Akaroa - Swimming with Dolphins - Airport
Pretty soon the wetsuits (7mm) were forthcoming, along with booties, gloves, neoprene hood, mask, snorkel and flippers. We were feeling distinctly dubious about jumping in the ocean at this point, as it seemed a cold prospect.
Finally jumped on board the small boat and within 20 minutes were at the head of the harbour area where the dolphins hang out. Found a couple quite quickly but they weren't deemed sufficiently curious for our purposes. We also saw some Penguins (blue?) swimming about too.
Got all the gear (still a bit cold in there though)
Eventually we found another pod of 3 playmates who decided to stick around, so we were encouraged into the water. Uncharacteristically I went in first. I expected the first rush of cold water but anticipated I would soon feel warm. In the event it took quite some minutes before feeling warm. Gasping because of the cold is not a great way to relearn how a snorkel works but I got it eventually, as did Doug and Ann-Marie.
We were told the dolphins like noise so Ann-Marie was given a bike bell and we were all told to sing. It's quite difficult to come up with one's complete repetoir for the curious dolphin whilst gasping from cold and with a snorkel in your mouth but we each gave it a good go.
I thought Ann-Marie was making particularly impressive noises only later to discover it was instead Doug that was making all the noise. So much noise that a few more dolphins were required to inspect him (very impressed our ship captain, Chris, was too).
The visibility in the water was pretty poor, so as I got into my singing I was more than a bit alarmed when a dolphin came close to have an investigation. These Hector Dolphins are only little but are still the colour of killer whales and in their own domain! (killer whales recently spotted in the harbour, as is, we were unreliably informed, a great white!). Actually the wonders of the world wide web reveal that the shark thing was not as unreliable information as we thought, there is one that comes into the harbour at times.
Oh good, it was true about the shark thing then (we were reliability informed that in 100 years only 7 people have been attacked by sharks in NZ)
Glad we didnt see a great white whilst dressed in a seal costume
Actually the marine research centre we went to in Otago did explain quite clearly that Sharks are often close to the shore on the East Coast of new zealand as there is a warm water current near the coast coming across from Oz.
After making noises for curious dolphins for a while, for some reason I started singing the Jaws theme tune. This had the effect of scaring me witless, reinforced by bobbing up to the surface near the boat in a scene reminisant of the movie (in my crazed mind anyway). Dolphins seemed much less impressed with the tune but primarly because my brother was displaying all the features of a one-man band to keep them all entertained.
Starting to feel the cold, having swallowed lots of water (and plankton no doubt), and having scared myself silly with the jaws tune, I wasnt sure I wanted any more sudden close encouters with Orca coloured dolphins so i headed for home, content with having had a couple of decent looks.
Was pretty happy we missed out on the Orcas too (they like seals, I've seen the documentary where this was clearly conveyed)
What we did see were the world's smallest and rarest dolphins - Hector's dolphins!!
Likely to be a shot of Doug making all kinds of noises from his 'one-man band' gig attracting all kinds of interest from passing marine life
Image shamelessly nicked from the web but it gives an idea what we swam with!
Phew! Got back to port for about 11 to a hot shower (having consumed hot chocolate en route and narrowly avoided being sick - struggle a bit with sea legs).
Then we dashed back to Christchurch for Doug to pack, then dashed to the airport to put him on the plane home - just 5 minutes free for a long promised game or air hockey (Doug beat Ann-Marie) before saying our goodbyes.
Great trip! Think we packed quite a lot into the time we had in the end!