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Robin John’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 06 Oct 2011

Location: Kaikoura, New Zealand

MapSwimming with dolphins and whale-spotting in Kaikoura.
I have spent two days in Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island. The main attraction here is the sea-life. Yesterday the weather was still poor, raining and very windy, so all the usual boat trips, etc, were cancelled. I took myself off on a walk around the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, about 5 miles around the coastline, the first time I have had to wear my wet weather gear. The walk passed through some interesting sites, including the place where, in 1840, they had started hunting whales in small boats launched from the shore.
Today, the weather finally cleared and the wind abated, so boat trips were back on. In the morning, I went on a 'Swimming with dolphins' trip, getting kitted out in a head-to-toe wet suit with face-mask and snorkel (not something I have done before!). The fast twin-hull boat headed out into the Pacific and soon found a pod of dusky dolphins, the most common type found here. We all fitted our flippers and slipped quietly into the water. The dolphins are very curious and come close to see what is happening, so you soon find yourself literally 'swimming with dolphins'. This session lasted around 30 mins, but unfortunately I could not stay in the water this long as a result of swallowing too much sea water, probably because I was not accustomed to the snorkel and face-mask. Anyway, I watched the dolphins generally having fun and leaping around close to the boat. No photos of this, just too much water flying around.
In the afternoon, I tried to get on a whale-watching boat trip, but all trips were fully booked because of the backlog from the last two days. I took an alternative option, which was to take a short flight in a small 4-seater Cessna from nearby Kaikoura Airport. It turned out that this was a better option as you get to see the whole whale in the water, a view you don't get from the boat.
Finally, I went in search of seals. Near here is the Uhau Stream, which has a waterfall about 200m in from the sea. A group of seal pups, not yet weaned, somehow find their way up to this waterfall while their mothers are out finding food. They have a fun time swimming and playing around in the rock pool at the foot of the waterfall. There must have been 20-30 pups splashing around, a very amusing sight.
All in all, a very memorable and unique day, definitely worth making the trip down here.
Tomorrow, it is back on the ferry to Wellington to get ready for the big one - Wales vs Ireland in the first quarter-final! I have met several Irish supporters down here, very friendly rivalry. The game is evenly balanced, results have gone either way in the past. I think it is a case of Irish experience vs Welsh youth. It should be an exciting game; you'll need to be up for 6am to watch it live!