Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony offers visitors the opportunity to watch blue penguins in the wild return home to nest after a day’s fishing.
The evening viewing, includes a 20 minute commentary before the penguins arrive by a guide. Penguins return in groups. This is called a raft. The guide will announce a raft’s arrival on the beach and then visitors sit quietly as these noisy creatures make their way up over the rocks and home to their nests – you will hear the penguins before you see them.
Photography and filming is not permitted during the evening as penguins are easily frightened by noise, movement and bright lights. The photos I have included are ones I took the following day when I went to look at the seals resting on the rocks.
Seating is in one of two grandstands. The General Entry Grandstand offers views of the penguins from about 10 to 15 metres away. The Premium Viewing offers individual seating and views only a few metres away from the penguins. Although on the night I visited those in the general viewing still got to see at least one raft of penguins up close as that group had to cross by to get to their nests behind the grandstand.
Another advantage to the Premium Viewing is that as you make your way out to the grandstand you will cross a boardwalk amongst the penguin’s nesting burrows.
The General Viewing Grandstand can hold up tp 350 people. Premium Viewing is restricted to 60 guests.
In summer you may see up to 200 penguins. In winter this can be less than 30. When I visited in March I saw over 100 penguins.
The area where the penguins nest was previously a rock quarry. The area was set aside as a protected breeding area for the penguins and in 1993 a tourism operation was established and a penguin-monitoring programme began. The programme provides nesting boxes and maintains the nesting habitat. This includes setting traps to catch introduced predators.
Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is located at 2 Waterfront Road, Oamaru.