Swimming with the Dusky Dolphins

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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Kaikoura
December 12th 2007
Published: December 12th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

The sun was still rising as our boat skimmed its way across the bay towards the ocean and the Kiakoura underwater ridge. Only 1/4 mile from the beach of Kiakoura the depth of the ocean goes from 30ft deep to an intimidating 1 miles deep, thus Kiakoura is of the few places where resident sperm whales can be seen from shore. The bay is also home to a huge variety of other aquatic and marine animals including the albatross, blue penguin and dusky dolphin. It was the dolphins we were on our way to see now. However our trip was going to be slightly different to the average sight-seeing trip as we were going to be allowed the privillege of swimming with the dolphins!
In our pretrip briefing we were told that whilst swimming with the dolphins it would be our job entertain the dolphins, the paticular pod we were visiting were wild dolphins that lived in the bay, they were not in captation nor enticed to the area. Therefore if we didnt do a good enough job of entertaining the dolphins, then there was nothing to stop then from turning around and swimming away. We were told that making funny noises, surface diving and swimming in circles would all help attract and entertain the mammels.
As the boat engines slowed there was one last check of the equipment. Wet suit, check. flippers, check. mask and snorkel, check and check. Right! Here goes!! I gamboled backwards off the boat, as scuba divers do, because i thought it would be cool. Classic schoolboy error as my snorkel filled with water and i got a mouthfull of salty seawater, yuck!
As my eyes adjusted to the dark, and my body to the freezing cold temperature of the water i began swimming out from the boat, all of a sudden from the dark haze before me three dolphins shot out of the darkness passing within inches of me, they slowed, eyeballing the strange lanky creature in the wetsuit, choking on seawater. I reached out stroking one as passed by, it was compleatly unfazed by the experiance although i was left speechless. And as quickly as they arrived they left, diving off to some unseen depth.
The next hour was spent in the water interacting with these magnificent creatures, The dolphins would swim amongst us checking out all the swimmers. We played but the dolphins played harder, at one point a dolphin swam around me, in the time it took for me to turn full circle, the dolphin had compleated three laps and had swam on. We swam with dolphins of all ages, shapes and sizes, male and female, mother and calf.
As the instructor had said the dolphins were attracted more towards people whom made funny noises. At one point i collided head on with another swimmer who was singing 'puff the magic dragon' he shugged and swam off i the other direction still singing. At times it would seem we had lost the pod (collective name for a group of dolphins, dont you know) and a minute would be spent treading water looking for a dorsel fin. Then suddenly they would come shooting back ready for more games.

The trip was amazing and easily one of my top 5 highlights of the trip so far. It was well worth the antisocial early start. As we cruised back into port the dolphins kept pace, chasing the boat, leaping and jumping in it's wake. I never thought i'd ever get to swim with dolphins, but the experiance was utterley amazing. It was an experiance that will stay with me forever. Truely a once-in-a-lifetime experiance..........


16th December 2007

bringing back the memories
great to see you've got the travelblog going. i've enjoyed reading about your exploits in san fran and new zealand..when you wrote about glenorchy i got all nostalgic and wished i was back there. enjoy the north island and the bay of islands (there's a great hostel there called the mousetrap). very envious. take care

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