research continues for our 6-week Dec - Jan trip, I would some opinions on the best excursions - as we cannot afford to go on all of them as they are all pretty costly.

Will be in Paihai, Abel Tasman Park, Catlin Coats, Te Anau, and Dunedin - where there should be marine wildlife. For sure, we are doing the Milford Sound cruise.

Considering dolphin watch and swim in Paihai and sea kayaking in Abel Tasman. Would love to do the seal swim in AT, but cannot afford to do both. Also, thinking about the Elm Wildlife tour since it gets great ratings - but unsure about this one since it is not really much action. Would really love to see some penguins and don't know if Elm would accomplish this.

Any comments and additional suggestions would be appreciated.

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1. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

You can see penguins in the Catlins without going on a tour, some places you can stay even have penguins nesting on the property! The Curio Bay Boutique Accommodation has good reviews.

We saw seals, sealions and penguins while we were in the Catlins and wished we could have stayed longer.

Virginia Beach...
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2. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Thank you for your reply, Ann. We are staying in the Catlins for two nights. Coming from Te Anau, the first night will be at the Curio Bay Salthouse - which is right on the beach at Porpoise Bay to see the Hector dolphins and adjacent to Curio Bay for the penguins. It got really nice reviews and some folks mentioned seeing the penguins in the morning by the units.

I think we will work our way East the second day to see remaining attractions along the Catlin Coast and spend the second night around Kaka Point . I was considering 2 nights at the Curio Bay Salthouse - but did not want to backtrack since we are on our way to Dunedin.

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3. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

I strongly recommend Elm Wildlife Tour. I took it earlier this year and was very impressed. they have access to private farmland where you walk down to an area where both Little Blue & Yellow-eyed penguins come ashore to nest. We watched an amazing encounter between a Hookers SeaLion and a pengun. Luckiy the penguin escaped! We also watched young male sealions playing in the surf and out on the headland, dozens of fur seal pups playing in a rockpool. Earlierin the tour we visited the Royal Albatross Colony on Tairoa Head.

Virginia Beach...
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4. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Hi Zhuhai:

Thank you for the comments on the Elm Wildlife Tour - I will definitely add it to my list of possible things to do - esp since they do take you to try to see penguins. I think that I would prefer the Monarch boat cruise to the Albatross Colony. These birds look like sea gulls to me - albeit apparently large ones based on the description.

If we take this tour, is there little need to do a driving tour of the Otago Peninsula ourselves since it is covering the same area?

Joyce

Rarotonga, Cook...
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5. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

The Muriwai Beach gannet colony, west Auckland is an incredible sight. The beach is about an hour from Auckland city, using the North-West motorway at first. Park in the carpark and stroll across to the nesting colony. Visit the beautiful beach while in the same area. Both are free Auckland attractions.

Returning from the Bay of Islands, the Poor Knights marine reserve (islands and underwater) is a world-renowned area. A Perfect Day cruise based in Tutukaka will pass through a Common dolphin pod (usually). If you aren't into snorkelling the boat carries kayaks. Short tour around the island and through the archway, followed by several of the offshore islands which retain large flocks of nesting seabirds (weather permitting). This is an awesome adventure operated by a highly regarded local business, Dive! Tutukaka.

Edited: 12 July 2012, 22:49
Virginia Beach...
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6. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Hi Frangipani:

Thank you for your suggestions. The Dive Tutukaka snorkel and kayak trip looks awesome - I love to snorkel! I have only started to do my research on must things to do and see for our trip to the North Island. Since we have timeshare weeks booked there in Paihia and Lake Taupo for Dec 7-21 - there was no need to research accomodations.

However, we arrive in AKL on Dec 4th - so have 2 days until our Paihia week. My research found that there was great diving somewhere north of Auckland along the coast ( renowned by Jacque Cousteau) - so I definitely was considering stopping for snorkeling in the area - so your suggestion is very timely. Although it does have a price tag of $149 - wish I was rich and money was of no concern. So would you suggest this trip over some of the possible swim with the dolphin trips in the Bay of Islands?

Would appreciate your suggestion of itinerary of the 2 nights between AKL and Paihia. We land in AKL at 5 pm on Dec 4 from Bangkok via a very long layover in SYD and checkin at Paihia timeshare is about 4 pm on Dec 7.

Also, at some point, I need to get over to the West coast to see one of the forest that has the huge trees. Is this doable as a day trip from Paihia?

