5 February 2011

Hokitika & Kaikoura

Driftwood sculpture on Hokitika Beach
We ended our stint on the West coast in Hokitika, a quiet seaside town with a rugged shoreline much like you would find on the West coast of Scotland. Dubbed as the Jade captial of New Zealand, we wasted no time in wandering around all of the craft shops, watching the carvers at work and resisted the temptation to spend all our pennies!
The Australian Open final had been meticulously scheduled into our plan by James who had scouted out the perfect pub to enjoy the match. However, what we did not bank on was that the sleepy town comes to a stand still on a Sunday night at around 10.30pm - only half way through the first set! Back-up plans were being formed, but luckily the friendly bartender took pity on us and let us sit in the hotel's television lounge to watch the end of the match... Unfortunately, though, Andy Murray was easily beaten in straight sets, oh well! 
Jade carver at work
Driving from West to East, we had an overnight stop in the stunning Arthur's Pass where the native Kea bird rules the roost. One 'friendly' Kea started chewing our van's wing mirrors when we stopped at one of the lookouts. Lets just say that I was glad to be on the other side of the glass!
The Kea can be vicious!
Kaikoura was our next stop, a place we were both really excited to see, after Laura and Emma's high praise. We booked on the Dolphin Encounter tour but the tour was put on hold following forecasted strong winds but we got the go-ahead from the crew and, after squeezing into our wet suits, departed for the boat.
Beautiful scenery on the drive to Kaikoura
 The sun was shining and the boat ride out to sea was beautiful. We even spotted a few albatrosses flying alongside us. About 20 minutes in, the boat stopped and we were told to look down at the water and there they all were - a school of dolphins playfully swimming alongside the boat!

The company does not entice the dusky dolphins by using sound or food and it is not guaranteed that the dolphins will come freely, so we were delighted when we were told to jump in the water and go snorkelling alongside them. As soon as we were in the water, the dolphins were swimming up to us; some of them scooting past so quickly and closely that I thought they were going to swim into me! It was amazing to see, especially when they circled around, keeping eye-contact.

Dolphins swimming ahead of the boat
We had about half an hour in the water before the predicted winds arrived. The sea became a lot more difficult to swim in and the water from the waves  kept coming into our snorkels. The guides sounded the horn and we returned to the boat which was now rocking back and forth wildly.

We had to leave the friendly dolphins behind in search of calmer seas but the waves kept on coming and consequently, so did the necessary buckets for all the poorly customers! About a third of the passengers disagreed with the motions of the waves (myself included). Despite the shortened trip and the choppy boat ride, it was worth every minute to see the cute dusky dolphins - a real highlight of our trip!



  1. What a fantastic experience with the Dolphins! I would have needed a bucket too!

  2. Just back from our own holiday, so catching up with yours! Again, brings it all back -puzzling world included - we got lost too! And Kaikoura, one of our favourites. Hope you enjoy the Marlborough sounds and Abel Tasman, assuming both are on your itinerary!


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