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Have you ever sung to a dolphin through a snorkel?

Wetsuits, snorkels, and singing with dolphins.

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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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I didn't know whether to look under the water or above the surface!
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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...

Posted by smr1188 17:25 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animals boats ocean wildlife tours new_zealand swimming south_island Comments (3)

Numbers of Travel

No pictures, just numbers


View Adventures in the Southern Hemisphere, Part 1 on smr1188's travel map.

With my travelling partner headed back to the other side of the world we started looking back at our trip and reminiscing. I've always had a thing for numbers, so why not look at some numbers of the trip so far. As of March 23 we have...

Met 16 Americans

Drank 3 bottles of Whiskey

Been on 5 flights and 8 trains

Rented 4 vehicles...and spent 41 days with a vehicle

Spent 55 days in New Zealand

Spent 85 days in Australia

Visited 4 out of 8 states in Australia

Slept in 11 different beds (in 85 days) in Australia (That's an average of 7.7 nights per place!)

Slept in 32 different beds (in 55 days) in New Zealand (That's an average of 1.7 nights per place!)

Worked 5 different helpx programs

Hung out with 3 cats and 6 dogs

Visited 11 National Parks (6 in New Zealand, 5 in Australia)

And there's nothing like curling up with a favorite show or movie at the end of the day so we watched...
72 Episodes of Psych
35 Episodes of Friends
23 Movies

Oh, and I've taken 8,834 pictures.

Would anyone like to see any other numbers or counts of something?

Posted by smr1188 18:21 Archived in Australia Tagged travel australia new_zealand numbers summary Comments (1)

New Zealand Wrap-up

That's right, last post of NZ! (Unless I think of something else...)

This is a miscellaneous collection of pictures and maybe brief stories from the North Island that didn't fit anywhere else.

While in Hawke's Bay we drove up to the lookout and there were some gorgeous views!
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While in Hawke's Bay, you have to go to at least a couple winerys and do some wine tasting. We went to a couple places, and one gave us a tour which was interesting to learn about some of the wine making process.
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In Gisborne we dragged ourselves out of bed quite early in the morning to see the sunrise. Sunrises are cool but the special point of this one was that Gisborne is the first town in the world to see the sunrise!
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Our hostel was right across the street from the water, so we had gorgeous views from our bedroom window...
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Just outside of Gisborne there's the longest pier in the southern hemisphere. Well cool. We had to go check it out! At 660m (almost a quarter mile!) in length, it offers a nice walk out over the water and several fishing and jumping activities, if you're into that sort of thing.
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We drove up to the northern tip of the north island and did a tour to Cape Reinga. Our bus driver was crazy, but it was cheap for New Zealand and we got to see a lot.

This involved everything from hiking to a lighthouse which is the official northern most point.
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To seeing the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean
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There were neat views and beaches below...
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We stopped by some huge sand dunes, for those that wanted to climb up and sand board down.
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And our bus went off roading and drove down 90 Mile Beach (though it's really only 55 miles or so)
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Our last stop before Auckland was the Kauri forest. These Kauri trees are the largest in New Zealand and roughly 2,000 years old!!
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This concludes the New Zealand adventure, now it's back to Australia and on to new places and adventures. (Unless of course I realize I've forgotten something important about New Zealand, then I'll be sure to add it). We covered a lot of ground in New Zealand with 3 different vehicles and over 8,000km driven, and we slept in 32 different beds in 55 days.

Relocation Roadtrip

Relocation Roadtrip

South Island Roadtrip

South Island Roadtrip

North Island Roadtrip

North Island Roadtrip

We'll certainly miss New Zealand!!!

Posted by smr1188 15:49 Archived in New Zealand Tagged trees tours sunrise new_zealand lighthouse winery roadtrip north_island summary Comments (2)

The Rock

A night on the water

First, a quick story before the story.

