Today’s blog post comes while Scott drives Happy Diwali through the crazy twists and turns of New Zealand’s roads. We are leaving Paihia to start our journey South – today we are hoping to get to the Coromandel Peninsula to see the Hot Water Beach.
Yesterday was our highly anticipated “swim with the dolphins” experience. After spending the morning navigating Woolworths (one of the grocery stores here), we embarked our 12:30 boat in the Bay of Islands. The day was pretty overcast but quite muggy. We didn’t think we needed sunscreen…boy, was that wrong. We were fully covered because it was cool on the water, so our ears, hands and feet seem to have gotten the brunt of it.
So, anyway dolphins. Now, swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat has been on my bucket list for a LONG time. Needless to say, I was very excited. We got onto the boat, and the dolphin expert provided us with a handout that read: “dophin viewing is successful 96% of the time, but swimming occurs only about 45% of the time.” The reason is because the Bay of Islands is highly protected and monitored by the Department of Conservation. You can only swim with these amazing creatures if 1) you come across a pod without babies or juveniles (which is tricky because dolphins are like humans and mate for the hell of it, and can therefore have babies all year round) and 2) they show signs that they WANT to play with you. This means that they show interest at the surface and don’t deep dive and hold their breath at the bottom for 15 minutes at a time.
Fingers and toes crossed that we will actually find a pod, and that the circumstances will allow us to swim with them, we take off. After about 20 minutes, we find our first pod. It appeared to be just two adult yuppy dolphins, sans children! Yes! We’re in luck, it seems! However, the dolphin guide told us we had to wait a few minutes to see what their behaviour would indicate. Well, crappy for us, the little rascals didn’t seem very interested and both took a huge deep dive to the bottom. Bummer. No swimming for us with this pod.
So, we mosey along a ways further and come across a few other boats who have found quite a large pod. Now these guys were AWESOME. They were so playful…riding along the boat’s bow. The dolphin expert told us to lay on our tummies over the bow of the boat and watch them underneath – they are actually quite lazy creatures and like to ride the current the boat creates as it moves. I’m instantly in heaven. Laying on my stomach, ocean spraying up at me, I have four gorgeous creatures swimming right under me, giving me the same curious look that I am giving them. I was told that dolphins have an excellent sense of sight and love it when we wave and move, so I started flailing my arms in circles and waves…and one of the dolphins started making similar moves with his nose! I looked at him, and his eye looked right back at me and there it was: curiousity, comprehension, UNDERSTANDING. I was bonding with a dolphin. I couldn’t see any babies with this pod, so I was quite eager to get in…however, the dolphin guide said no, there were some babies with this pod that the mothers were keeping out of view. Apparently, the babies are super inquisitive. When they are young, they need to suckle on their mom about every 3 minutes to keep warm because they don’t have blubber, or they will become hypothermic and die. Babies are so drawn to humans that they will actually come over and play for so long that they will forget to suckle. So, no luck for us. We spent some time playing with the dolphins from the boat, which was still completetly amazing, but I was pretty disappointed I couldn’t get in with them. The Piscean in me died a little bit at that moment. I’m hoping another opportunity will afford us on this trip to do it again, though.
We had four glorious hours on the boat, and had it pretty much to ourselves. The tour usually has 30-50 people on it, and we were lucky enough to have only one other couple from Canada on it. It was an unreal and amazing experience, and could only have been better if we were able to swim. The boat spent the rest of the time searching for another possible pod for us to swim with amongst the 144 stunning islands in the bay, but no dice. The deep ocean was quite choppy and bumpty, and the guide felt that the adult pods were likely out playing and having fun in the awesome surf. We returned back to camp that evening happy, but somewhat disappointed.
Today, we have about an 8 hour drive ahead of us, I think. Scott’s doing a great drive navigating HD through the crazy roads. At one point he reached over for the water bottle (bad move) and swerved right into the passing lane (habit from driving lefthand side) and almost creamed a dude in a beamer. Beamer dude was not so pleased and gave us the finger. Scott is trying to convince me to drive, but since I’m still not up to my normal self and and still only eating a very tiny amount of food due to continued tummy troubles, I think I’ll pass. We’ll see.
We’ve come across quite a bit of construction on these roads, and have taken a few pictures for Ryan. My favourite part is the signs…they are so polite! It will start with an exclamation mark that says “queue ahead” and then a sign of a stick man with a flag that says “please stop on request.” My favourite one is the sign that says “cement splashes, was car TODAY.” So, HD has a few cement splashes on her that we’ve done our best to get off, but it’s sticky stuff!
Anyway, all for now…more to come from Coromandel!
We’ll update this tomorrow with accompanying pics cuz we forgot to organize them before buying internet…. we’ll have to start being better organized.