Swimming with Dolphins

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Kiakoura’s Dusky Dolphin

Day 54 – Kaikoura

An exciting morning ahead, I get up at the crack of dawn and leave the freedom camp to head into town. I had been crossing my fingers and toes all night hoping that the weather will be better this morning because I’ve booked a trip to go and swim with the Dusky dolphins. Arriving at Encounter Kaikoura nice and early to check in, they tell me that the seas is a bit rough but there are plenty of dolphins in the harbour and we will still be heading out, the smiling begins.

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After a while, we get called out over the loud speaker to go get changed into our funky wet suits and watch a short briefing video before piling into the bus and heading down to the boat. It’s only a short 5min ride over the hill to South Bay where the two boats are waiting for us. We climb onboard and the tractor backs us down the ramp and away we go. The sea wasn’t too rough and the 14m catamaran made easy work cutting through it. It wasn’t long before the first sighting of these magnificent creatures jumping around, doing back flips and darting around the bow of the boat.

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Time to don our mask and fins and prepare to quietly get in the water, the captain sounded the horn and off we went. Slipping into the water right amongst the large pod of Dusky dolphins. They were everywhere, darting and diving right in front of me, some of them were very curious and wanted a bit of attention.  Watching as they swim slowly towards me I would duck dive down and they would follow, swimming upside down then take off at speed before they return and do it over again. They thought swimming around in circles around you while you try and keep up was a great game as they knew they were always going to win the swimming race.

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After a while the pod slowly started moving off so we all climbed back onto the back of the boat and headed off in front of the pod for another swim. It was exactly the same, they seemed to just keep coming, there must have been hundreds in this pod and all very playful. This has to be one of the best experiences I ever had with animals in the wild. Free to do what they want but so friendly and playful. After one more swim it was time to head back in, we were all getting a bit cold with the rain pouring down on us but everyone was having such a great time it did seem to bother us.

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Back onboard a changed into some dry clothes, the captain follows the pod so we can get a few more pictures of the dolphin aerobatic displays. You have to be quick though and be in the right place at the right time to get the magical shot. Leaping meters out of the water, body slamming the water on the way down, apparently it has something to do with their feeding and catching fish. It was a great site to see their power and speed as they ducked and dived around us. Time was up and we headed a few mins back into the marina and onto the trailer. Everyone was buzzing on the bus ride back to base and will highly recommend doing if you are in the area. They also do dolphin watching trips and Albatross encounters as well.

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New Zealand Fur Seal striking a pose

Getting back to the van and topping up the energy levels I take a better look around the town and surrounding area. First I head around to the end of the peninsula, to Point Kean, another great place to view some NZ fur seals, they were everywhere, scattered all over the rocks right at the carpark and one even deciding that he would guard the board walk. There is also a walk that you can do around the edge of the peninsula that is supposed to be really nice but the weather was terrible so I didn’t fancy spending a few hours in the wind and rain, I had just warmed up after the snorkel.

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Jumping back in the van I head south down to where SH1 for look at another seal colony but unfortunately, they had closed the road a few kilometres before and was unable to go and see them. As I head back to town the clouds cleared for a minute so I head up to the Kaikoura look out. It would be a beautiful view back down over the town and out to the mountains on one side and South Bay on the other, if it was a nice sunny day. It wasn’t long before the clouds closed back in so I head back to the freedom camp just north of Kaikoura and called it a day. Another early start tomorrow as I head back onto the water to do what Kaikoura is famous for.

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