The mountains plunge into the ocean at Kaikoura, their peaks rosy in the sunrise. They are blushing, unnerved by the lavish attention the sun pours upon them this morning. The boat zips along the water, churning up the calm blue seas with its wake of white froth. And in amongst it, black dorsal fins appear; the dusky dolphins are playing, teasing and enticing us into the sea.
It’s 5:30am. Sarah and I are shivering in our wetsuits. After an awkward night camping, taking a dip in the freezing Pacific Ocean hardly appeals. But once the horn blows on our boat, we are all told to slip into the water as quickly as possible and swim swim swim to the dolphins, who are a few metres away. My face is glued to the water and it isn’t long before I spy my first dolphin. I squeal with delight but that’s good! We have been told to squeal and sing and laugh to attract the dolphins’ attention. Soon, I am surrounded. There are dolphins above, dolphins below, dolphins spinning me in circles as I catch their eye and play their favourite game: Make the funny people dizzy! As we have been told, we are there to entertain the dolphins, not vice versa. There is a chance they won’t play. And then there are once-in-a-lifetime chances, like today, when the dolphins are so cheery and playful that they can’t get enough of you. They are close enough to touch, but we don’t. They are close enough to see every little scratch on their skin, to watch their splash as they perform their acrobatic stunts, to see them nibble on jellyfish as they snatch one in front of your face. Sarah and I have an underwater camera, and the pictures will either be fabulous or terrible. They were everywhere, but they were so fast.
By 9am, we are exhausted. With the blessing of our skipper Hank, I climb out onto the prow of the boat, throw my legs over the side and start snapping photos. The dusky dolphins are the acrobats of the ocean, and they are in full performance mode this morning. They are somersaulting and jumping in huge groups. There are over 200 dolphins in the vicinity of our boat and there are three boats in the water in total. One of the other boats has a pod of 300 dolphins swimming near it. I have never been in an environment with such an abundance of active, visible marine life. The dolphin encounter in Monkey Mia doesn’t even come close to comparing in terms of sheer numbers of dolphins. Albatross soar overhead too, king of the birds.
I would recommend this trip to anyone; it was fabulous and worth every second of the early morning wake up. We used Dolphin Encounter, and their website is: http://www.dolphin.co.nz/kaikoura/ .
Road Trips with Sunny
Sunny is our constant companion for the next 2 1/2 months! He is the one that will take us around the south island, keep us safe and carry our stuff. Already he has seen much of Christchurch and took us from Ch-ch to Hanmer Springs, a beautiful Alpine village where hot springs are the main feature. We drove through the stunning Lewis Pass, and caught our first glimpse of the magnificent views New Zealand is known for. But it was an afternoon of relaxation in the hot sulphur pools (yes, they were smelly, but it was very warm and soothing) that was just what was in order. We indulged, and happily. It was then a short journey to Kaikoura, where we had a seafood barbeque on the beach with freshly caught scallops, mussels, whitebait and the local delicacy, crayfish. Delicious! It was here that we caught up with friends Adam and Dave, whom we met in South Africa, caught up with in Melbourne and Sydney and now had dinner with in New Zealand. It may be that we will see them again in South East Asia, just to show the serendipitous nature of travel. Indeed!