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On the south coast of the South Island, well off the tourist trail on the slow road from Dunedin to Invercargill, is the Catlins.
The mighty Southern Ocean pounds wild and deserted beaches and the opportunity to see wildlife at close quarters is one of the highlights of a visit to the Catlins.
As the morning begins to break, the shy and very rare yellow-eyed penguins start to leave their burrows and cautiously make their way across the sand until they can dive into the breakers and head out to their feeding grounds.
Nearby at Cannibal Bay you can walk along the beach almost within touching distance of the magnificent Hooker’s sea lions as they lounge in the sun and roll in the sand.
The sea lions are quite relaxed to be in the company of humans, and to be so close to such powerful wild animals is a genuine privilege.
Away from the coast the Catlins is very much a landscape of old and new. Lush rolling farmland meets dense native forest through which beautiful waterfalls cascade. Today’s homes and farms stand beside the middens of ancient Maori explorers, the first to visit this isolated place.