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Auckland Aquatics and Friends

Auckland

Auckland

Back to the city, we traveled with new adventures in mind.  The skyline of Auckland is dominated by the Sky Tower.  At 328 meters tall, (~1,000 ft), it is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere with its impressive spire!  Visitors can ride to the top in the glass-fronted lifts to one of the three spectacular viewing platforms, or for more thrills and excitement, SkyWalk round the pergola, or even SkyJump off the Tower!  Now, there’s a thrilling ride!  You also can relax with a coffee or light refreshments at Sky Lounge or dine at Orbit – Auckland’s only 360-degree revolving restaurant.  But, my new day hosts, Alison Laurence and Hazel Foote, had lowlier destinations in mind!

Gentoo Swim

Gentoo Swim

Knowing about my passion for all things feathered, we headed down to Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium.  Built from the abandoned former sewage tunnels, it opened in 1985.  The original Underwater World was the vision of Kelly Tarlton – an extraordinary Kiwi adventurer, diver, explorer and inventor, who wanted to share his love of the ocean with others.

The attraction is made up of different zones, such as the Antarctic Ice Encounter, which is home to New Zealand’s largest sub-Antarctic penguin colony, offering a rare opportunity to see the magnificent birds up close in their icy domain. With the new walking paths, visitors can spend as long as they like watching the 80-strong colony of King and Gentoo penguins and their playful antics on the snow and their elegant flight underwater.

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

Kelly Tarlton’s has undergone major renovations since my last visit there 19 months ago.  Gone is the mock Antarctic vehicle that used to transport visitors through the tunnels.  In its place are spacious walking tracks with large windows, perfect for viewing the penguin colony above and below ground.  We got great looks at the Gentoo Penguins both above and below the surface.

King Penguins

King Penguins

The larger King Penguins tended to stay aloof from the boisterous Gentoos.  We were there for feeding time, which was a real treat.  The second largest penguin, smaller only than the Emperor Penguin, no other bird has a longer breeding cycle. They take 14 to 16 months to fledge a single chick. During the winter, chicks may be left to fast for from one to five months (May to September/October). Adults can rear a maximum of only two chicks every three years.

King and Gentoo Penguins

King and Gentoo Penguins

We were there for feeding time at 11 a.m. which was an extra thrill.  One of the King Penguins is quite elderly and arthritic and spends much of the day on a heated area to help with this arthritic feet.  He moves slowly but with determination.  During feeding this charmer vocalized for his caretaker with whom he has bonded.  Such a treat!

In addition to the penguins, SEA LIFE has an extensive museum with artifacts, photos and a walk-through replica of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic hut (established back in 1911), complete with authentic memorabilia offers a glimpse at what it was like to live 100 years ago in the coldest place on Earth.

Lion Fish

Lionfish

Of course, the aquarium hosts many forms of sea life in a huge array of tanks.  However, it’s really hard to get a decent photo of any thing that is swimming in a tank of water, so this lionfish was the best I could do! In addition to being a major tourist attraction, SEA LIFE has established the SEA LIFE Conservation Fund (SLCF), an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and protecting New Zealand’s unique aquatic habitats and the incredible animals that live in them.  SLCF is dedicated to conserving the marine environment by funding and carrying out research and educational projects that will help protect threatened species and habitats, and teach us more about the relatively little-known marine world.

Jaws!

Jaws!

And then there were the BIG FISH I was happy that I didn’t meet!  Or should that be meat?

 

 

 

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