Friday, 14 December 2012

Kaikoura, New Zealand

I came here with one thing in mind: swimming with dolphins. There was a 05:30am trip or an 08:30 trip. The 05:30 trip was recommended by someone I'd met, as the dolphins fed over night, had full bellies and were playful until the sun's up when they have a kip (Incidentally they sleep one brain hemisphere at a time). So, I book the dolphin swim and check into the hostel. This YHA must have the best view from the bedroom of any hostel that I've ever stayed in. The view over the bay to the mountains is jaw-dropping - a view you could quite easily spend the rest of your life looking at.

After a bottle of crisp New Zealand white last night I head to bed. I'm startled awake by an air-raid siren - my initial thought was TSUNAMI! Others in the dorm thought the same, and we waited to see if the hostel owner came to drag everyone out and up to the hills. No-one came so we assumed all was ok and went back to sleep with one eye open. My 4am alarm sounds and I'm startled awake again. The dolphins and cool water help me exit the bed. I thought I'd be the only one on the swim - who on earth's going to want to get up at this time? Turns out it's a full trip - 20 people (mostly Germans) are ready to swim. We're kitted with super-tight wetsuits, flippers, masks and hoods for the cold cold sea. Jumping on a bus we're taken to a harbour 20 minutes away - and loaded onto a boat that's out of the water. I've never been on a boat out the water before! We're gently lowered in and soon on our way - hunting dolphins with our eyes. We're all told to keep a lookout and within 10 minutes there's fins popping out all around us and we stop. We quickly perch on the back of the boat ready to slide into the clear, icy water. By now the dolphins are showing-off and jumping around us - somersaults and back-flips. The staff tell us that the pod is possibly 100+ and they're extremely playful - we're lucky to be getting in, but maybe they say that to everyone :)

In the water we're all making ridiculous noises to attract their attention. I can't help but think it must confuse them more than attract them, but they come and check us all out - circling and eyeballing us. There's an amazing feeling staring into the eye of a dolphin - something moves inside you. We're in the water for over an hour - with occasional jumps back onto the boat to track a different pod.

Back on the boat we get changed and have some hot chocolate with biscuits - a nice touch! Unfortunately I'm still waiting on pictures of me in the water. I'll post them if they ever turn up.

The area around Kaikoura is insanely beautiful and wild. The town has a seaside resort feel but if not for tourism would be a quarter of the size I'm sure. Whale watching, seal spotting and tramping are high on the agenda here also.

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