Whales, dolphins, seals and penguins

The road between Picton and Kaikoura was a very nice one. Mountains, wine yards, ocean, it had it all. Complete with a breeding seal colony at Ohau rocks just before Kaikoura. So cute, those baby seals!

In Kaikoura we went for a whale watching tour. On board of a speedy catamaran, owned by a local Maori family, we could experience the ocean at its best. Pffff, an average roller coaster ride was nothing compared to that. Equipped with a hydrophone to listen to whale sounds in the water, they seem to be very well able to trace the whales. And indeed, quite soon after we had taken off from shore, we saw our first whale. A spermwhale, Tiaki, they see him more often on their tours, recognized by the shape of his back fin. These whales spent a short time at the surface to breath, spraying fountains of water, before they dive in the ocean again. For about ten minutes we could see him lying there, then the magical moment came. A few more breaths, his back arching, and then his gigantic tail, sticking out of the water, to disappear again for 45-60 minutes in the deep waters of the ocean. On our tour we saw another sperm whale up close, one at a distance (mainly recognizable by the whale watch airplane circling above it), a seal and an albatross. Back at the shore, I (especially my stomach) was happy that the bumping and bouncing was over. And I was not the only one. We met two Dutch ladies, and one of them had had an even harder time aboard: ‘Zo, dat zit erop’.

Dolphin swimming was next! I thought, they stay closer to the coast, the boat is smaller and less fast, it cannot be that bad. But when they came with a seasickness warning áfter we had signed up, I got a bit nervous already. The actual dolphin encounter was more than great. Equipped with wetsuit, fins and snorkeling gear were we launched into the water. The one second you could see four, five dolphins swimming underneath you and the next second they were gone, fast as they are. They get really close to you in the water and circle around you when you turn. Very special! But the waves…hmpf. When traveling with the boat it was OK, but then lying in the water, waves that shake you up and down, looking beneath and around you, making circles AND singing in your snorkel (that should attract the dolphins, they don’t see much, they hear more), and then getting back on the shaking bouncing boat again… I was happy they had empty buckets on board, for that specific purpose indeed.
After five swimming attempts, it was time for the cameras and really, the dolphins did not disappoint! Jumps, summer saults and combinations of that, these Dusky dolphins are known for that. There were so many that I did not know where to look. Some also saw a more rare Hector’s dolphin, but I missed that one.

In Oumaru, it was penguin watching time! First we saw yellow-eyed penguins coming ashore, six pieces that walked their way from the water to their nests at the other side of the beach. Later, around dusk, blue penguins in a bit larger number came ashore. Entertaining views!




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