Penguin Love

Never thought of myself a bird person. But those tubby, waddling black and white cuties that are called penguins are undeniably adorable. In fact, I love them even more because my late Boston Terrier, Bevo, looked like a penguin from behind when he was sitting down. I miss my guy. While booking excursions for my New Zealand cruise aboard the Golden Princess from Melbourne, Australia, the major thing I wanted to do was visit with the yellow-eyed penguins. Thankfully, I was able to see many penguins during this trip. If you love these funny guys as well, read on.

My traveling partner and roommate, Kim, and I love animals. Have you seen my post on getting free cuddles from the SF SPCA? We both miss Bevo very much and because she was good to him, I invited her to join me on this cruise. Besides my required penguin adventure excursion, we had many other animal related trips. We actually went to two zoos on this trip, saw penguins in the wild, attempted to swim with Hector dolphins and we even petted a bird while in the middle of the ocean! A friend spotted a tired bird on the promenade and comforted it while it rested.
After a non-stop flight to Melbourne, Australia from San Francisco via Qantas, we stopped at the Sea Life Aquarium. At first I wasn’t too excited about going as I could see animals at home. I wanted to see what else Melbourne had to offer but nothing was calling out to me. Behind a long line as we did not pre-pay for tickets, we eventually made it in. I have never seen that large of a crocodile before! Huge sting rays and sharks occupied the same tank. And then I saw it! A large amount of emperor penguins behind a glass. The area was much larger than what we have at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. I have never been so close to these large birds. Thru the glass, I was only a couple feet away. They were so awesome and quite big! Much bigger than Bevo. I watched them waddle towards the pool in groups for fish and saw how they swam and dove in the water. I was about to walk away but spotted a momma bird and a baby gray penguin in it’s own area. OMGoodness! Cuteness overload. How smart of Sea Life to save the best animals to the end. Of course, I had to take a photo with the HUGE stuffed penguin. That would be quite the carry on.

Missing our opportunity to explore Melbourne’s nightlife with an 11-hour nap, we had the energy to walk from the Empire Apartments on Elizabeth Street to Vincent the Dog for brunch, then to the Melbourne Zoo. There we booked an experience of meeting kangaroos. They were such cool animals. And what better mammal to visit with while in Australia. But you know what I really wanted to see, right? The penguins! We again saved it for the last. At the entrance of the area, there was a sign up sheet to promise to blow balloons and not balloons at your next outdoor event. As an Event Planner, I signed it. That’s a good idea. So much plastic ends up in our oceans that it ruins the home of many lives. Very sad.

And then I saw this guy. I have never seen a blue penguin and they’re the smallest of the species. He was alone, out of the water, speaking and waddling. So darn cute I couldn’t contain myself. See video of him soon on my YouTube channel. Penguin sightings two days in a row. Melbourne highlights, in my opinion!

We then boarded our cruise ship and had four days at sea before our first excursion. Two nights before we saw land, we received a notice at our door that our yellow-eyed penguin adventure was cancelled due to not hitting the minimum required attendees for the tour. WHAT?!? Why wouldn’t a few more of the 2,000 guests on board want to go see these cuties? I was pretty upset, even dropped to my knees at my bed and asked why. Kim found another tour available that did allow you to see penguins. We booked that immediately. OK, that made me feel better.
Finally reaching port, I fell asleep on the way to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony. We parked and probably awoke due to my excitement. We all stopped off at the toilets, then met in the gift shop. We were moved into a screening room for a short intro the colony. We passed through large photos outlining facts about the penguins, how they mate, their diet and their feathers. We were then taken outside to meet our guide. The birds are nocturnal so they were not out and about waddling around. The colony is a safe haven for them and they have little huts they come home to after being out in the water nearby. We were taken to a shed that allows you to peek in these little homes. You are asked to be quiet and not use your camera so unfortunately I have no photos of these adorable little things. Most of the huts had one penguin but there was one with two penguins in the hut. They were so cute and looked so peaceful. One thing I didn’t expect to discover was how stinky they were. I had to plug my nose as I adored them. You’ve been warned.

The colony has evening tours where guests can sit in stands and watch them as they come in from the water. We didn’t see any traveling in but did see some seals on the rocks relaxing and scratching themselves against the rocks. Not that they weren’t also adorable, we see several sea lions in San Francisco, especially at Pier 39.
The next time I saw these adorable blue penguins were unexpected. At our first port, Akaroa, we were scheduled to swim with the smallest dolphins in the world, the Hector Dolphins. We took the tender from the ship to the dock on an overcast morning. We explored the shops and cafes along the water. Our ticket as to where to meet our group on the pier wasn’t very clear. Thankful for a Princess crew member, he escorted us to where we needed to go. Several people were waiting there and we took a seat. We were then later advised that we needed to check in in the other room. Moving back into the original room, we were introduced to the staff and given wet suits. Use of the restroom was recommended before getting into the suits. You wouldn’t want to swim in your own urine, right? Putting on the wetsuit was a first for me. Those things will make you feel like a sausage!
All suited up, notified of the dos and don’ts, we jumped on the boat. We traveled slow at first out of the dock, then picked up some speed. We hit some bumps, people squeeled with excitement with every leap and paused when we spotted something in the water. The first thing we spotted were two sets of three blue penguins! I was so excited to see them out and about in the wild. How awesome. It was definitely a penguin filled trip so far.
With the main goal to swim with Hector dolphins, we did see a few. However, they didn’t stick around the boat long enough to swim with. We left the cove entirely and went out into open water. It got really rocky and I started to get a little sick. I did my best to keep my eye on the rocks at the distance to minimize the sickness but I was not happy. We spotted more dolphins and it was great to see them but I stayed seated and let Kim try to take the photos. At one point, we did find some and decided to get in. There were about six of us that went into the water. Oh boy, the water would have been really cold without the wet suit. I was impressed. Some water snuck in thru the neckline and traveled its way down to the lady parts. It was a shock! Then it ended up at my feet. The dolphins didn’t stay to hang out but an albatross with its beautiful, long wingspan was very interested in us. We got back in the water and all I wanted to do was get back on land.

Back on land and in Wellington, we opted out of an excursion in the capital city of New Zealand. We decided to explore downtown, check out their cable car that took you to the top of the Botanical Gardens and go to the Wellington Zoo. Unfortunately, no penguins but they did have their own area. I would have been super spoiled to see even more of my favorite animal but a girl can’t have everything. Thank you, Australia and New Zealand, for the encounters.
Where have you spotted penguins in the wild?
Which are you favorite penguins?
Book your animal loving itinerary with me.

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