Business South August 2022

108 | TOURISM Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours Queen of Otago harbours turns 70 Kelly Deeks The MV Monarch has recently clocked up 70 years of service, with more than half her working life carrying about half a million passengers to see rare animals and remote locations on the Otago Peninsula. Icon of New Zealand eco-tourism and Queen of Otago Harbour, the MV Monarch, has recently celebrated her own Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of faithful service and more than half of her life carrying about half a million passengers to see rare animals and remote locations on the Otago Peninsula. Built by Jack Morgan for the McManaway family and first launched in Picton on April 10, 1952, the Monarch spent her first 30 years as a fishing boat around Marlborough and Stewart Island but also carrying timber, whale meat, and up to 400 sheep or 130 passengers at a time, and she spent some time as the Foveaux Strait ferry, The Monarch was purchased by Colleen Black and commissioned for tourist use in 1985. Colleen, a zoologist, had spent time in the Southern Ocean aboard the research vessel RV Acheron with her husband Alex and she was well-versed to commentate tours. She painted the Monarch pink and she and her daughter Fiona skippered in pink uniforms. Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours became a pioneer of eco-tourism on the Otago Peninsula. John and Jenny Milburn bought the boat and business in 2002 and grew it considerably, with an increasing number of cruise ships berthing at Port Chalmers and many more coach tour groups visiting Dunedin. By 2012, John and Jenny celebrated the Monarch’s 60th birthday with a 60% discount day on tours. They sold the boat and business the following year to Neil Harraway and his wife Anita Chan. “The world was then recovering from the global financial crisis of 2008, and we saw a large increase in cruise ships,” Neil says. “We were taking three cruise ship trips a day, hiring a couple of other boats and running a fleet 03 472 8022 17 Macandrew Road, Careys Bay, Dunedin of small buses as well.” The cool southern climes are what bring fantastic wildlife to Dunedin. The albatross, penguins, and seals are basically sub-Antarctic animals, and when the cold southerly blows, the albatross flies its best. Neil says its a pleasure to hear the feedback from people who are seeing an albatross for the first time. “When a Royal Albatross flies close to the boat for the first time, you realise a 3m wing span is a massive length. We are also seeing two kinds of seals including the huge New Zealand sea lions which are unique to the south, two kinds of penguins, including the increasingly rare Hoiho also unique to the south, Hectors and Dusky dolphins, and heaps of different kinds of albatross and mollymawks.” Since Covid hit in 2020, Monarch Wildlife Cruises and Tours is one of five Otago Peninsula businesses that have been kept afloat by the Government’s wage subsidies and grants from the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection