Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

Porpoise Bay and Curio Bay

In which Porpoise Bay offers no porpoises, but Curio Bay offers penguins and petrified forest.

To view the full gallery of 25 pictures on imgur, click here.

Porpoise Bay

I based my exploration of The Catlins Coast on advice from various fellow travelers I met at the campground in Dunedin.  After a day at Nugget Point and Cannibal Bay I camped in Balaclutha, and in the morning drove to Porpoise Bay.  I stopped at Florence Hill Lookout just before, for a nice view from above.

Porpoise Bay from Florence Hill Lookout
Porpoise Bay from Florence Hill Lookout

I was hoping to meet porpoises at Porpoise Bay.  A couple of nice German girls had told me that striking two rocks together underwater will draw the attention of dolphins and porpoises, who will investigate the sound.  It was a nice day for fall in The Catlins, but it was too cold for me to think about going into the water.

Porpoise Bay
Porpoise Bay

There were a lot of surfers present, but the beach is so long that most of it was empty.  The waves seemed to break a fair distance from shore, so I didn’t have high hopes of seeing any porpoises, but I took a long walk along the beach anyway.

Porpoise Bay
Porpoise Bay

The beach and scenery are beautiful, and the South Pacific waves put on a great show, so I wasn’t too disappointed to not see porpoises.

Curio Bay

Next stop was Curio Bay.  Unfortunately, I was immediately swarmed by sandflies.  After an application of insect repellent they left me alone for the most part.  The weather probably helped as well; sandflies don’t seem to like rain or cold air, and some light showers had begun.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

I knew that it is best to visit at low tide, but I hadn’t checked the tides.  Fortunately I had a 3G signal at the carpark and was able to check on arrival.  It was a bit early, so I had a quick look at the bay from above.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay

It looked quite submerged, so I decided to walk the Curio Bay Walkway, located just across the road from the carpark.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay Walkway

The walkway is about a thirty minute loop through native forest, with a good selection of the area’s plant life, identified with signs along the path.

Curio Bay Walkway
Curio Bay Walkway

There seemed to be continuing development, but it was a nice walk.

Curio Bay Walkway
Curio Bay Walkway

When I got back to the viewing platform above Curio Bay I saw that there was a yellow-eyed penguin below.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

An Asian lady asked why he was ashore so early, and I guessed that he was molting, and hadn’t gone fishing that day.  Then I hurried down for a closer look.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

Signage at Curio Bay urged keeping a distance of 10 meters from the penguins.  This is a considerably shorter distance than what was recommended elsewhere.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

I used maximum zoom, and I’m pretty happy with some of the pictures.  All of these are cropped and therefore much lower resolution than what I usually post.  In the picture above, and the one below, I enhanced the penguin separately from the background by boosting contrast, saturation and sharpness, so more detail is more easily visible, but the quality suffers a bit in other ways.

Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay
Yellow-eyed penguin at Curio Bay

Sometimes video works better than stills photos, and I think the video below is a much better look at the penguin, only partly because their movements are so entertaining, especially when they have to have to do some rock-hopping.

Curio Bay is a great place to see yellow-eyed penguins, but it is a special place for other reasons.  It is a unique and interesting bit of coastline that seems to always be at least partly underwater.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay

Curio Bay is also a fossilized forest of an age that is very rare in the world.  It is full of petrified logs and stumps of ancient conifers closely related to modern kauri and Norfolk pine that were buried by ancient volcanic mud flows and gradually replaced by silica to produce the fossils now exposed by the sea.

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

The fossilised forest grew at a time of semi-tropical climate and before grasses and flowering plants had come into existence. The original forest of cycads, conifers and ferns was buried by massive floods of ash and volcanic debris either directly from a volcanic eruption or from later heavy rain on a barren volcanic mountain. Distinct bands of fossilised vegetation exposed in the cliff face indicate that in between such floods, the forest grew back at least four times over a period of some 20,000 years. Following this, the area remained buried over millions of years. Silica started to impregnate the wood and eventually turned it into stone, preserving not just tree stumps and wood, but in some places also fern fronds and leaves.
Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curio_Bay
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curio_Bay
Curio Bay
Curio Bay

Curio Bay is a unique and amazing place in a beautiful setting!

Curio Bay
Curio Bay

To view the full gallery of 25 pictures on imgur, click here.

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