As I mentioned in my previous post, we did an absolutely amazing tour while in Wellington, Seal Coast Safari. I glossed over a lot of its attributes in my two-day jam-packed windy Welly schedule for the sake of dedicating and entire post to it.
Get ready for all the dirty details.
This (land-based) 3-hour tour picks up and drops off at the centrally located iSite on Wakefield Street.
Tours depart twice a day at 10:00am and 1:30pm.
A group tour will set you back $125NZD per person. Private charters are available as well.
Our experience was in a Toyota LandCruiser with side bench seats in the rear.
Highlights include: fur seals (obviously), the Brooklyn wind turbine, the red rocks, Hawkins Hill and Tongue Point.
Seal Coast Safari, in depth.
As we were visiting on the cusp of Winter, i.e. not exactly peak tourist season, our tour consisted of just ourselves and one other person. We took the morning tour, but the afternoon group had at least 8 people just waiting to cram into the truck – Lions fans decked out in their team colors biding time till the Rugby match. I honestly can’t imagine being packed in like sardines after sitting back there just the two of us. Our fellow tourist took the front passenger seat to avoid any motion sickness. If you find yourself on a crowded tour, I recommend snagging the front seat if you’re solo.
Once departing the iSite, the tour proceeds through the city, highlighting a few suburbs along the way, most notably Brooklyn (not NY). Once getting outside the city limits, we came upon the Brooklyn wind turbine and a decent view over the metropolis we’d be leaving behind. From here, we joined up with a backroad taking us across private farmland to another stunning vista, this time looking out over the city as well as the harbor leading into Cook Strait. On a clear day you can even see the South Island in the distance.
Onward and downward.
From this point its all downhill, literally not metaphorically. Once down to the beach, it wasn’t long before we were confronted with our first fur seals of the day. We bumped into a colony right where we entered the beach. Handy tip: prepare yourselves because these guys are stinky. I would like to say you get used to it, but I don’t want to lie to you. We just had to grin and bear it, but it is definitely worth it. Even though we’ve seen fur seals several times throughout our NZ travels, this was the most we’ve seen in numbers and certainly the closest point we’ve been able to view them from.
What I really liked about this tour was their respectful approach to wildlife. Our guide gave us clear boundaries to adhere to in regard to the seals. It is so important to be conscious that you are entering the habitat of a wild animal. They are not here for our entertainment, but are simply allowing us to enjoy their company. Nothing peeves me more than people stupidly trying to push boundaries with or exploiting wildlife.
Now began the part we were really excited for, rumbling through the sand along the rugged coastline. I’ve never really been off-roading before. A fact that I am honestly surprised at, considering where I call home. This was an enlightening first experience. And it certainly won’t be my last.
Sliding in the sand, traversing creeks and speeding along without a road (or car) in sight was a completely invigorating experience. I never knew how confining roads were until living the thrill of driving without them. And our guide was an expert driver. We were stuck for the briefest of moments, but he skillfully extracted the tires and we were off again. Tongue Point is the end of the journey. A massive fur seal colony awaits with a quaint leaning lighthouse off in the background. How poetic, am I right?
We were able to hop out and wander around as our driver made us each a hot drink and passed out tasty homemade muffins. We’d been taking our time at each stopping point and were running a bit behind, but he still allowed us to take a decent chunk of time on the point. We even arrived back in town a bit after the afternoon tour was scheduled to leave.
Be a pleasant passenger.
If you end up on an afternoon tour, be like the group who followed us and greet the driver with a smile instead of frustration. He just allowed the morning group an extra 40 minutes so likely will do the same for you… if not in a greater capacity to compensate for waiting. That is just the kind of vibe we got from Seal Coast Safari. It is an incredibly accommodating and friendly locally-owned company. One we highly recommend patronizing on your next visit to Wellington.
All photographs shown above were taken by Beardo… aka J.Howell Photography.
We are always looking for our next responsible wildlife encounter – what’s the best animal experience you’ve had? Let me know in the comments!