After leaving the MacKenzie region, Lee & I ventured eastward to explore some of the coastal towns before continuing our northward trek. We headed to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, a beautiful region just south of Christchurch that was formed by the collapse of two volcanoes, leaving a unique landscape of hills, bays, and ridges with sweeping landscapes.
From there we headed north to Kaikoura, a coastal town known for its abundance of seabirds, seals, whales, and dolphins (and more recently, for being the scene of NZs most recent serious earthquake November 2016, disrupting the major coastal route in and out of the town, and stranding the town residents for weeks). We enjoyed views of the region on the Peninsula Walk, enjoying local seafood along the way, and checking out the seal colony at Point Kean.
(yes, that is a seal and a cat in the same frame – can’t explain it, but symbiosis at its best!)
But the real attraction of the area and the highlight of the week, by far, was the opportunity to do a swim with the dolphins. After waiting for a few days for the weather to clear, we were delighted to wake up to sunny skies and calm seas, and headed out for “Dolphin Encounter”. After a short cruise out into the harbor, we were thrilled to see the hallmark sign – i.e. the dorsal fins marking a pod of not a few…
…but hundreds of dusky dolphins, incredibly energetic and playful creatures that inhabit the deep water canyons off of Kaikoura.
While Lee elected to stay with the hardy group of boat-based observers (he’s just not a water guy!), I donned the requisite wet suit and flippers to join a group of snorkeling dolphin-swimmers, and plunged in for an amazing adventure.
To say the experience was amazing would be an understatement. With nothing more to entice them than our presence and their natural curiosity, the dolphins surrounded and entertained us with their whole-hearted exuberance. We spent the next hour swimming in and around with hundreds of these amazing creatures as they literally swam with, over, and above us, often within arm’s distance. While some were swimming playfully in circles around us…
…others leaped repeatedly out of the water, doing flips and acrobatics – apparently just for the fun of it! Definitely another experience of a lifetime!