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Entries about ocean

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.



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...

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

Solway Lass

Stinger suits, sails, and sunsets

Another 'must-do' as you travel the East Coast of Australia is go sailing in the Whitsundays. Made up of 74 islands, it's simply gorgeous, and the Southern start of the Great Barrier Reef. Featuring one of the purest, whitest beaches in the world, it's the kind of trip you cross your fingers for full sun!

There are many boats and tours to choose from, day trips to overnight or even two or three night trips, from party boats to hopefully non-party boats. Ansley (another American that I met in New Zealand and have kept in contact with) had recommended Ragamuffin (a 3 day, 2 night trip), as that was the one she'd done and had loved it. It's a 53' Admirals Cup yacht, and it looked awesome. Although I did actually choose this one and reserve it, it ended up being a slow week and there wasn't enough people booked for that boat to sail, and I got switched / upgraded to Solway Lass. Built in Holland in 1902, she's a classic tall ship with lots of history and the tour was for 3 days and 3 nights!



We boarded after dinner the first night and motored out of the harbour and into the Whitsundays for a couple hours, before anchoring for the night. Obviously rooms and beds are small, since we're on a boat, but luckily we were only 13 people, on a boat with a capacity to sleep 32. This meant it was mostly 2 people to a room of 4, and gave us a little more room than if it'd been packed. The boat itself is 127' including the bow sprit, and 20' beam, two masts and 12 sails (though the most we had set were 3).

Hmm, I can't believe I didn't take any pictures below or of the berths!

Since it was dark when we left the harbour, we were anxious to wake up and see where we were. We woke up to this...


Our first stop of the day was Whitehaven Beach. The pristine, super white, famous beach I mentioned before. We anchored on the other side of the island and hiked over to the beach. We got to wear these awesome, sexy, stinger suits for the water since it was still stinger season. There are some intense jellyfish (such as the box jellyfish and the irukandji) that you don't want to mess with.



The clouds and sun alternated, providing us with everything from storm clouds (complete with rain!) to sunshine and blue sky. It was great to see the difference the sun made, all in just a half an hour!

After we'd spent some time at the beach, we headed up to a lookout point. Unfortunately, there were tons of people about and everyone was so focused on 'getting that perfect picture' that no one seemed aware that everyone else was trying to do the same thing. Which led to lots of frustrated people. We were also on a time schedule because of the tides, we had to get back to the beach or we wouldn't be able to get back to the boat!


That afternoon we set the sails and the sun came out for a lovely afternoon sail. Off the bowsprit was a net you could hang out on, though it wasn't the most comfortable, it was certainly the most awesome place to hang out, and that's where I spent most of my time!


Our second day was the snorkeling (and diving if you added that extra) day. I'd been very torn with the diving option, it was additional money, but I'd heard really good things about the area (again, from Ansley). I did decide not to dive, and save that for when I'm farther north, and from what everyone who went diving said, I totally made the right call. Apparently there was barely any visibility and they didn't even see many fish.

We did do a bunch of snorkeling and saw tons of fish. The fish were definitely used to people, some boats (including ours) were even feeding them (at least it was “Great Barrier Reef Approved Fish Food”). I was a little disappointed in the state of the coral, it didn't look so good. My guess was it was too popular of a place with all the boats going there and people not used to having fins continually got too close. Our boat didn't even give out fins to swim with, saying most people damage the coral with them.


That afternoon we went to another snorkeling spot, but this one had less visibility and we didn't really see much. By that point we were also getting cold and a lot of us didn't stay in the water very long.


Our third, and final day, involved a bush walk up to a lookout and then an afternoon sail back to the harbour. The weather didn't really cooperate that day and was pretty overcast and rainy. But still such an awesome trip! And of course I felt like I was on a boat still that night and even felt like I was swaying the next day :)


Posted by smr1188 05:43 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches boats ocean beach australia tours sand sailing whitsundays east_coast Comments (1)

Dingoes and 4WD on the Largest Sand Island--Fraser Island

Lookout, it's a Dropbear!


