Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kaikoura & Swimming with the Dolphins

Like Monterey in CA, Kaikoura NZ is one of these places that has a deep water trench right off the shore where warm and cold water mix. The result is a ton of sea life. In Kaikoura the star attractions are giant sperm whales, Dusky Dolphins, and NZ Fur Seals. The coolest thing to do in town is to swim with the dolphins and this is why we were there.

Or rather, why Julie was there...I was there to watch and to take pictures. Because of course someone needed to record the moment...not because I was pretty sure I would drown over a 6000 foot trench in the middle of the ocean as dolphins swarmed around me...anyhow...

So we got Julie all suited up...

She definitely needed the wet suit as the water was cold! "Refreshing" anyways. At this point she was in good spirits if a wee bit nervous. I was of course kicking myself for not signing up to swim (apparently those wet suits are bouyant, so you can't sink, plus they had prescription masks so I could actually see anything...sigh...). Back to Jules...I would say 80% excited, 20% freaked out before we boarded.

Once on board we motored out aways to meet the dolphins...before we knew it the swimmers were given the word to suit up...5 minutes of frantic activity and soon the guides were yelling for them to get in position because the dolphins were there.

Wow, they were all over the place and jumping like crazy. Apparently the 'Dusky' Dolphin species is one of, if not the most, acrobatic of all dolphins. They jumped, cartwheeled, flipped, and did all kinds of cool things. Much fun to watch.

Jules however was sitting on the end of the boat about to be pushed into freezing water with tons of dolphins and a dozen or so other swimmers. I believe the refrain going through her mind was something like..."with so many dolphins there must be sharks...sharks....sharks...sharks are going to kill me...sharks..." But in she went...

Before long she had a grin on her face as dolphins swam all around her, including one that did a few circles of her. So cool and I was just watching. The dolphins were swimming within an arm's distance of me (now Julie writing) - it was amazing! One of the best parts was when a mom swam by with a baby. Just overall a really cool experience - although I did worry a bit about the impact swimming with people has on them, since they're completely wild (i.e., not fed or penned in).

Of course the pictures all turned out horrible so you will have to do with pics of just the dolphins.

A really great experience for both of us...we were on the water for nearly 3 hours and had dolphins swarming around the boat for most of the time. We have a great video showing this but its much too large for the blog. Maybe we'll try youtube one of these nights...

Besides the dolphins we also got up close and personal with loads of fur seals. There were a few colonies right around the town making it real easy to just walk right up (staying a respectable distance of course...).

Oh one more thing...the water. It was this turqouise color that was just stunning, esp when the sun hit it. Really beautiful. All around Kaikoura was the highlight of the trip up to that point.

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