Wetsuits, snorkels, and singing with dolphins.
9/12/14 - 9/12/14
Kaikoura has an abundance of sea life just off the coast, and there's lots of opportunities to view them or even get up close and personal! Last time I was in Kaikoura I went whale watching, wandering with seals, and through the lavender gardens, this time I had the chance to check out some dusky dolphins...
The day started with the van picking us up at 5am. Ouch. After getting kitted up with mask/snorkel, wetsuit, fins, etc we watched an introductory video about the dolphins and safety.
Dusky dolphins are generally the most acrobatic of the dolphins and luckily hang out near Kaikoura all year long. Encounter Kaikoura has been in business for over 20 years, and they have all sorts of permits specifying and limiting how many people can be in the water with the dolphins and how many tours they can do. They don't feed the dolphins or encourage them in any way.
They have a general idea of where the dolphins will be hanging out and 'socializing' when we head out on the water, but it takes some time to actually find them. Luckily it was a beautiful, relatively calm, day and the scenery was spectacular. Unlike bottlenose dolphins (and my general thoughts on dolphins) these guys don't have specific pods that they stick too, so you never know how many you'll actually see in one area.
For awhile I was just on deck, watching as everyone else hopped in the water. They told us that we were here to entertain the dolphins. The dolphins didn't have to stick around, they could swim away. There was nothing keeping them there aside from their curiosity, so we had to try to be engaging to keep them around. They suggested diving down, trying to swim with them, (they're so fast though!) and also suggested singing to them. Dolphins live and communicate in a world of sound, so that makes sense. Also it's amazingly entertaining for everyone else around when you try to sing through a snorkel underwater...
After awhile it was my turn to get in the water. I'm not sure how cold the water actually was, but I'd say it's the coldest water I've ever been swimming in! The visibility wasn't the greatest, so you couldn't always see the dolphins coming, and then all of a sudden, one would swim by! They'd usually do a circle around you to check you out, before continuing on, or sticking around for another circle. They certainly weren't afraid of us, and didn't mind getting real close.
I didn't know whether to look under the water or above the surface!
They were so quick of course, I just kind of waved my camera around and hoped I got a picture of one. Compared to the slow swim of the Minke Whales, there was no waiting for these guys to stop for a photo!
I did take two videos that I might as well post, but I'm spinning in circles for the first one, so try not to get dizzy with me! The second one is a little shorter and maybe better. I think I'm talking to the dolphins too, or just making random sounds anyway.
In the end everyone was cold, and some were starting to get seasick so after stopping just to view a large pod of maybe 200 dolphins, we headed back to shore. The jumps and flips always make the dolphins look like they're playing and having fun, and it was neat to be in the water trying to play with them too. I wonder what they thought of us...