Day 55 Kaikoura – Hanmer springs
Another early and stormy morning in Kaikoura. Still dark, I drive back into town from the freedom camp. Today I plan to go and do what Kaikoura is famous for, spot a few whales. Arriving at Whale watch Kaikoura, I check in. When I booked in a few days ago, the trip was fully booked, so I’m first on the waiting list if someone doesn’t turn up and with the weather been quite bad it’s looking like I have a good chance of getting on. Ten minutes before our departure time, the Captain gives the go ahead for the trip, saying it is a bit rough so take your sea sick tablets now. Lucky for me there were quite a few no shows so I got a seat on the trip.
First up we had a short safety and briefing video at the facility before jumping in the bus for a short drive to the boat. Their boat is moored at Kaikoura marina just over the hill in South Bay. We climb onboard the distinct blue and yellow catamaran and head off towards the misty horizon. It wasn’t long before there were people feeling a bit sea sick, as the sea got rougher the further we went from shore. We stopped a few times for the skipper to use a hydrophone to pick up where the whales might surface after their deep dives.
Just off the coast of Kaikoura is a massive canyon, starting 800m offshore it plummets down more than 1km. With an abundance of food in the trench, the marine life is thriving and that’s why you are pretty much guaranteed to spot a number of marine species and bird life around the area. With the Sperm whale been able to hold its breath for more than an hour and go down to depths over 1km, they can feast on giant squid and other deep sea fish that don’t have many predators and out of the reach of most fishing trawlers.
One more stop and the Captain has picked up that there are 2 whales very close to us and will most likely surface around the same time. After another minute, then the first signs of the whale start appearing, only 50m from the boat, just floating under the surface was a giant sperm whale, a small fin sticking out, then blowing a fine mist of water up into the air as he exhale’s. Just floating taking in as much oxygen as he can before the next dive. He remained on the surface for around a minute before he took one last breath and started the diving back down to the depths. He didn’t quiet lift his tail out of the water for the great photo shot but it was still a wonderful site to see him in the wild and been so close.
By the time he had disappeared, the swell was very big and getting worse, with some of the guests not handling it very well the skipper decided to head back into the calmer waters and have a look at some other wild life. There were several different sea birds following us, Petrels and Shearwaters darting around in the high winds while the Albatross just seem to be floating around behind the boat, using their massive wingspan to full advantage and minimise the effort. After 20mins of surfing our way down and through the swell we get back to the same spot as we were at yesterday for the dolphin swim.
Just like yesterday there were Dusky dolphins everywhere, along with a quite a few Common dolphins. Jumping and diving all around us putting on a show for a few kayakers braving the conditions and a couple of other tourist boats. All I wanted to do is to jump back in the water like we did yesterday and swim with these playful mammals. I definitely have to come back on a nice day to have another swim and get some good pictures. After following them around for half an hour it was time to make the short trip back to the marina and jump back on the bus, then head back over the hill to the Whale Watch Kaikoura’s base and the end of the trip.
It was now lunch time and so I head to the van for some food, while there I turned on the radio to find them talking about a tropical cyclone is going to hit the region tomorrow morning, so after throwing my lunch down it was time to get out of here. With all the damage to the roads in and out of Kaikoura from the earthquake, I didn’t want to be stranded there because of more slips from the heavy rain. As SH1 in both directions were shut I had to take the long way back out along the inland route and head for Hanmer Springs. It rained the whole way and I could see that the rivers had risen quite a lot in the last few days since I last came through, I was glad to be getting past them before the storm.
Winding my way over the hills and through farm land, I arrived at Hanmer Springs. A small but busy town that is famous for its thermal hot pools and Spa. I take a short drive around town then as its getting dark, I head out to campground that I’ll stay at tonight. Just on the out skirts of the town is Alpine Adventure Tourist Park, quiet a good spot. I check in then head straight back down to the town to check out the Hot pools. It’s a fantastic place, perfect for nice hot relaxing swim on this cold rainy night.
With 7 different pool areas and all having a slightly different temperature water in each, it was quite nice to go from one to another. I just don’t recommend going from the 42 degree Sulphur pools straight into the 28-degree lazy river or vice versa. There’s a café, waterslides, super bowl ride, private pools, family and picnic area or you can pamper yourself at the spa, there’s something for everyone. After a couple of relaxing hours, making my way around to all the pools, it was time to cool down and head back to camp to call it a night. Tomorrow I visit the lakes I visited a few weeks ago as I head further north.