I would like to share my marine life experiences. I’m crazy about wild nature and I adore the countries that combine wild and city life without destroying the nature and disturbing the animals.
When I was planning my first trip to New Zealand in late October-early November 2010 I learnt that there was a possibility to go for a whale watching trip. I was amazed. It sounded like a wonder for me. To be honest – nothing changed))
So let’s start from the beginning!
My marine life acquaintance began in New Zealand at Kaikoura. It is a picturesque town on the east cost of the South Island. Due to the combination of natural factors it appears to be one of the best places in the southern hemisphere to get acquainted with sperm whales, fur seals, albatrosses, dolphins…
I booked our whale adventure in advance via the web site http://whalewatch.co.nz/
We were supposed to depart at 3 pm but when we came to check in we found out that our tour was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. Although it was sunny the waves raised up to 4 meters in the high seas. I was disappointed but as it turned out later it was a gate-away for another amazing experience.
The guy at the whale watching desk was very friendly and helpful. He has rebooked our trip to the 7am tour the next day (without extra charge) and advised on other attractions in the area.
Among those he has mentioned the Ohau Steam. The directions he gave us were very simple: ‘after 20 minutes drive north you will see a sign and a parking nearby – park there and follow the path’. it appeared to be exactly the same as he had explained.
Seal pups. Ohau Stream
So what is Ohau Stream? it is a short walk upwards to the small waterfall and natural pool where seal pups can be watched during the winter. We were there in November and normally it is not the right time but here we were lucky!
This pool is a kind of natural kindergarten for seal pups. Between April and October they make their own way up to the waterfall. Frankly speaking the way to the pool is not an easy one – very rocky and with a significant incline. The pups stay at stream for several days at a time. When they get hungry they return to the coast to feed on their mother’s rich milk. During their stay at the stream the mothers spend increasingly longer periods of time at sea, hunting for food.
In the pool the pups explore the surroundings, develop their swimming and social skills. Seals are highly social and gregarious species so these early playful antics strengthen important social bonds. Their energetic physical activities help to build powerful muscles and to develop coordination. All these attributes are crucial to become effective marine hunters.
Their games can be watched for hours. Check my video to get the idea what I’m talking about!
Also a lot of seals can be discovered on the shore across the highway near the mouth of the stream – both pups and adults.
Among other activities the guy has offered us was a dinner at the camper-cafe on the shore – they serve extremely fresh crayfish there – we didn’t miss the chance to try those – very delicious! Beware of the seagulls – they can help you to finish your meal in case you can’t manage it yourself)
This cafe is located next to Kaikoura peninsula that offers stunningly beautiful walks and more seal experiences. Seals normally lie all along the coast. They are not so active as the youth but you can watch them in their natural habitat.
Whale watching tour. Kaikoura
So back to whale watching tour.
When we were back to the office at 7 am we were told the tour would take place although we would experience some wavy sea. I was happy))
First we took a bus that brought us to the departure point and then the adventure began!
Below is the example of the vessel this whale watching company is operating. The vessel is equipped with comfortable seats and has 2 watching decks.
On the way to the high seas the crew was telling us the facts and stories about the whale species and the habitants of the bay. They also showed the video but I would not recommend you to follow it in case you get seasick quickly. Frankly speaking even though you consider yourself being seasick resistant it is better to follow the way rather than to watch the film)) Also it is better to avoid eating 4 hours in advance))
When we reached the area where the whales were normally watched the crew stopped the catamaran and started to listen to the whales with the hydrophones. They didn’t find any signs of whales and we proceeded further to try our luck. Two more attempts didn’t bring any result. I was upset. The tour was about to turn into a true disappointment. I don’t know whether it was a normal back-up plan or our good fortune but the crew made our way back through the area where dolphins were watched.
That was so much fun! The dolphins we met were Dusky dolphins. These dolphins are reputed to be the most acrobatic due to their spectacular jumps and side slaps. They have shown us some) The dolphins followed us along the way and imbued us with joy and awesome mood!
So it happened that it was not our day to encounter whales. Now I think that it was for the best: we have met lots of seals and dolphins and if we were lucky to meet the whales that time we would be probably overwhelmed with emotions. Anyway, that was just the beginning of our marine life encounters, a lot more to follow!
P.S. Good to know:
- it makes sense to allow at least 2 days for whale watching due to unpredictable weather conditions
- if you do not see whales during the trip you will be refunded 80% refund (applies for operating company we have experienced: http://whalewatch.co.nz/)
- you can buy pills to avoid sea sickness in the office – strongly recommended!