a VirtualTourist member from Singapore
Is it possible to see the albatrosses flying about without joining the tour?
Yes you can view them flying the cliffs, from the lookout points outside of the Albatross centre. You can drive there. But this is at the far end of the Otago Peninsula, so not sure how you are getting around. We drove.
Also, it depends on the time of year as to whether or not you can see any. You need to check their website for that info.
hi there kiwi is right i have done the tour a few years back. and it was not until we were back at the car looking over the coast that we saw the flying abatrosses. they were manificent. seeing them in "real life" is amazing.
I'll pipe in here to say that you can see them flying without going into the center, but sometimes at a distance, so if you have a pair of binoculars, it would be recommended.
But you will not see any of the nesting on the ground without going into the center.
The point about visiting the royal albatross centre is seeing the birds interachting on the ground, buildings nests, and the fledglings, their feeding and waddling around (at certain times of the year), not only flying albatrosses. You can also see flying albatrosses in other places off New Zealand's coast. Sure, not all of them are royal albatrosses but the difference is not huge. The unique thing about Taiaroa Head is that it's the only mainland colony in the world.
The colony is closed during mating from 17 September to 24 November. Right after re-opening it becomes interesting. The chicks hatch until February/March. 30 to 40 days after hatching the parents leave the chicks alone in the nest. So the best time to visit is from late November until end of March.
While you can see albatrosses flying from outside the centre (binoculars recommended, luck required) it is worth the small fee to visit the centre, as it gives you so much more information about these magnificant birds and their life.
Also, beyond direct observation of nesting birds and fledglings, there are remote camera views of nests that you would not otherwise see.
And, the observation gallery supplies binoculars, if you don't have your own.