Kaikoura is another place that has been affected by a recent earthquake and the road network has been seriously compromised. This makes reaching this small town difficult and takes a lot more time than before, so we had debated on whether to bother. For anyone out there having similar thoughts, I will save you time.
DEFINITELY GO, IT’S AMAZING!
Rachel and Bec were in town too, so we had a little bit more of an incentive to make the drive.
After our disappointment at Fleur’s Place (see Day 24), Laura had found another little place called the Seafood BBQ which is effectively a shack by the roadside. We headed straight there and damn, that seafood was amazing. Fresh crayfish, mussels, prawns, scallops, fritters and the catch of the day all cooked beautifully and simply and served just with rice, salad and some bread and butter. It was incredible! This was worth the trip just on its own.
To make things even better, on the drive back into town we saw some seals on the rocks literally next to the road so I was pulling over and jumping out with camera in hand immediately. I got within 6-8 metres of them, and they appeared very chilled out and not nervous at all, so I took some photos and then figured I should leave them to it. So amazing.
Rach and Bec had just finished their Dolphin Encounter and so we met up with them for coffee and hot chocolate and to hear their stories. Within minutes we had booked the tour, it sounded amazing.
The afternoon was spent with the four of us playing games on the beach and building stone towers, very relaxed and really nice spending time with them.
We all went for dinner in a restaurant called Zephyr, which served amazing food. I had venison, Rach had duck, and then Lau and Bec had the fish of the day. The food was so good, we had to have dessert too!
The next morning we woke early and headed out for our Dolphin Encounter. Excited doesn’t even come close to it. After hearing Rach and Bec’s account of theirs yesterday, the expectation was high.
On checking in, we are told that the sea is moderate to rough and they’ll only be taking out experienced/confident swimmers and won’t be allowing spectators. I’m immediately apprehensive as despite being an experienced scuba diver, I also do suffer from sea sickness in rough conditions, but I’m still up for it. Laura is a good swimmer and also a diver, so doesn’t seem concerned at all.
After the usual safety briefing and getting kitted up in wetsuits we board the boat and head out to sea. It’s bumpy, but I’m feeling good and it’s only 15 minutes before we spot the first dolphins. At this point I’m thinking “get ready” but the crew know their stuff and they first drive the boat around to get a feel for whether these dolphins are in a playful mood or not. It seems these ones are not up for visitors and we continue the search, all the while the seas are rising.
We finally get the call to get prepared and we all sit on the back of the boat, fins dangling in the wake as the boat speeds ahead of the dolphins and then the horn sounds and we plunge into the sea! At first, it’s disorientating as looking down into the blue there is no frame of reference and as you are snorkelling you are bobbing up and down on the surface like a cork. All of a sudden we are surrounded by dolphins and they are weaving in between us so quickly, it’s surreal. They are everywhere.
We swim with them for about 10 minutes and the horn sounds, calling us back to the boat. Everyone is buzzing and we all get seated as the boat speeds off to find the dolphins again.
The sea was getting rough now and I was starting to feel ill, but when the horn sounded again, back in we went. I lasted half the swim and then started throwing up on the surface – my body had given up. I threw Laura the GoPro and got back onboard, a bit dejected but still elated that I’d got to spend as long as I had with these incredible creatures.
To be honest, I didn’t miss much as it turns out but Laura did get some great footage to add to mine.
By the time everyone was back on board and heading for shore, I really wasn’t well so, huddled up under a blanket and got my head down.
Finally back on shore, and feeling a lot better we met Rach and Bec for a quick lunch and said our final farewells. Rachel was heading off to Australia in the next couple of days and Bec was going back home to Queenstown.
We hit the road for Hanmer Springs!