5am Starts, Dolphins by Water, Whales by Sky
04.04.2012 - 06.04.2012
Today ends my short stay in Kaikoura and it has surpassed expectations! After I arrived and settled into my room/ate my tea/met some strangers, my first act in Kaikoura was to head to another pub quiz (the only form of education available whilst travelling); though this quiz was a little different to the last one we took part in. First of all we were all travellers, so we were on pretty even grounds general knowledge wise (no locals who come to pub quizzes every week) and the rounds were slightly out of the ordinaray (General Knowledge, Music and World Capitals was regaular enough, but then they tacked on Alcohol, Sex and Plasticine porn scene rounds), finally we had the added benefit of being able to understand the scottish guy reading out the questions. We performed pretty well and actually managed to win! Possibly my proudest moment in life. We won a $30 bar tab, which between 5 didnt get us much, but it didnt matter, it's the pride that counts.
My first full day in Kaikoura was nice enough, but relatively uneventful. I filled my time wandering around the area and doing a walk along the Peninsula. It was a pretty nice walk, clear skies, cows in the fields, seals in their colonies, birds in their sky and tourists in their campervans. I then headed back into town and booked a dolphin tour for 5.30am the next day (dedication) and a whale watch helicopter flight for 11am (which was pretty expensive at $220 for 30 mins, but I had never been in a helicopter so felt it was worth it to get another life tick). I then went back to the hostel and desperately tried to block out how much money I had been spending, and had an early night in preparation for my early morning.
At 5.00am I excited the room with some stealth (I was even awake before my alarm so no annoying the 3 other people in my room) and started to regret booking the tour so early as it was pitch dark and freezing cold (not ideal conditions when you know you have to get in the cold sea). But once I got over the inital pain of getting up so early, it wasnt so bad. I went to the Dolphin Encounter centre and got wetsuited up with the other 15 swimmers and by the time we headed out on the boat the sun was starting to come up. It was pretty nice being out to sea so early, and I settled down in my seat preparing for a long wait to find dolphins (I had been told there was a 99% chance of finding dolphins, but I had been told this before, and memories of driving round for 4 hours in the Bay of Islands without a single dolphin was fresh in my mind).
But after what seemed to be about 10 minutes we were driving in a pod of hundreds of dolphins. It was amazing. Soon enough we had our masks and snorkels on and were perched on the back of the boat (feet in the freezing cold water, dreading jumping into the cold) however when it was time to jump in, we were so focussed on swimming towards the dolphins that you dont really notice you're cold. The first swim was slightly off putting as you were swimming through quite murky water not really seeing anything then suddenly a dolphin would swim right in front of your face. however I soon got used to it and it was great! so many dolphins swimming round you whilst you spin in a circle trying to keep up with them, fantastic. Each time the main body of the pod had gone past, we would hop back on the boat, follow them, then get in again.
We did this about 4 times; by which time I was knackered from swimming in circles as fast as I could and swimming quite far from the boat (I tried to hang outside the group of main swimmers to avoid getting a fin to the face). Each swim seemed to be better than the last with more dolpnins and clearer water. They were just everywhere! After our final swim we all got back on the boat, put some warm water down our wetsuits using the hot shower hoses (which felt amazing), got changed into warm clothes, had some hot chocolate and biscuits and then watched the dolphins playing and "socialising" with each other from the boat. We got to see them doing sommersaults, backflips, jumps and generally speeding round in the water. After we had our fill of dolphin activity we headed back to the shore. An absolutely amazing morning, definitely up there in the best things I have done whilst travelling, I enjoyed every second.
I then returned back to the hostel feeling like I had had a full day, and it was only 9am! So I waited around at a loose end for a couple of hours to go on my helicopter tour and then went via the shortcut I found the previous day (through a hole in the wire fence and hopping over some train tracks). We took off about 11.30am and flew over the Peninsula I had walked the day before (it looked nicer from the air) and out to sea. It was a perfect weather with amazing views and within the first 10 minutes we saw 2 sperm whales! Awesome. Both of them were on the surface for a few mins whilst we hovered over them and then made a dive down (putting their tails in the air in the classic photos you see). After that we didnt see any more whales (as there was only 2 known to be in the area at the time, and we had just seen them dive underwater!) but we saw more dolphins, some albatross (though they just looked like sea gulls as we were so far away, but if you compared them to the surrounding birds they were pretty massive!) and some awesome views. We then headed back, flying over the peninsula again with nice views of Kaikoura and the mountains in the background, and landed.
And that brings my day in Kaikoura to an end (well of anything interesting, unless you want to know about my nap, or doing my laundry). I had a fantastic stay and definitely pleased I had such a prefect day to do my marine wildlife tours. Tomorrow I am headed to Blenheim, which probably wont be as memorable as here, but there are alot of wineries about, so Im sure I can occupy my time