As far as the peninsula’s natural attractions are concerned, it is the famous royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head that draws most attention. With a wing-span of over 9ft (3m) the royal albatross (Diomedea epomophora) is the world’s largest sea-bird. Nowhere else on the globe do they breed so close to human habitation. In fact except for here and a few remote subantarctic islands, they are rarely seen on land as they spend the greater part of their solitary lives gliding over the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere. When they do come ashore it is only to breed. The single egg laid in November hatches in January and by September the young birds are ready to depart the colony. It will be eight to ten years before these birds are ready to breed themselves, but with a life-span of well over 60 years, plenty of time remains to produce offspring.
The albatross colony can only be visited as part of a one hour guided tour which needs to booked in advance at the Dunedin Visitor Centre. A slightly longer tour (1 1/2 hours) also includes a visit to Fort Taiaroa where the main attraction is a historic Armstrong ‘disappearing gun’. Placed on the headland in 1888 to counter a feared Russian invasion (which did not eventuate), the gun was only raised above ground when it was ready to fire.