Public viewing of yellow-eyed penguins / hoiho

The best way to watch hoiho is with a commercial operator. This way you can get all of the inside knowledge and ensure that you have minimum impact on the birds.

There are several commercial operations which take visitors to view hoiho. They can be contacted via the local visitor centre:

  • Oamaru Visitor Information, 1 Thames Street, Oamaru, phone 03 434 1656
  • Dunedin Visitor Centre, Civic Centre, 50 The Octagon, Dunedin, phone 03 474 3300
  • Catlins Information Centre, 10 Campbell Street, Owaka, phone 03 415 8323
  • Invercargill Information Centre, 108 Gala Street, Invercargill, phone 03 211 0895

Another option is to go to a beach with a public viewing hide, so you can watch penguins without disturbing them. There are hides on the Otago and Southland coast at Bushy Beach, Curio Bay and Nugget Point Reserve.

Viewing Protocol

The Trust encourages the public to be invisible and inaudible when viewing hoiho, preferably using a hide or viewing point so the penguin is less aware of your presence.

Birds are very vulnerable to disturbance from humans. Human presence can be particularly stressful during the breeding season and when birds are moulting. Adults may flee and not return to feed chicks if disturbed. Moulting birds are unable to go to sea during the 4 week moult and are low on energy as they have not fed during this time, this makes it hard for them to get away.

The public should vacate beaches adjacent to penguin nest areas during the times when the birds are coming in or leaving for sea. This is generally from mid-afternoon until dark. If you are caught on the beach or a track by a returning yellow-eyed penguin the best thing is be quiet, and move away when the opportunity arises. Do not move toward the penguin or it may flee back to sea.

Please follow these simple guidelines to minimise impact and stress on the penguins:

  • For the best views, take binoculars, instead of approaching or following birds.
  • Keep your distance – 50 metres away is best.
  • Talk quietly and move slowly.
  • Hide so they can’t see you (squat down low if you can’t hide, so you are not as visible).
  • Keep to formed tracks and don’t cross fence lines.
  • Keep your dog away from penguins – they may kill them.

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