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Published: February 6th 2020
Today was all about being on the water and wildlife sighting. We board the Black Cat and head out into the harbor, the remnants of a volcanic caldera like Santorini. We are looking for dolphins, penguins, fur seals and sea birds. As we cruise, we pass Onuku Maria a Maori village where there is a meeting house, a kitchen and accommodation for Maori traveling there for meetings and festivals or just to visit local residents living in the area.
Soon we were met by Hector Dolphins. These are the most endangered dolphins. They measure about three feet versus nine feet for bottle nosed. They have been driven to the point of extinction by long net trawlers. With a perdition rate of 7% and a reproduction rate of 4% it appears their days are numbered. Current estimates are between 7,000 and 11,000 individuals. New Zealand has set aside marine reserves but it may be too little too late.
While everyone was searching for the mouse ear like dorsal fin of the Hectors, I was blessed to see a little blue penguin skipping across are wake. This is another species that is endangered. The way things are going I may never see another unless in aquarium.
The breaking surf is strong here and has carved some enormous caves along the shore. Cathedral Cave is one of the tallest, as tall as the spire of Christchurch Cathedral before the earthquake that destroyed it. Is is a nesting ground for various sea birds including the Shag, cousin to the cormorants and Oyster Catchers with bright orange feet, black billed gulls and others too numerous to list.
We headed out into the Pacific where the boat‘s motion was more pronounced. I loved it. We observed a petal, cousin to the albatross, searching for lunch and viewed another colony of fur seal females raising their pups. It always amazes me how these clumsy animals can climb up the rocks to a spot well above the crashing surf. I couldn’t do it even if I strong legs and arms.
The tour delivered as advertised and Hamish, our Captain and narrator was a masterful navigator but also a knowledgeable naturalist.
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