Friday, September 7, 2012

Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa

It's our final full day in New Zealand, and what better way to end our trip than with this beautiful view!

Even though our Spaceship does not need power, we opted for a powered site to have the uninterrupted view of Akaroa. Honestly, we could have stayed in almost any site, the views were stunning!

We really took our time this morning, since we couldn't swim with dolphins until 11:30 am. We got a coffee at a deli and sat in the sun enjoying the warmer weather.
When we checked-in, we were told the swells out at sea were around 2 meters and were encouraged to take 'whatever we needed' prior to boarding the ship. Neither Jay or I get full-on seasickness, but to be on the safe side we purchased and took a homeopathic pill. I am so glad we did, we really were thrown around out there.

The other really nice thing about our expeditions on this whole trip is that the companies provide almost all the equipment. We were given wet suites, booties, gloves, hoods, masks and snorkels. Thankfully, we were allowed to bring our own cameras with us. Most places don't allow cameras and will provide you with a picture "for a small fee." Jay has been dying for a chance to use his GoPro camera, and this was the perfect chance.

Above Jay is modeling the nice suits we were given. You can also see his GoPro camera hooked onto his chest. The water here was cold! Our wetsuits were 5mm thick, which is apparently pretty thick. We needed that extra layer to keeps warm. The guide said that the water is usually about 3 degrees C around this time of year (that's 38 degrees Fahrenheit!).

We really had a blast swimming around in the Southern Pacific Ocean. When we exited the boat, both Jay and I got water in our mouths due to the fact that we gasped and were immediately over-taken by waves. Swimming in the wetsuit was also an interesting sensation. It was mainly difficult because your feet want to float, so we were constantly pushing them down and churning them to keep from going belly up.
While we floated, we were encouraged to make noise and, as our guide puts it, "be more interesting than a piece of seaweed." Jay and I need no excuse to look like fools, so we immediately began singing into our snorkel, blowing bubbles and clicking things together. It was kind of like entertaining a 3 year old.

These dolphins are called Hector Dolphins and are the smallest in the world. They are less than a meter long and generally weigh about a kilogram. There's also only about 20,000 of them left, so they're endangered and protected. Because of this, we weren't allowed to touch them since we might be carrying diseases that could harm them.
Not that the Hector dolphin would be too happy about you touching them. It turns out their skin is about as sensitive as our eye-lids, so they weren't too excited to be rubbing against us. With that said, the dolphins still got close! A couple of them (or maybe the same one multiple times) swam right passed me.

After about 35 minutes, the dolphins lost interest in us and swam away (told you it was like a 3 year old) and we re-boarded the ship. Our guide said it was the first time in quite a while that they had had dolphins, so we got a treat. On the way back, we also saw fur seals and blue penguins, but Jay and I have kayaked with seals and gotten within inches of penguins, so we weren't that impressed anymore. The best part of getting on the boat was the hot water hose to put down your back and the hot chocolate. The experience is always good when it ends with hot chocolate!

All too quickly it was over and we were back in dry clothes. After going to a local shop for ginger beer (I looove ginger beer) to settle my stomach a little, we headed to the car and hit the road again for our final destination, Christchurch!