11 Aug 2017
Seals, Penguins, and Cat(lins) - Curio Bay to Monkey Island Bay
We awoke to the crashing and thundering of waves on the beach at Curio Bay. We had stayed overnight at the campground in our van, and were able to park up right on the edge of the bay. We started the day by exploring Curio Bay’s petrified forest: what appears to be solid rock around one edge of the bay is in actual fact an ancient fossilised forest that’s been around for 180 million years! It was awesome to look at and scramble over remnants from a far-away world.
We were also treated to a sighting of yellow-eyed penguins, which are some of the rarest on the planet. We managed to get within ten meters of them and snag a photo before we left them to their breakfast!
They reminded us of our own stomachs and we returned to our home on wheels and cooked up a brunch fit for a king. We sat and ate, facing the wild and windy coast that this area is known for, watching the waves crash on the shore, and the wind whip sea-spray into the air. After we’d had our fill, we started making tracks for Invercargill.
We passed through the small township of Waikawa, and ducked around behind the Catlins Conservation forest area. We stopped to view the cliffs at Fortrose, and then from there it was just over half an hour to Invercargill, along the Southern Scenic Route.
Once we made it to Invercargill, we decided to stop in at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, and have a coffee. The museum is a large cultural and heritage institution, and contains a wide variety of the region's art, history and natural history collections. We took in a lot about the wildlife of the region, including the protected birds and the endangered reptiles, such as the tuatara. Southland is known for its bird-watching, being home to the largest Takahe population and the only Kakapo breeding programme in the country, as well as a habitat for kiwi.
There are a number of freedom camping spots in Southland, and we decided to drive an hour on from Invercargill to Monkey Island Bay, which was rather secluded and beautiful. We found the perfect spot, parked up and enjoyed fish n chips (or if you’re making fun of a Kiwi accent, “fush un chups”) that we’d bough in Colac Bay on the beach. There was nobody but us, the sea, and the wild nature around us. Bliss!