Sunset Cruise 2023

On the evening of the 1st of April, 2023, I went on a Sunset Cruise - a cruise run specifically for photographers to be able to photograph seabird species during the golden hour of sunset. It certainly was a perfect evening for it.

A cruise ship sails out of the Otago Harbour

The wildlife photography opportunities started even before we boarded the boat with a very obliging Otago Shag posing for photographs in beautiful evening light.

Otago Shag

Just as we were about to set sail we were treated to a New Zealand Sea Lion having dinner right before our very eyes as it caught an octopus and proceeded to trash it against the water to dismember and consume it.

New Zealand Sea Lion with its octopus dinner

With a brisk onshore North Easterly and a receding tide, our sail out to sea was quite choppy with the skipper of the boat masterfully navigating the huge swells that we encountered while offering us opportunities to photograph the local wildlife which included a lot of flying juvenile and adult Northern Royal Albatrosses, courting rituals on land between pairs of Northern Royal Albatrosses, a suckling New Zealand Fur Seal pup and a Giant Petrel being chased by a Red-billed Seagull.

A Northern Royal Albatross flies over a group of Northern Royals on the ground

Courting in progress: opening of the wings as seen on the left and sky calling as seen on the right of the image

A pair of courting Northern Royal Albatross

A composite image showing a Northern Royal Albatross flying past the lighthouse at Taiaroa Head

A New Zealand Fur Seal pup suckling

A New Zealand Fur Seal pup with its mum

Juvenile Spotted Shag

As we headed out to sea, the choppiness didn’t subside and stayed with us for most of the outing but it is something one gets used to when one goes on pelagic tours. We came across a huge ‘boil up’ (translated as school) of barracuda. This reminded me of the major ocean current that runs just south of Taiaroa Head that brings in a soup of nutrients. This attracts the fish that in turn attract the pelagic birds (including the albatrosses).

Photography opportunities abounded as the sun started setting and the albatrosses started flying around our boat - the two main species seen were the Northern Royal and White capped albatrosses.

Northern Royal Albatross

White capped Albatross

A Northern Royal Albatross backlit by the sun

A Northern Royal Albatross at sunset

A pair of Hector’s Dolphins escorted us back into the harbour playing hide and seek with the bow of the boat.

Thank You Otago Museum and Monarch Wildlife Cruises for organising the cruise.

The main reason the Museum organised this cruise was to provide photographers the opportunity to capture images that could then be entered into the Tūhura Photography Compeition. All the very best to the photographers on board who might be thinking of entering their images into the competition. I look forward to seeing some of your images on display.

Taiaroa Head at sunset


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