© 2012 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated_new_zealand_kiakoura_04

New Zealand – Kaikoura / Christchurch – 1st Jan

The first of January 2012! Happy New Year to all who read our blog, we really appreciate you! We didn’t start our new year with hangovers, nor did we go out the night before and party in busy Kaikoura. Instead we opted for a quiet start to 2012, we did enjoy a few drinks in the town including some generous free wine sampling, but decided to head back to our van to cosy up ready to see in the New Year together.

The main reason for us not going out and getting a little tipsy was that we had a 5.30am appointment with the Dusky Dolphins in the Pacific Ocean. Something we had pre-booked as we couldn’t get any other dates to do the swim and we wanted to fit it into our agenda before heading back to Christchurch. So up at 4.55am we were ready and willing by 5.20am at the Dolphin Encounter center located 5 minutes down the road. Checked in and grouped up we grabbed our wetsuits, flippers, hoods and snorkelling gear ready for a 20 minute video presentation of what to expect and a little bit of history on the area.

Kaikoura is on a rocky peninsula where the sea opens out to a deep canyon providing a rich  habitat for marine mammals and seabirds. The main reason for tourists to visit the area is to whale watch, and enjoy encountering albatross and dolphins amongst many other species. The town itself has lost any charm of being a quaint seaside village and has opened up to commercialisation in a big way with large pubs, a subway, supermarkets and eateries. Further down the main street towards the peninsula though it does still hold onto a more local feel and isn’t so condensed.

The Dolphin Encounter company have been operating tours in Kaikoura since 1989 and is ran by locals, they’re a friendly team, but it must be tough having to get up at 5am every day to run these tours. After our introduction we got a bus to the jetty located on the South Bay where 2 boats were ready to take us out to sea. There was quite a swell on the ocean waves and we had a bit of a bumpy journey heading out. After around 15-20 minutes we spotted our first group of dolphins but this was a small group so we continued further until there was a larger group for us to swim with. At the sound of the horn we all got into the chilly waters and swam out to the dolphins, it didn’t take long for us to have a few around us and so the silly noises began. We were encouraged to communicate and interact with the dolphins to keep them interested in us. They are really sociable creatures and so the more you play the longer they stay!

After the first swim we got back on the boat and found the main pod of dolphins, from this point on we enjoyed 2 further swims, with around 10-15 minutes in the water each time. It was a truly magical experience, they really are playful mammals and it’s really good fun being in the water with them. You can’t touch them or try to interfere but you can swim in circles with them and make eye contact. Unfortunately for Dave he suffered from some sea sickness which seemed to have a knock on effect on board.

When the swimming was over we were back on the boat and enjoyed watching the dolphins from the side of the boat. Here we could see them doing flips, jumps and a few were mating. We both loved the experience, even with Dave’s sick bucket accompanying him. Fortunately for Jess (our guide) she was used to coping with other people’s sea-sickness and was fully prepared.

We were out on the water for about an hour and a half with around 30-40 minutes in the water with the dolphins. Helen has had this experience before when she was here in 2009 and although the weather was better then, it was still a wonderful experience. She loved doing the encounter again. On the boat journey out and coming back we saw a lot of Albatross on the sea chilling out, taking off and flying. Some with a wing span of over 3.5m! We do feel that we have become a little geeky on the whole bird-watching front, but you don’t see this amount of marine life and seabirds every day so it was pretty exciting for us!

So this was the start to 2012 for us, swimming in the sea with the Dusky Dolphins…not bad! This is our last activity in New Zealand, and all of the adventurous, exhilarating things that we have done have been really worth while. (The Dolphin Encounter cost us each $170 NZD and there were roughly 12 people per boat)

After hot showers and some much needed food we were back in the van for her final long journey back to Christchurch. We were tired back at the South Brighton Holiday Park so we chilled out after an energetic spell on the trampoline and finished our evening with a walk along the beach to the New Brighton Pier, it was a beautiful evening.

Happy New Year Everybody!

Video and photos taken on a Sony DSC-TX5 underwater camera & an Olympus Pen with a 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens

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