Everyone warned us about the West Coast – rain, rain & more rain. All we had was bright sunshine with great views all the way. Our first close encounter was with the Youth Hostel at Punakaiki. On arriving in the dark we were sent down a small path, lit by night lights, into the rain forest to find our lodges. Magical.
The next day we travelled back to the east coast, visiting Hanmer and experiencing the thermal swimming areas. The water came directly from underground and the temperature in the pools ranged from 28C to 40C. We finished the day at Kaikoura hoping for a calm sea and sunshine the next day.
Our good luck held and the weather conditions could not have been better. An early start saw us setting off to watch whales. Within 10 minutes one was spotted, a sperm whale resting on the surface. After venting several times he dived done giving us the iconic sight of his flute. We then raced with the Dusky Dolphins who were obviously intent on something else – probably a school of fish. An encounter with several albatross who seemed very interested in us was followed by a race across the waves to meet another whale. After a final sighting of the rare Hector Dolphins we sailed back to port.
For many of the group the afternoon excursion was the highlight of the trip – swimming with dolphins – in the open ocean with wild dolphins. They are not trained or fed to encourage them and would only join us if they felt we were interesting. After squeezing into wetsuits and a lesson on snorkeling we set off to find some Dusky Dolphins. This was not difficult as there were over 500 around us. They were leaping out of the water and a few were performing sumersaults and twists.
We were sent into the water and told to make a lot of noise to keep the dolphins interested. This was not difficult for the group, they had been doing this for the whole trip! Sure enough the dolphins were intrigued with this mass of black suited idiots and swam in circles trying to confuse us. A few of the group duck dived, but couldn’t keep up. We had several sessions in the water and time went very quickly. This was an experience we would all recommend for anyone lucky enough to be in Kaikoura.
This brought a close to our time on South Island. We headed back to North Island to meet up with the Havelock School and experience the thermal activity in the central area.