The Otago Harbour had an explosive birthing some 13 million years ago, and evolved as the Clutha and Taieri River valley’s were flooded out. Luckily the volcanic creator, which is centred near Port Chalmers, has been dormant for the past 9 million years. Skipper Sean explained this, and shared his encyclopaedic knowledge of the local area as we went past Ravensbounre (the West African guano processing factory), Blanket Bay (home of Otago harbour's original lighthouse keeper), Port Chalmers, and Otakou.
Barney the Bear, who was still dressed in his Crunchie Pants form the Teddy Bears Picnic at Larnach Castle, and I managed to secure a seat up in the bridge with Skipper Sean. We took regular forays out onto the deck to make the most of photographic opportunities and listened carefully to the cruise commentary. With only the guardrail and the sea in front of us, we could literally look into the local wildlife’s living room on the cliffs of Taiaroa Head.
The Otago Peninsular has slowly eroded over the years as it was transformed from native forest into productive farmland. It buffers Dunedin city and the inner harbour from the Roaring 40’s and is the breeding ground of the Northern Royal albatross, New Zealand fur seal, yellow eyed penguin and little blue penguins. These were all doing what they normally do in their natural habitat as we cruised around Tairoa Head.
Although I have been out to the Albatross Colony and wandered out ‘The Mole’ at Aramoana, nothing quite prepared me for the views from the Monarch. Watching the circling Bullers Albatross searching for food was mesmerising and meditative, all at the same time.
Heading back to Port, I remembered how being out in the sun and salt air always make me feel relaxed and sleepy, however, there was no rest scheduled because Thomas and Ed started the Chocolate Fishing competition. With the aid of a magnet on the end of a fishing rod each child got to catch their own plastic fish out of a bucket and claim their chocolately prize.
With all the excitement I hardly even realised that we had made it back to Port. I reluctantly disembarked and headed into the Octogan to meet my friends for a glass of vino. When asked what I thought of the trip and who would like it? My answer was "it's fantastic and everyone should go."
The great thing about cruise boats is that anyone can get on board regardless of age or mobility. The full harbour cruise gives you a unique introduction to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsular. And, because there is always something interesting happening amongst the wildlife out at Taiaroa Head a cruise with a camera should be on everyone’s 'To Do' list.