Albatross encounter

Albatross encounter

I had to travel down to Burwood Hospital for my regular treatment last week. I decided to combine the trip with some serious photography, starting with bird watching.

I booked a tour with “Albatross Encounters“,  who operate out of Kaikoura.  It’s the same company that run “Dolphin Encounters”, but more on that at the end of this post.

I got some great images.  This first one is a closeup of a female Wandering Albatross, with mating plumage accentuated by a diet of shrimps and krill:

Wandering Albatross 1
Wandering Albatross (Diomedea antipodensis)


These wonderful birds have a wingspan of  around 3 metres and breed on the sub-Antarctic Islands way south of New Zealand.  They are common around Kaikoura at this time of year, no doubt drawn by the abundant marine life.  On the water, they are at times a lot more aggressive than on land:

More reserved were the Northern Royal Albatross, distinguished by the black line along the cutting edge of it’s bill:

Northern Royal Albatross (Diomedea sanfordi)

It was fun to see these large birds sailing into the action with their wings arranged to make themselves as impressive as possible:

We really did get very close to the birds.  This next shot was taken with a 14mm wide angle lens.  The bird in the foreground is a Cape Pigeon or Cape Petrel, Daption capense.

This guy, known affectionately as #512,  has been banded and is seen frequently on these birding trips.  They lose their darker colouring as they grow older.

Juvenile Wandering or Antipodian Albatross (diomedea gibsoni)

A few more images:

Salvin's Albatross (Thalassarche salvini)

We saw 6 different species of albatross that morning.  It was an excellent trip, one I certainly can recommend.  Our skipper Gary was an old sea salt who knew a lot about (and was interested in) the birds we were seeing.

If you are interested in albatross, then the book “Albatross” by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones and Julian Fitter (published by David Bateman Ltd) has many beautiful photographs and a lot of good science as well.

I mentioned the dolphin encounters earlier.  It appears that the tourist operators are still running these trips in a way that greatly adds to the experience.  Instead of dropping the swimmers in amongst the dolphins, they are placed quite some distance away and told to make themselves interesting.  If they are interesting enough, then the dolphins will choose to come and swim with them.  Of course, they almost always do, but that’s not the point: it’s the dolphins’ choice.  We had one person on our trip who had been out with the Dusky Dolphins at dawn.  She was still on a high from the experience, which seems to be the usual reaction.  As a New Zealander, it’s a pleasure hearing about tourism done well!


2 comments

Not sure why I hadn’t stumbled upon this before! Love the images and thanks for sharing! It’s been a wee while now, so am hoping you contemplate a return visit sometime! With thanks and regards from the crew at Alabtross Encounter! :-)

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