Would appreciate your comments on a self guided drive to Cape Regina from Paihia? This sounds like one of the must dos - but sounds like a very long trip. Are the roads along this stretch of road pretty flat, straight, and wide? I realize private cars cannot drive on Ninety mile Beach - but is it easily accessible and can we surf down the sand dunes or is this only if you take one of the bus tours?

Thank you for your help - you guys are really awesome!

Joyce

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7. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Hi again Joyce,

For the 2 nights between your planned accommodation, how about staying somewhere around Leigh - Matakana for 1 of those nights, followed by a night on the Tutukaka Coast (for the Poor Knights) or in Whangarei city

Leaving Auckland, take the North-west motorway up to Muriwai beach to view the gannet colony and west coast surf beach with its black sands and rolling breakers. Continue along SH16 to Wellsford. then cross SH1 to Leigh marine reserve & Goat island for some close to shore snorkelling. Stay in motel accommodation around Leigh, grab freshly caught fish with chips for dinner - www.leighbythesea.co.nz/category/sleeping/.

Next day continue north to Whangarei city either along the main highway, or tunoff to Mangawhai to view some of the Northland east coasts beaches including Langs (my fav in this area) and Waipu Cove. Overnight in Whangarei, or at a B&B in Glenbervie/Ngunguru, or at the hotel or motels around Ngunguru - Tutukaka. I cannot emphasise enough how outstanding the Poor Knights Islands are. Jacques Costeau's endorsement of this world heritage area is spot on. The adventure to these protected islands is a vastly different experience to the popular dolphin expeditions available in the BOI.

From Tutukaka, take the loop road past Matapouri Bay to Hikurangi (quicker than backtracking into the city again) to join the main road north, and Paihia. The Cape Reinga road is in pretty good condition, and its sealed all the way to the lighthouse carpark. Like all NZ roads it is windy in several places, but with some long straight stretches between. Mangonui is a delightful harbourside town and a good refreshment stop en route.

From Paihia you can easily do a daytrip across to Hokianga harbour and Waipoua Forest. The road inland from Kaikohe to the twin coastal towns of Opononi and Omapere does become windy. There are some very tight corners and the speed limit needs to be observed carefully. It's also possible to do a loop tour using the car-ferry from Rawene to Kohukohu landing to rejoin SH1 at Mangamuka. Cut across the short distance from Okaihau to Kerikeri to Paihia.

Wonderful choices for day-trips to Kerikeri, Waimate North, Matauri Bay, Russell, Rahwiti, Bland Bay & Oakura. Let me think on about cheaper options for you to visit the Poor Knights, including with another charter perhaps.

Virginia Beach...
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8. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Wow, Frangipani, thank you so much for the detailed itinerary of exactly what to do in our first two days. For now, I have saved your suggestions and will research the route and accomodations along the way.

Based on your comments, snorkeling at the Poor Knights Island is an absolute must do. I do love the idea of also having access to kayaks for paddling around the water - as it must be very beautiful in the area. If you do find another outfitter that is a bit cheaper that would be great - but probably all about the same price for same activities.

What worries me is that on their website - they noted that the seas can be sometimes rough getting out to the island, but is fine once you are there because they the coves are sheltered. Guess who gets seasick when it is rough? For our snorkeling trip on the Great Barrier Reef in Oz - I actually got Scopalamine patches. It really makes you sleepy, but I was fine for the trip. On the way back, I totally feel asleep for the entire trip - which was good per my kids because they sad it was really rough. Wonder if I should request my Doc for some more patches or just use OTC meds like Bonine?

BTW, what is the driving time between Paihia and the Poor Knights Islands?

Once again, thank you for your invaluable information.

Joyce

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9. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

Hi Joyce,

OTC meds like Sealegs tablets are widely available in NZ pharmacies. Yet good idea to consult your GP as well. The open water (24 kms) between the entrance to Tutukaka harbour & the islands can rough up, but if the weather is too inclement the trip may not take place that day. But all digits crossed that your chosen event will be perfect timing!

I will check out local information about alternative charters. However, the Perfect Day cruise vessel is designed to cope with the sea conditons and passenger comfort. And they take their own kayaks onboard for guests use at the islands stop-off.

Regarding driving time between Tutukaka and Paihia, the journey is about 1 hour 20+ minutes (using the loop road from Hikurangi via Matapouri Bay to Tutukaka). This coastal loop road is sealed, including from Whangarei to Tutukaka also. The main highway north/south of Whangarei is in good condition too.

10. Re: Best Marine Wildlife Trips

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