A memorable holiday weekend
We were in New Zealand on holiday, me and my family. We had read a lot about Kaikoura; the white-capped mountains disappearing in the oceans, the system of sub-marine canyons and the marine wildlife that you can go see in their natural environment. Seals, dolphins and sperm whales!
We decided to spend there a full weekend and left one morning with our rented car. The drive was a couple of hundred kilometres long but it passed in a blur. We were mesmerized by the landscape; doesn’t matter if we had been travelling around New Zealand for a couple of weeks now, it was still fascinating.
We arrived in Kaikoura when it was already afternoon and we were just in time to book the Whale Watching tour for the following day, at 12.15 pm, and to check-in at the Holiday Park where we had booked for two nights. Then we went to the town centre for a walk and a nice dinner. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining and a warm light wind was blowing from the north… we walked on the beach and it was like paradise!
When we woke up in the morning it was quite early, but too late to enjoy the sunrise! Few clouds where surrounding the white-capped mountains facing the window of our cabin. The sun was already warm and we got ready for the day. We went for a muffin-cappuccino breakfast and then off to the peninsula to see the seal colony. The tide was low and the rocks were dry so that we could walk on them in search of the New Zealand Fur Seals that lay resting there. It was the first time we saw seals. They were so up close you could have almost reached to touch them. They were laying only few metres (well ok, a minimum of ten metres distance by law) from us, standing there as if ready to get framed by our greedy cameras! We were delighted.
Walking up and down the seal colony we saw that the sea on the other side of the peninsula was quite rough and the wind quite strong. At 12.15 we went to the Whale Watching office to check-in and we were given the unpleasant news that the trip had been cancelled due to the rough sea conditions. It would have been like that, if not worse, for the whole day! Sadness caught up with me at first but we didn’t lose our hearts and full of hopes booked for the following day at 7.15 am.
After lunch we went back to our cabin to rest a while. When we got ready to go out again, we drove to the Look Out point and saw that the wind had strengthened and clouds had come with it and covered the whole sky. Mist was rising from the water as well, hiding the horizon.
Later in the afternoon we went for a walk to the town centre and stopped at a pub for and aperitif and a pool game. I’m loosy at playing pool so I tricked my father into drinking some beer every time he was about to sink a ball. It worked well. I won the first game when he sank the black #8 too early in the game! The counter game was even better; I played well and after few minutes and 3 lucky shots I was on the lead with only one more ball to sink, while he still had 5. That was the peak of my game. He soon caught up with me and won fair and square. We went then for the decider, and it was a good game! We were both surprised we could play that well! But beer still kicked in and he sank the white while shooting for the black. I won again, although it was a shameful victory!
After the pool we were really hungry so we went for a appetizing Seafood Platter with delicious (and expensive) Crayfish and even a bottle of good white wine. We ate so much that we crashed the moment we touched the bed.
At 6.30 am we were up, enthusiastic and excited! Mist was still on the horizon, but the sky was only partly covered in clouds, the sea was flat and the wind had considerably dropped down. We were pretty sure that the boats would sail today and us with them! And indeed, at 8 am we were finally out to sea on a 17 mt catamaran. It was almost luxurious… comfy seats and a big flat screen that the guide was using as support to her presentations about the marine life and the canyons of Kaikoura.
In truth, the trip seemed like a race against time… steering at full speed from one location to the other to get to see the whales before they dove and disappeared under the surface. The skipper was using underwater hydrophones to know when the whales were about to surface and he was also keeping in touch with other two whale watching boats nearby and the land based office. Given the speed we were not allowed outside until the animals were close and the boat was moving at a sensible speed. But it doesn’t matter because we found them, three times!
We sighted three solitary Sperm whales. They were huge, laying at the surface and breathing loudly for a while before diving head-down and showing their massive flukes up in the air. We were moved and our heart was beating at a frightening speed for the whole time of each encounter.
Unfortunately we never had the animals between us and the snow-capped mountains beyond Kaikoura! That would have be a wicked picture to take...
After the 3rd sighting we kept on searching for more but we were running out of time and the skipper had been given the location of a big “pod” of Dusky dolphins closer to the coast. So we left the canyon and head to inshore waters. In only fifteen minutes we were surrounded by some hundreds of Duskies… literally, they were everywhere! There were youngs among the adults and some dolphins here and there were jumping repeatedly out of the water, it was crazy! And promptly, the guide was telling us that Duskies are indeed known to be some of the most acrobatic dolphins in the world!
Once back at the wharf a shuttle gave us a lift back to the office. Amazingly, as if we hadn’t seen enough of them, some dolphins were cruising along the shore and we could see them from the office window. We took some time to have a look at the photos and then off to the car we hit the road again to our next kiwi-adventure.