Dolphins, Penguins, Sea Lions and Pandas* at The Catlins + Surprise Video!

The Catlins is a region in the south-east part of New Zealand’s South Island. It feels like the most deserted area of the country: No cellular reception, lots of unsealed roads, and less tourists (but no worries, the coffee scene is blossoming nevertheless). We stayed for four nights at the same accommodation A stayed at 13 years ago (!), which was just as great as he remembered. Overall visiting The Catlins was one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Wildlife is so accessible here: Want to swim with dolphins? Go swimming at Porpoise Bay, where a pod of 20 or so dolphins lives and will come to check you out. Want to see penguins? It’s a 10 minute walk from the dolphins. Sea Lions? A little drive up north. And so on, all with free and uninterrupted access.

In short, if you visit New Zealand, spending a few days at the Catlins is a must – it feels like the “real” New Zealand, unspoiled, non-commercialized, with tons of wildlife and very few tourists.

A lookout above Oyster / Tautuku bay, typical Catlins beach : long, beautiful, mostly empty. We saw two surfers there once - busy day!

A lookout above Oyster / Tautuku bay, typical Catlins beach : long, beautiful, mostly empty. We saw two surfers there once – busy day!

We stayed at the amazing "Hilltop Accommodation" - imagine a comfortable home (including a dishwasher!) on top of a hill overlooking this view, with only 1-2 people at most staying there with us.

We stayed at the amazing “Hilltop Accommodation” – imagine a comfortable home (including a dishwasher!) on top of a hill overlooking this view, with only 1-2 people at most staying there with us.

Nugget Point is an impressive lighthouse.

Nugget Point is an impressive lighthouse.

These are the "nuggets".

These are the “nuggets”.

Sea Lions playing at Surat Bay.

Nearby is Surat Bay, where we walked on the long beach, careful not to step on sleeping Sea Lions. Some of them were awake and gave us awesome photo ops.

The darker is a male, who came out of the ocean and woke up his sleeping lady friend who was sleeping in the sun.

The darker is a male, who came out of the ocean and woke up his sleeping lady friend who was sleeping in the sun.

Eventually she got tired of him and went back to the water.

Eventually she got tired of him and went back to the water.

Walking to the entrance of Cathedral Caves. We discovered two (related) things: 1) These are only accessible during low tide 2) N's hiking boots are extremely water-resistant!

Walking to the entrance of Cathedral Caves. We discovered two (related) things:
1) The caves are only accessible during low tide
2) N’s hiking boots are extremely water-resistant

We entered from one cave, came out of the other cave.

We entered from one cave, came out of another.

NZ Sheep obey traffic signs!

NZ Sheep obey traffic signs!

During the one-hour drive from Curio Bay (where the penguins are) to Hilltop, we saw at most one car each time. But we had to slow down for other road users: 4 deer, 4 possums, 3 rabbits, 2 porcupines, and 1 owl (most of them during nighttime).

Penguins! At Curio Bay - today, a nesting place for dozens of Yellow Eyed Penguins. Millions of years ago, a forest that was covered in a volcanic eruption. You can see tree stumps all around.

Penguins! At Curio Bay – today, a nesting place for dozens of Yellow Eyed Penguins. Millions of years ago, a forest that was covered in a volcanic eruption. You can see tree stumps all around.

Amazingly and inexplicably, these penguins are not as afraid of humans as the penguins we saw elsewhere in NZ. They basically came to us.

Amazingly and inexplicably, these penguins are not as afraid of humans as the penguins we saw elsewhere in NZ. They basically came to us.

Young chubby chick ("Schmendrik") still growing its feathers at 6-7 weeks old.

Young chubby chick (“Schmendrik”) still growing its feathers at 6-7 weeks old.

His (skinny) parents greeting each other after a long day.

His (skinny) parents greeting each other after a long day.

And preening...

And preening…

The family united!

The family united!

Surprise video – here’s a video N took on her iPhone of the penguins at Curio Bay:

Can’t get enough of our penguin photos and videos? We now have a whole page dedicated to the animals we see on the trip.

* no pandas