Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dusky dolphins, fur seals and a sperm whale | Kaikoura

I arrived in Kaikoura Monday evening, and got up early Tuesday morning to go swimming with dolphins! I was a bit nervous before my swim, as I'd never been snorkeling before, and the website said that it was important to have a "reasonable level of snorkeling experience" for the most enjoyment. Being a rule follower I always take statements like these very seriously, but as most rule followers I've learnt that following them doesn't always get you anywhere, and I really wanted to go swimming with dolphins. So I got my wetsuit on and got on the boat.

Suddenly the dolphins were everywhere. According to my guide this was a pod of about 400, including baby dolphins. Unfortunately I don't have any footage of the swim, as I though it was too expensive to hire a GoPro, something I really regret now. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've had in New Zealand though. The dolphins come incredibly close to you, so close that if you wanted to you could reach out you hand and touch them (which I didn't, as you're not supposed to).

Afterwards we got the opportunity to take some pictures, and the dolphins got the opportunity to show what incredible show-offs they are.

Before going to Kaikoura I had been trying to decide whether to go swimming with dolphins or go whale watching. As it was my birthday the week before I had some birthday money, so I decided to do both (when in New Zealand...) Whale watching is a completely different experience. There was one whale in the area, and the sperm whales' (which are the species living in Kaikoura) dives last 40-60 minutes in average. This means that most of the time is spent waiting for the whale to come up.

And when it finally does you basically see its back. It was still pretty cool, though, especially to see the blowhole.

We see about 3/4 of the whale, I believe, which means that it's basically as big as the boat we were on, and much much heavier. And finally, the moment we were all waiting for, the last dive down.

Afterwards we went to see some more dusky dolphins. There are so many of them in Kaikoura, and they are a bit easier to find than the whale. They also show off more.

In addition to dusky dolphins and sperm whales, there is also a New Zealand fur seal colony located at the tip of the peninsula, so of course I walked to see them as well.

(I just really appreciate creative toilet decorations, okay?)

I stopped by the Seafood BBQ on the way, to try some crayfish, which was absolutely delicious.

Then I finally reached the seal colony. Most of the were just sleeping in the heat, and didn't seem
bothered about the humans wandering around at all.

This one did hiss when it felt like somebody came too close, though.

The truly amazing thing about the wildlife attractions in Kaikoura is that all of the animals are actually wild. They haven't been trained to do anything, and they aren't lured by food or anything else. They track the dolphins, of course, but it is completely the dolphins' choice whether or not they want to swim with humans, how much they choose to interact and how long they stay. This means that there is never any guarantee to see dolphins or whales, but it makes the experience so much more special.

I'll leave you with this picture of a baby seal, just because it's adorable.

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