When travelling in Australia, particularly along the east coast, it's a must to see Fraser Island. While I didn't want to miss out on Fraser Island, I was skeptical after hearing some of the stories about the different companies that run tours. You can do anything from a day tour to a three day tour, ride in a bus or do a tag along 4wd tour (where your group is split into several vehicles, depending on the size and everyone can take a turn driving). I certainly didn't want to do a day tour and the bus was definitely out, but there were several tag along tours to choose from. I turned to TripAdvisor to see if anything stood out. Many of the companies recommended by travel agents (such as Wicked Travel had mixed reviews, however one company immediately stood out. Dropbear Adventures. Out of the 188 reviews on tripadvisor, 181 were excellent, 6 were 'very good' and only 1 negative review. I was astonished by the reviews and immediately decided to go with them. Best decision ever.

From being picked up at the hostel by the owner himself, to how smoothly the paperwork, safetly introduction video and vehicles were sorted, I was impressed.

As quick as possible we all packed our stuff up in the cars and left Noosa for a two hour drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach, where we'd catch the ferry to Fraser Island. This 2 hour drive was a good opportunity to chat with the people you were in the car with and start getting to know some of the people you'd be spending the next 3 days with. Unfortunately, I ended up in a car made up entirely of Swiss who all knew each other and though they tried to speak English, they inevitably slipped back and I was left on my own. The following days some people switched around in cars and so I was able to be in different cars.

Once we got to Rainbow beach we hopped on the ferry and saw our first glimpse of Fraser Island.


It was a short ferry ride and soon enough we were driving on the sand, where all normal road rules still apply, such as speed limits and driving on the left.


I had no idea Fraser Island is as big as it is, it's almost 80 miles long! The eastern beach goes most of the length of the island and is the main driving area. It seems to go on forever!


Our first stop was our campsite so we could change and have lunch. One of the reasons I'd chose Dropbear Adventures was that food was included, which is a nice change for backpackers.

We were right next to the ocean, just a sand dune separating us from the water and you could always hear the waves.


Our tents were already set up with sleeping pads and sand already in them. You just had to claim one, but make sure you didn't keep any of your belongings in the tent when you weren't in it, dingoes are very present on the island and never hesitate to steal a tent if they think there's something good in it.


Our afternoon adventure was to Lake Wabby, one of the many freshwater lakes on the island.




The water was chilly, but in a refreshing kind of way.

We headed back to camp for dinner, drinks, and then I spent the night laying on the beach looking up at the sky. The stars were absolutely incredible!

And it was so great being so close to the ocean, but unfortunately due to stingers, sharks, and rips, you couldn't swim in it.

But you could watch the sunrise!



We did a lot of driving that next day, since it was our only full day on the island.



And spent some time at Eli Creek, another freshwater spring (where our camp drinking water came from).




We went to the Champagne Pools, where water washes over the rocks and there's lots of little fish in the water.




We hiked up Indian Head, which was a sacred area for the Aboriginals and had gorgeous views, we even saw a shark swim by down below!




There's a famous shipwreck on the island, called the Maheno. You can read more about it here.



Fraser Island wouldn't be complete without some dingoes!


Our last day a storm came in, but we were headed inland for some bush driving and a rainforest walk anyway. Though we did stop at Lake Mckenzie which certainly would have been better had it been warm and sunny.





It wouldn't be Australia without a ridiculous sign.


We took a walk in a rainforest and there was another freshwater stream, this one almost difficult to see as it flowed over the sand.


All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Fraser and head back on the ferry.


Though since I was headed all the way back to Noosa, my trip wasn't done. After we dropped some people off we headed for another beach drive along Rainbow Beach.




Right at the end Mark got stuck and we all got out to push and eventually had to tow him out. It would have been disappointing if no one had gotten stuck the whole trip, so this was good timing. And he was very stuck.


But we pulled him out, no problem.


We took another ferry and watched the sunset and then we were all ready to be home after a very long three days.


I would highly recommend Dropbear Adventures to everyone. It's an unforgettable trip!

The following photos courtesy of Dropbear.