Our day started when we woke up and realized that our car wouldn't start. Uh oh. After awhile, we determined that the battery was dead because a light was left on. Oops. So we popped the hood and stood there looking helpless till this guy in a truck came to our rescue. Totally cliche. After we got it started, he told us we needed to drive around for 45 minutes to charge it. Great, no problem. Except we were in a small town and didn't have anywhere specific we wanted to go. So instead of driving in circles we actually stopped and picked up a hitchhiker. We offered to drive him at a half an hour or less in the direction he was hoping to go. There was a bit of a language barrier though, so despite our explanation of 'just needing to drive the car but don't need to go anywhere', I don't think he really understood what was going on. In the end we did help him out and gave him a ride to the next (slightly larger) town over. We were between Auckland and the northern tip of the north island in a town called Paihia, as shown on the map below.

Luckily, out of all the days of our roadtrip on the North Island, this was the only day where we weren't driving early in the morning, or really needing to drive at all, we had booked an overnight "Adventure Cruise" on a houseboat! We were to be picked up at 5, so we'd just planned on relaxing most of that day anyway.

You can see the houseboat waiting for us out in the harbour.

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The Rock is a houseboat that runs sort of a floating hostel. At 5pm we were picked up from the dock and we had 22 hours on the boat, returning around 3pm the next day. In that short time we did tons of activities and because it's a small space, made friends with all those on board, only around 20 people including a couple crew members. By the time 3pm the next day came around I was ready to hide away on the boat!

When we got on the boat, we were introduced to the crew and got the tour of the place. There was everything from a bar and pool table, to a piano and guitars.

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We were in a 6 bed room, with an awesome view. Every room on the boat has a view like this!

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Our first activity as we headed out of the harbour involved a paintball gun and a plastic duck...yes that's right. They towed the duck, Matilda, behind the boat and everyone got 3 shots to try to hit it. The best shot got a free drink from the bar. Having never shot a paintball gun there really wasn't much hope for me, but it was certainly fun!
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Next up was fishing. Pretty much everyone on board except myself grabbed a line and tried to catch some dinner.
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I spent the time exploring the ship and enjoying the sunset.

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Dinner was a mixture of bbq, salads, and pasta and everyone sat at one long table, chatting with their neighbors.
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After dinner we got out the kayaks and took turns paddling out to see the phosphorescence which is always a lot of fun. The kayaks were sit on top though, so everyone got a little wet from paddling, so luckily there was a fire (a fire on a boat!) to warm up to when we got back.

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Early morning risers were treated to a boatride ashore for a hike and a gorgeous sunrise view. I hate to admit I didn't make it up for this, I tried, I really did, but it wasn't happening. At least my camera made the journey though!

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After breakfast we headed over to a good snorkeling spot, Mussel Rock, and everyone jumped in to see what they could see. There were wetsuits for hire, but I thought I could tough it out. Mistake. But it was still a lot of fun seeing fish I hadn't seen before.

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We stopped at another island where we could kayak ashore, hike up to a viewpoint, and hang out at the beach some.

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It was great exploring a bit around the Bay of Islands, they claim there's 144 Islands, though they count rocks in the water as islands. There's only 25 or so islands that you can actually get out and walk around on. Luckily we had gorgeous weather for it too!

Definately a highlight of our New Zealand trip, I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get out on the water and for something different!

Posted by smr1188 06:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boats ocean hostels new_zealand roadtrip north_island Comments (4)

Lord of the Rings in NZ

Not all who wander are lost

Lord of the Rings settings: If you're not into the movies or books, you can skip this post :)

Since the entirety of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in New Zealand, there's a lot of places you can go that resemble scenes from the movies. Though no sets (aside from Hobbiton) remain, the landscape is gorgeous and almost always recognizable as a scene from the movie, depending how well you know the movies!

Wellington Airport:
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Sometimes it's impossible to get to the location as there were several that required the cast and crew to be flown in via helicopters, and sometimes it's just 24km down a dirt road...like these pictures from Edoras.

Movie:
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Today:
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Sometimes there's a path that's well signed, like these just outside of Wellington.

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And sometimes it takes a bit of recalling from the movie and guesswork, or just acknowledging that it was 'somewhere around here that this scene was filmed'.

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Isengard:
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Rivendell:
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Posted by smr1188 19:14 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand lotr movies roadtrip north_island lord_of_the_rings Comments (2)

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