Sunday, 9 February 2014

Cannibal Bay, Catlins

It's all about sealions once again & I realise that some of you may well have had enough of seeing sealions sprawled out across my pages but I promise this will be the last one for the time being as tomorrow we move inland & then hopefully I'll be apologising about the multiple photos of brown trout!

Cannibal Bay is another one of those beautiful sheltered & secluded bays that is usually by-passed by the "must see NZ in 2 weeks" type who have only allocated 2-3 days to see the Catlins. But if it's sealions you want to see then the 8km drive down a narrow winding gravel road is well worth it. It is here that we have seen the most sealions in all of the places that we have visited, 8 in total.

Cannibal Bay is just a short climb over reasonably high sand dunes from the far north end of Surat Bay, the bay that we walked up for miles to find the sealions when we stopped at Newhaven on the way south back in early December. The rocky headland below (that looks like a face- or perhaps a cannibal!) separates the two bays. Cannibal Bay was named by a surveyor after he found human bones there, although nothing indicated that they had been eaten.

The tide was on it's way in but we had time to explore in amongst the rocky outcrops at the north end of the bay. Again the colours were fabulous, the bull kelp laying thick on the exposed rocks.

A lot of the rocky ledges here & in Kaka Point have evenly spaced ridges which run the full length, like they have been shunted together & pushed upwards at even intervals. I'm sure there is a name for them. Nursery beds of tiny mussels & lots of barnacles cover the rocks.

And quietly running along the ledges we spotted a NZ Pipit (pihoihoi), these are shy & solitary birds although you can approach them quite closely. They look like the more common introduced skylark but can be distinguished by their constant bobbing action as they run or stand, flicking their long tails. Pipits live near beaches, in rough grasslands, on verges of unsealed roads, on open river beds, and in high-country tussock grasslands among glaciers. This one was feeding from the end of the seaweed stem.

After exploring the rocks we wondered if there were any sealions up on the beach. Looking through the binoculars & right down the far end of the bay we spotted some familiar large lumps of  "seaweed" & "driftwood" lazing on the sand. I'm sure people that pull into the bay must get out of their cars have a quick look down the beach, see nothing that resembles a sealion, get back in again & drive away. Particularly here where the entrance to the beach is right up in the northern corner. So if you are planning on visiting Cannibal Bay be prepared to walk to the south end, you won't spot any sealions until you're just about on top of them. Here are the first three that we came across; chilling in the cool sand on a hot day.

The sealion on the left above was sprawled out on his back and it was with surprise that I recognised him. He was the same sealion that was chased by a bigger boy when we visited Jacks Bay over a week ago. Jacks Bay is a good few kilometres south. The photo on the right below is one I took at Jacks Bay, you can see a round missing chunk of skin on his chest between his front flippers. On the left the missing piece is covered in sand but still visible. At least he has some mates this time. And what a mate he had, the biggest sealion we have come across.

He obviously felt quite at home in the others company, he was catching flies (literally) while snoring away. That's not him waving at me, they hold their flippers up to direct cool air down.

Here the big boy had a yawn & stretch while another sealion rolled about on the wet sand behind him. He reminded me of a cat or dog doing the same.

Further on I came across another four sealions including a second huge boy with the beginning of a thick mane.

I had walked down to the end of the bay while David went & got the ute & drove down, he wanted to check out another ute & boat trailer tucked up by the rocks at the far end. His interest in sealions is fast waning; seen one seen them all he reckons. He would prefer for them to be walking or swimming in the waves. Here he is quietly cruising past the sleeping sealions.

And here is the big boy, isn't he gorgeous? (Click on the photos to make them bigger)

Having a stretch & yawn.... 

And a scratch....

 Did you say "cheese"?

This guy with the soulful look appears to be a little worse for wear.

And finally then this was the last of the sealions, a smaller boy tucked up under the dunes right beside the track over to Surat Bay.

I thought this would make a good Ford ad...

And still with one more surprise on the way home, I spotted this wild deer & her fawn grazing just below the road, she quickly took off for the bush when we stopped.


  1. I'm not sick of sealions yet! Great to see them and the deer - a nice surprise for you.

    1. Thanks Olwen, just for you I changed the banner up top :)


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