Waipapa Point is a great place to visit to see rugged coastline, sea mammals and an historic lighthouse, and is situated on the eastern side of The Catlins at the bottom of the South Island.
The wooden lighthouse has been in continuous operation since 1884, and became fully automated in 1976.
The New Zealand Sea Lion, endemic to New Zealand, occasionally comes ashore here to rest on the beach and in the coastal turf. Fur Seals look similar and sometimes come ashore here, although they generally prefer a more rocky beach. Sea Lions are much larger than seals and have a blunt snout and short whiskers, but are very similar in the colouring of their fur.
The snoozing sea lion on the beach here was a female, about half the size of an adult male who can grow up to 3.5 metres long and weigh up to 450kg.
As my husband and I walked up towards the lighthouse we were startled to see a large male sea lion waking from his sleep, hidden in the turf beside the path. We prudently retreated up the hill to a safe distance and watched him.
The New Zealand Sea Lion, known as Rapoka in Maori, is one of the rarest sea lions in the world. It is a species currently in decline and is fully protected by law.
If you ever come across one, feel privileged but be warned that they can chase you and deliver a nasty bite. Do not disturb or frighten them and stay at least 10 metres away, or more if you have a dog with you. Never run away from a close encounter, but back off slowly and avoid direct eye contact.
The male we were observing took his time to wake up. He stretched and yawned and rolled around a bit, before slowly lumbering across the turf and down onto the beach.
Once on the beach he began flipping sand up over himself. He must have done this for several minutes, in a slow and calculated manner, before finally sprawling out motionless on the sand and beginning another snooze session.
It is generally thought sea lions, along with other similar species, flip sand over themselves as a way of keeping cooler, of protecting themselves from the sun.
We felt very honoured to have witnessed this male and female sea lion in the wild, and left them sleeping just metres apart from each other.
They were living their lives doing what sea lions have always done. They were not worried about where their next meal was coming from, or the fact that their species is under threat. They were appreciating and enjoying the moment.
Whatever crises mankind faces, time passes and life continues. Nature carries on like it has always done – the tide comes in and the tide goes out, birds build nests in springtime, and the sun shines every day (even when we cannot see it!). We can learn so much from our observations of Nature.
As we left Waipapa Point I stopped and photographed these trees. The wind down here can be extremely fierce at times and I believe it blows on most days. We were fortunate on the day we visited as there was no wind and it was sunny.
Never give up hope, look for good things in your life and be thankful for them.
LINKING UP WITH Saturday's Critters