Swimming with Dolphins

Trip Start Aug 10, 2007
Trip End Dec 27, 2007

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

We woke early from our picnic spot just outside Kaikoura and we headed into town to check in for our Dolphin Encounter.

We got our wetsuits, gloves, goggles, snorkels, hoods, fins, boots etc., watched a quick video explaining we would be swimming with wild dusky dolphins and so this meant we would not necessary find any, and that they may not wish to swim with us ................. so they gave us a few tips on how to entertain the dolphins and try to ensure they hang around, if there are any!

It was cloudy and drizzly as we headed off to South Beach.  We boarded our catamaran and were reversed into the sea on a trailer.  The boat then shot off towards the Pacific Ocean, out of Kaikoura's South Beach.

We all moved about the cat, hopeful that we would in fact find some dolphins to swim with.  Jules and I went up to the top deck and looked with the captain.  Then, excitement, he had a radio call to say there were some Dusky's off to the right.  We were all asked to get ready, get all our gear on and sit on the back of the cat.  The siren then went off (the signal to gently slide into the water so as not to scare the dolphins off).

We slipped into the water and began to swim, not knowing what to expect ................ then suddenly a shadow moves under you and before you can even react, a body flies past your face .......... a dolphin!! 

What an experience - as we swam, the dolphins came from all directions and swam around us, over us, under us etc.  Some come very very close and you can see into their eye.  We were told to make weird noises through our snorkels and to try and maintain eye contact, as this would help to keep them interested in us.  Well we were squealing and swimming round in circle, trying everything we could to keep their attention, and they stayed!

Jules and I had taken her camera and sealed it in the underwater case we had bought in Cairns and now we were trying to take photos underwater with it.  The dolphins were so quick that this proved quite impossible - I have included a few of the photos we took underwater, just so you can see what they look like.

It is hard to describe in words what it felt like.  To look into a dolphins eye as it swam around you is something quite special and hard to describe.  I had this huge stupid smile on my face all the time and every time I looked for Jules, she was also smiling and making weird noises for all her life!  We had a few moments to laugh and swop the camera before we were down again and swimming with the dolphins.  We swam and swam and swam, and eventually we were all called back to the cat.  I did not hear the siren, but realised it was time to go when I was the only one left in the water.

We jumped out our suits and were having hot chocolate while trying to describe to each other how it felt. 

The captain then took us near the dolphins and we were able to video and photograph the pod from up above.  The dolphins put on a great show for us and were acrobatically throwing themselves all over the place.  Jules was adamant it was the female dolphins trying to get attention who were doing all the fancy tricks in the water.

We watched for a long time, took lots of photos and video, and then we were heading back to shore.  We managed to see a huge albatross fly by and we sailed into a massive flock of Hutton Shearwaters who were all floating on the surface of the ocean.  They flew away as sailed into them, the strange thing with them is that they fly inches above the water's surface, something to see to believe!

Then we were back and sitting here writing this for you ............................ we're now off to sample Kaikoura's namesake (Kaikoura in Maori means "meal of crayfish").  We are having a BBQ crayfish with rice for lunch from one of the local fisherman who braai's them along the roadside.

After that we're off to Akaroa (near Christchurch) and then on the 26th it's all over and we leave for Auckland.  New Zealand's South island has been one highlight after another and we will always remember so many things about our great journey around this wilderness in the monster! 
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