Catlins Forest Park

Trip Start Apr 16, 2006
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Trip End Apr 15, 2007


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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The further south we got the dodgier the weather became so by the time we hit the Catlins forest area in the bottom right hand corner of the island things were looking pretty miserable. We found a small campsite ideally located on Surat Bay over looking the beach and sat with the radio and the heater on waiting for summer. We would have sat there all day had we not caught sight of a sea lion blobbing his way out of the ocean and up the beach right before our eyes. I've never seen one of these guys in the flesh before and let me tell you - he was massive. As big as a cow he rolled around in the sand, struggled up the beach and eventually wobbled into the sand dunes to sleep. We followed and managed to take a couple of decent snaps before he spotted us and decided to have a go. Even with his lower body flat out behind him when he pushed himself up onto his front flippers he was as tall as I. He opened his mouth, bared his teeth and let our a gutteral bellow which reeked of semi-digested fish. I got one more snap then legged it.
That evening when the rain stopped we headed for a huge stretch of deserted beach just beyond the dunes. We took a bottle of red wine and sat in the sand to drink and watch the sea. Two seals were rolling around off to our right and they, too, were huge. We crept closer trying to get a decent look at them which they allowed us to do up until about 5 metres. Each was as big as a man and not particularly cute looking. Then with perfect co-ordination when it seems we had taken one step too far they both reared up and took a charge at us. We panicked and turned to run but kept flailing in the dry sand, spilling red wine on our legs and dropping our cups. Managing to just keep ahead of them they eventually chased us right off the beach and back into the dunes. Funny, we thought, how their first instinct was not to turn and head for the sea but rather stand their ground and indeed pick a fight. We spent the rest of the evening in the safety of the campsite kitchen with the lights on and the doors locked. 

Recommendation - Catlins, wonderful coastline and plenty of wildlife but its best not to monkey with the seals.   
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