Bird of the month: The albatross
What’s not to love about the albatross?
The albatross is the largest sea bird on the planet, and they spend as much as 85 per cent of their lives away from land. In New Zealand, there are fourteen varieties of this bird, the most famous of which is arguably the Royal Albatross, as this is the largest of them all.
Due to their time spent at sea, it’s likely that the only time you’ll get a chance to spot an albatross of any kind is when it returns to land to breed and hatch their young. Most albatross only breed once every two years, making them both a special sight – and a reasonably rare species due to their low productivity!
While they’re away, an albatross flies an estimated 190,000 kilometres every year. To put that in perspective, it’s approximately 2,200 kilometres from Cape Reinga to Bluff, so an albatross would cover that distance roughly 86 times every 12 months. What’s even more incredible is that a young bird will spend the first three to five years of its life out at sea, not once touching land for that time.
With a wingspan of up to 3.3 metres across, it’s hard to miss one of these magnificent birds. They are almost completely white, but the top sides of their wings are black. Should you see one walking around on land, it may look decidedly clumsy, but in flight they are something truly spectacular.
Additionally, many albatrosses live to be in their 40s, making them some of the longest-living birds on the planet.
One of the most common places to see an albatross is on the headland at Taiaroa Head on the Otago Peninsula, where breeding birds arrive in September to nest. If you happen to be in the South Island around this time, a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre there is a must!
5 things to do in Auckland during the World Masters Games
The World Masters Games are coming to Auckland in April from the 21st to the 30th, and bringing with them 28 of the most exciting sports on the planet. With more than 25,000 participants and their slew of supporters and crew, it’s going to be one of the biggest, busiest and best events Auckland has ever seen.
If you’re in town for the games and are looking to see more of the city, here are five great things to do in Auckland during your stay!
1. Experience the Sky Tower
The Auckland Sky Tower is arguably the most iconic structure in New Zealand – and at 328 metres tall, it’s definitely the highest!
You can take the elevator up to the two viewing levels for unbeatable 360-degree views of the city. For something special, enjoy a dinner in the rotating restaurant at the top and dine in style as your table literally moves around the edge of the floor. Or get adventurous and try the SkyWalk outside the building 192 metres up, or go the whole way by leaping off the edge with the adrenalin-pumping SkyJump!
2. Spend a day at Mission Beach
Mission Beach is a short drive from Auckland city along the waterfront, and it’s a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike. Here, you can shop at the small stores, pick up an ice cream to enjoy on the beach, or grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes that line the shore.
Or, simply bring a book and settle down on the golden sands for a relaxing day at the beach with the magnificent Mt Rangitoto in front of you.
3. Visit the wineries of Waiheke
Waiheke Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland, and while the trip to get there is stunning in itself, this destination is truly something to write home about.
There are countless wineries on the island, and you could easily spend many days touring all of them. The island also boasts phenomenal beaches, art galleries, and a laid-back culture that will quickly make you feel at home.
4. Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge
Adventurous types will love the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the chance to cross it on foot, climbing through the internal structure and over the very top of it with an experienced guide.
Normally, the bridge is closed to foot traffic, so this experience gives you a rare view of the inside of the bridge and from the top of the railings. Plus, your guide will talk you through some of the most interesting aspect’s of its history and engineering!
5. Take a tour with Habitat Tours
Take a break from the city life and discover the real New Zealand with an eco tour from Auckland that will introduce you to some of the most fantastic plant and bird life in the country.
Due to New Zealand’s geographical isolation, we boast a large variety of native and endemic species that you won’t see anywhere else in the world, and with an experienced and knowledgeable guide, you’ll learn all about them. Of course, one of the country’s most special inhabitants is the iconic kiwi, and you’ll have the chance to meet one outside of the zoo and inside its own native habitat on a Tawharanui day-night tour, where we encounter one of these birds approximately 70 per cent of the time.
No matter what you do, be sure to experience as much of Auckland as possible and enjoy every minute of it during your stay!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist