Where We Be
Kaikoura, New Zealand -- Whales, Dolphins & Seals
Another blockbuster set of experiences in Kaikoura, totally
memorable and fun! No one can say we haven't made the
most of our time on the South Island!

Helicopter Whale Watch
It was Robin's turn to get to experience something special
to her. I had my adventure in an aerobatic plane earlier, and
now Robin got to see sperm whales during a helicopter
whale watch. Here's what she has to say about it: "After ten
minutes in the air the pilot announced through the headset,
'There’s a whale just below us to the left.' I was so excited
as I scanned the waves below for my first aerial sighting.
There is was! Just under the surface was a whale, visible in
its entirety, swimming slowly in the water. The whale was
blowing air from his blowhole periodically as we circled in
wide arcs overhead. I took tons of photos but the images
couldn’t capture the majesty of what it was like live. Finally
the whale blew out the last of the air in his lungs and dove
deep, his large tail slowly rising then sinking below the
surface. This image will always stay with me."

Swimming with Dolphins
What an amazing experience! Kaikoura has a resident pod
of 500 dusky dolphins, and getting to swim with them in
their natural setting is a privilege we’ll never forget. Within
a few seconds of entering the water, we were surrounded
by dolphins. They were curious and swam right up to us,
within a foot or so, usually circling around us very fast.

We were told we had to do what we could to keep the
dolphins' interest if we wanted them to continue to pay
attention to us -- e.g., moving, diving, making sounds. We
tried to spin around and keep up with them as they circled
so that we could maintain eye contact. This was like a game
for the dolphins, and they seemed to enjoy going around as
fast as they could so that we could barely keep up. I don’t
know who was more amused—them or us! Robin sang high-
pitched nonsense songs to the dolphins, and I made whale-
like moans and squeaky chortles, both of which the
dolphins seemed to like or at least find peculiar enough to
investigate. My favorite experience was whirling around in
a circle for five or six turns at a time, keeping eye contact
with the dolphins as they circled me. Robin’s favorite thing
was seeing two dolphins, a mom and her baby, glide
underneath her, looking up at her with their eyes.

Swimming with Seals
We had so much fun swimming with the dolphins that we
decided to swim with the seals too! After a short boat ride,
we slipped into the water. A dozen fur seals were sunning
on the rocks and several more were already in the water.
These came up to us almost immediately. They have huge
puppy-dog eyes and whiskered faces, and they approach
within inches of your face. Swimming with seals is a lot less
aerobic than swimming with dolphins. You remain still or
swim very slowly, and the seals circle around and under
you at their leisure, undulating sinuously with grace and
speed. We put our arms around each other’s waists and the
seals became more curious. You could almost hear them
thinking, “I’ve never seen one with two heads before!”
Hanmer Springs (Mar 15-16)
We spent a full day soaking our cares away at Hanmer Springs [not my photo]
We got to swim with pods of dolphins like this one -- in the wild, with no barriers -- where it was our job to be interesting enough to attract them to us!
In our wetsuits and ready to go!
Snorkeling arm-in-arm, up close with a seal. The seals are naturally curious and come right up to you.
Excited about our dolphin encounter!
Robin's first helicopter ride!
These are the Whale Bone Arches at Memorial Garden Kaikoura
We also paid a fun visit to the Kaikoura Winery
Panorama of Kaikoura from our dolphin boat
Our gourmet dinner at Jolly Jack's in Hanmer Springs was one of the best of our trip. Robin's venison was perfect and my lamb rump out-of-this-world.
The inland route from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura offered some lovely scenery
Robin decked out with flippers and wetsuit
We took a stroll along Kaikoura's dark sand beach at sunset
Kaikoura has a resident pod of 500 dusky dolphins -- making sighting and encounters all but guaranteed
Our captain in front of the large rock where we swam with seals
We hiked the lovely Peninsula Walkway after our dolphin swim
Picturesque Kaikoura as seen from a helicopter
Sheep posing on the Peninsula Walkway
...and Robin's first sighting of a sperm whale!
We happened upon a local vegetable growing contest that day