In which Miles visits Wharariki Beach and the Archway Islands on a day filled with seals, pups and adults alike.
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When I set out for Wharariki Beach I was venturing west of Collingwood for the first time in ten years. It was good to see the views along the way once again. Below is a view of Golden Bay from Puponga.
The shortest trail to Wharariki Beach is just 20 minutes. It starts with rolling hills and pastures and sheep, adds trees and shade, and then introduces white sand to the mix.
When I reached the top of the dunes at the edge of the beach a view of the length of the beach opened up before me. I stopped to take pictures. The couple visible below were friendly, and told me that there was a seal pup on the beach, “having a wee scratch”. I thanked them and set off to find the little guy, thinking that it sounded like they had only seen the one, and that he wouldn’t stick around forever.
I looked for the largest group of people who appeared to all be taking pictures of the same thing. I found a whole group of seal pups playing in shallow pools at the base of the green-topped rock behind the grassy dunes shown above. The rocks to the left of that are the Archway Islands, from this angle not showing why they are so named.
About seven cute little pups wrestled with each other, taking breaks to crawl up onto the rocks to have rest and a scratch, then heading back into the water to wrestle with their buddies some more.
A sign on the way in warns against bothering the seals. The people already there kept a good distance from the pups, and the two or three young adults in the area.
After a while, most of us wandered away to take in nearby sights on the Beach. I noticed one girl arriving by herself, and walking up much closer to the little seals. I considered suggesting that she might be too close, but instead I observed. None of the seals, young or old, seemed to mind.
Soon I and several others joined her. The seal pups ignored us for the most part. One noticed a girl squatting down to take pictures from a low angle, and became curious. I thought he was going to walk right up to her, but after approaching within a few feet, he changed his mind, and went back to attack one of his playmates.
The video below was shot fully zoomed in, so it may be shakier than previous videos.
This somewhat older seal sunned himself higher up on the rock. Behind him you can see a cave. While I was watching several seals emerged from that cave.
After a very short walk to the south it starts to become apparent how Archway Islands got their name.
A short distance further and the other island shows its good side.
As I walked toward the south I was drawn to the many caves in the large rocks along the beach.
I met a family who were looking in the many small pools for sea creatures. Many of these pools were in holes in the rock well above the current level of the sea. They were filed with water… but it had rained heavily the last few days. The tides vary drastically in Golden Bay, so maybe the same is true at Wharariki Beach, on the Tasman Sea.
They showed me these crabs.
And these sea slugs.
And these sea anemones.
And this seal, hiding in the rocks.
This guy opened his eyes, and moved his head just enough to look at me, as I took his picture, but couldn’t be bothered to move any more than that.
I’ve noticed that when a seal is napping, he (or she) really can’t be bothered. The seal below was a good example of this.
This guy was crashed hard, right in the middle of the beach, no shelter of any kind around. Every now and then he would lift a flipper to catch a cool breeze. He looked my way as I took pictures. As I was leaving the beach I talked to a German girl who had wondered if this guy was dead, or dying. As I told her, I’m pretty sure he was just very dedicated to his nap.
As I mentioned, it had rained hard for two days previous to my visit to Whaririki Beach. I suppose the seals were just enjoying a bit of sun. Maybe the seas had been rough, and they were tired. In any case, I spoke to other people who saw few seals, or none, on their visits to this beach. The day of my visit was a good day for seal watching.
Below is another picture of this seal, with the south end of the beach in the background.
I walked as far south as I could. At the south end of the beach these seals sunned on the rocks, well out of reach of people – but they barked at me and another visitor when we came too close. I guess they had chosen the far end of the beach for a reason.
As I returned to the north end of the beach I explored more caves and tunnels.
As I passed the entrance to the beach I recognized some Dutch tourists who shared the campground in Collingwood. I was able to direct them to the baby seal pools.
Near the north end of the beach Wharariki Stream empties into the sea.
The north end has more sand dunes, and I walked over those as I headed south again.
Wharariki Beach is 3 kilometers long, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking it twice.
While shooting pictures at Te Waikoropupū Springs my camera rolled over – it started naming files at DSC_0001 again. This means that at some point that day I had shot over 30,000 pictures with that camera.
At Wharariki Beach I filled both memory cards for the first time. The camera holds two, and I have one 16gb card and one 8GB card. In addition to shooting a number of movies, I shot over 1000 photos that day. Wharariki Beach is one of the most photogenic places I’ve seen.
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