Posted by smr1188 15:02 Archived in Australia Tagged lakes beaches rainforest fraser_island ocean wildlife beach australia driving tours sunrise east_coast Comments (4)

2 Koalas, 3 Kookaburras, and 12 (technically 7) Apostles

A day on the Great Ocean Road


There are several options if you want to see 'The Great Ocean Road', a famous coastal drive in Victoria. Featuring beautiful coastlines and beaches, limestone cliffs, and even farmlands and rainforests. Ideally, renting a car would be the best to see the road and towns, but this isn't always financially feasible, especially travelling alone. The next option is going with a tour company, I chose Go West Tours.

What I didn't realize was the Great Ocean Road was built by returned soldiers in 1919-1932 and dedicated to those killed during World War I, technically the road is the world's largest war memorial. The road is 243 kilometers (151 miles) and travels from Torquay to Allansford which is near Warrnambool.


The 14 hour day tour started at 7:30am when the Go West tour bus showed up at my hostel in Melbourne and picked me up. The tour guide Nicky, immediately hopped out of the bus and introduced herself and once we were settled in on the bus we drove around Melbourne picking up a couple more people before heading out of the city. There were a lot of aspects of the tour that I appreciated, but the first thing I noticed was how the guide kept us informed on what we were doing. As we headed out of Melbourne she told us where we were going next and how long it would take, and talked a bit about the surroundings we were driving by.

Our first stop was Bells Beach, and of course my first photograph is of a colorful bathroom!


Bells Beach is a famous surfing beach, though there was only a couple people out there that morning. Bells Beach has actually been named a surfing recreation reserve and is protected.


We all hopped back on the bus and were offered candy to hold us over while we headed towards the next stop major stop, a morning tea and cake break.



We stopped to see if we could find some wild koalas at one point, though they are wild and hard to predict so unfortunately they were all curled up high in the trees and hard to see. There were some beautiful birds there though too.


Nicky took the opportunity to stop at several lookout points along the road, when they weren't crowded with other buses, and even drive by pictures came out well. While we were driving, Nicky had an ipod playlist with music that coincided with what we were doing. There was surfing music (Beach Boys and others) while we were near Bells Beach, and then driving along songs that had lyrics about winding roads and a beautiful sunny day (luckily it was just that!) which I thought was quite clever and a nice touch.

Lunch was pre-ordered for us from a Thai restaurant which was surprisingly good, and then we had some time to walk around and enjoy the town of Apollo Bay. Nicky would tell us how much time we had before we had to be back to the bus, which was nice to be able to plan. Everyone usually returned right on time and it saved the awkward waving and yelling and herding everyone back to the bus.

After Apollo Bay we stopped at the Great Otway National Park’s cool temperate rainforest and had a half an hour walk through while Nicky told us about the huge towering trees.


Finally we arrived at the 12 Apostles. These were created from limestone and sandstone erosion. They're forever changing and these will one day collapse and new ones will be carved from the shoreline.


From the 12 Apostles we went to the Loch Ard Gorge and the now collapsed London Bridge.



London Bridge used to look like this:P3253325.jpg

But has since fallen down to this:

After that it was a long drive back to Melbourne. We took the inland road which was quicker but we still didn't get back to the city till after 9. We did stop briefly for dinner if people wanted, and a break for the driver. Though wifi is offered on the bus, it is dependent on cell service and I seemed to always time it wrong cause it never worked for me. At least the bus was nicely air-conditioned (or in our case, heated since it was windy and chilly) and I was glad I'd chosen the tour company with the smallest bus. With only 24 people on board, it gave the opportunity to meet and chat with most of the group throughout the tour, with everyone offering to take each others' pictures for them.

I'd certainly recommend Go West Tours, if you're looking for a small company with tours that have a personality and cover a lot of ground. Also, many thanks to Go West Tours for the discounted tour!

Posted by smr1188 14:48 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches victoria great_ocean_road ocean australia coastline 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.


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.


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


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!

Next up was fishing. Pretty much everyone on board except myself grabbed a line and tried to catch some dinner.

I spent the time exploring the ship and enjoying the sunset.





Dinner was a mixture of bbq, salads, and pasta and everyone sat at one long table, chatting with their neighbors.

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.


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!




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.


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







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)

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