Kaikoura , Dolphins (Aihe in Mauri), South Island, New Zealand, 1 reason why they are all in one sentence. This is where I got to go and live one of my forever dreams, to swim with Dolphins! Wild Dolphins!
For decades these Wild Dolphins have loved the waters of New Zealand for breeding, feeding and safety. One of the pods regular to the Kaikoura coast line are a huge Pod of Dolphins with over 400 of them in all. They are Dusky Dolphins, which are small in size but fast, friendly and unbelievably feisty if needed.
The only Dolphin Encounters happen through the company of the same name, to protect the dolphins and educate visitors. There are restrictions on how many people can go into the water in one expedition, 16 maximum from each boat, there is a total of 2 boats, and then only 3 actual trips a day go out to the Dolphins. The trip itself sets off at 7am, 12noon and 4pm, so spread out during the day too. For those who are satisfied by staying dry, there are over 30 seats and space aboard for them to come along too.
I phoned and booked in advance and was still told we were on the waiting list due to how busy the these encounters were. I accepted I may only be able to stay on the boat and see the dolphins, but whatever happened we were off to Kaikoura. BOOK AS FAR IN ADVANCE AS POSSIBLE! When we went in December it was the start of peak season so was nearly fully booked up till January due to the Summer months been the prime time
A roadtrip from Christchurch turned into the perfect day for me and friends, we rented a car for the day from the city centre, for £60 dollar with insurance. First time driving in a different country, first time driving an automatic, which was memorable! Music blasting, snacks along the way, a call letting me know that we were definitely in one of the slots to go in the water with them, due to last minute cancellations.
We were told to sign an agreement on how to act, and what to do when we were on the boat and in the water. I signed the medical certificates as always when diving or within the ocean, and they also have camera equipment if you need to rent any. Size of shoes and wet suits next, which are a good 6mm thick, with head caps and socks to make sure as much warmth is kept in as possible. You have a short video to sit through to appreciate the experience you are about to be part of and to appreciate it. Then to the boat harbour on the South Bay of Kaikoura we go, I WAS SO EXCITED!
The boat can take upto 50 minutes to find the Pod which are sometimes closer or further away from the main bay. In the mean time we were allowed to go on the back of the boat and get prepared for lift off (should I say jump off). While i was putting my flippers on all of a sudden the captain shouted for us to look into the waves the boat was making, 1 , 2, ,8 dolphins were all jumping in and out of them. OMG! This was real. My first time in my life seeing wild dolphins, I was so happy.
The way the boat worked was dropping us off as close to the family pod as possible, we then jump off the boat into the sea, and off we went swimming as fast as we could into the middle of the Dolphins. One of the silly but crucial tips we were given was to make loud screaming noises, like humming, singing, sirens almost to attract the Dolphins who love sound. For a few seconds I didn’t think it was working then all of a sudden there were Dolphins on either side of me, their eyes seeing me so clearly, with such a curiousity.
The most amazing feeling was when they started becoming even braver, and more curious as they felt safer, just circling around me almost like they were trying to play, it was the most amazing experience I have ever had. It was at least 20 seconds, there were fully grown dolphins, and even infant ones getting closer as there mothers did.
As I took a breath above the water after a lot of excitement below the water, I couldn’t help but laugh and smile to myself in delight from what was going on. With that there was just as much activity, as below the surface with dolphins jumping , flipping and even summersaulting through the ocean. My heart was jumping just like the Dolphins! It was insane with some only 2 metres away when they do this. The other sounds were the hilarious siren and whistling from the other 14 people in the ocean with me!
The afternoon was a series of other animal interactions with the local seals, exploring beaches and just enjoying the great outdoors on the way back to Chrustchurch. It was an incredible day, thanks too the guys and girl mates I met to do this with, so thanks guys!
5 hours after we arrived back on dry land I was still buzzing from this once in a lifetime encounter with these Wild clever creatures. The next morning my first thought was disbelief of what happened the day before, still smiling and taking every opportunity to talk to anyone about swimming with Dolphins. Even now 5 months later its one of the best highlights of my travels.
To contact and book – https://www.dolphinencounter.co.nz/