And so the road trip continued…
We left Christchurch early Monday morning heading to Kaikoura, a town known for its amazing connection with the sea. There is a 6000 feet deep trench just offshore and the diversity of wildlife in the seas around Kaikoura is unparalleled in New Zealand. The road to Kaikoura just happens to transect a great wine growing region, and of course we had to stop and try a few local wines. Then, we headed over a mountain range, and descended into a world unlike any I previously seen in New Zealand.
There were so many possibilities of things to do for our planned two day stay in Kaikoura, and we found ourselves overwhelmed with the choices. But since the town is known to be the whale watching capital of Nz, our first choice to see whales. There are a number of resident sperm whales around Kaikoura; although much of their lives are a mystery, what is known about them is they feed mostly on squid and fish at great depths (usually over 1000 feet deep) and that most of their feeding dives last about one hour, after which they come to the surface and rest for about 8-10 minutes, repleting their oxygen supplies. Given the predictability of their time on the surface, we hired a helicopter to take us offshore to where they surface. Here’s our pilot.
Well, not really. The pilot is the guy still in the helicopter.
And, here are his co-pilots. They were very helpful during the flight.
We hopped in the helicopter and headed into the great blue sky.
Sure enough, just as we were heading out, a whale surfaced.
It was about 40 feet in length, and we circled the whale for about 8 minutes. It was truly breathtaking. The whale’s heart is about the size of a volkswagon, and that big heart is needed to circulate the oxygen after a 1000 feet dive. Then, the whale started to move forward, took a few more breaths, and then dove straight down for some more calamari.
It was a magical experience, and the boys’ first helicopter ride.
Later that day, we tried our hand at fishing to local waters, and on Matt’s first cast into the waters, he hooked up with this bad boy.
The locals said it tasted great smoked. I fileted the fish, smelled the meat, and understood why they said it tasted great….smoked.
The next day we decided to go and swim with the local seal colony. Where else can you find a seal colony that is totally not flustered by humans? So, in the early morning we jumped in a boat and headed towards a small rock offshore. On the way there, we were met by a large pod of dusky dolphins, about 200 strong. They were energetic greeters, and many of them followed the boat for a great distance, enjoying the draft of our bow wave. Then, we once again jumped into the cold Pacific and swam for about an hour with these totally docile and friendly creatures.
Just to add a little medical trivia into the post; the cold Pacific ocean commonly produces this response in the hands of our family members. (I’ll take vasospasm for $200, Alex, what is Raynaud’s phenomena?)
We did NOT want to leave Kaikoura, and could have spent an entire week there. We wanted to go kayaking, more fishing, abalone diving, and more dolphin swimming. We watched beautiful sunsets, had some great walks along the ocean, and when we tried to sum up what was so magical about this place, came up with the idea of it being like a cross between Hawaii and Alaska. I’d go back in a second.
Next…to the Wine Country around Blenheim and the Marlborough Sounds….