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Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dusky dolphins, fur seals and a sperm whale | Kaikoura

I arrived in Kaikoura Monday evening, and got up early Tuesday morning to go swimming with dolphins! I was a bit nervous before my swim, as I'd never been snorkeling before, and the website said that it was important to have a "reasonable level of snorkeling experience" for the most enjoyment. Being a rule follower I always take statements like these very seriously, but as most rule followers I've learnt that following them doesn't always get you anywhere, and I really wanted to go swimming with dolphins. So I got my wetsuit on and got on the boat.

Suddenly the dolphins were everywhere. According to my guide this was a pod of about 400, including baby dolphins. Unfortunately I don't have any footage of the swim, as I though it was too expensive to hire a GoPro, something I really regret now. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've had in New Zealand though. The dolphins come incredibly close to you, so close that if you wanted to you could reach out you hand and touch them (which I didn't, as you're not supposed to).




Afterwards we got the opportunity to take some pictures, and the dolphins got the opportunity to show what incredible show-offs they are.



Before going to Kaikoura I had been trying to decide whether to go swimming with dolphins or go whale watching. As it was my birthday the week before I had some birthday money, so I decided to do both (when in New Zealand...) Whale watching is a completely different experience. There was one whale in the area, and the sperm whales' (which are the species living in Kaikoura) dives last 40-60 minutes in average. This means that most of the time is spent waiting for the whale to come up.





And when it finally does you basically see its back. It was still pretty cool, though, especially to see the blowhole.



We see about 3/4 of the whale, I believe, which means that it's basically as big as the boat we were on, and much much heavier. And finally, the moment we were all waiting for, the last dive down.






Afterwards we went to see some more dusky dolphins. There are so many of them in Kaikoura, and they are a bit easier to find than the whale. They also show off more.









In addition to dusky dolphins and sperm whales, there is also a New Zealand fur seal colony located at the tip of the peninsula, so of course I walked to see them as well.





(I just really appreciate creative toilet decorations, okay?)



I stopped by the Seafood BBQ on the way, to try some crayfish, which was absolutely delicious.




Then I finally reached the seal colony. Most of the were just sleeping in the heat, and didn't seem
bothered about the humans wandering around at all.


This one did hiss when it felt like somebody came too close, though.






The truly amazing thing about the wildlife attractions in Kaikoura is that all of the animals are actually wild. They haven't been trained to do anything, and they aren't lured by food or anything else. They track the dolphins, of course, but it is completely the dolphins' choice whether or not they want to swim with humans, how much they choose to interact and how long they stay. This means that there is never any guarantee to see dolphins or whales, but it makes the experience so much more special.




I'll leave you with this picture of a baby seal, just because it's adorable.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Oamaru

The only reason I decided to stop in Oamaru was to see penguins. I wasn't sure if it would be worth it, as I hadn't heard that many people talk about it. You can see penguins other places in New Zealand, but this colony lives very close to town, which means you can just walk there and see them for free (though there is an option to pay as well).

The blue penguins that live in Oamaru are gone fishing all day, so the time to see them is at sunset, when they come back to their nests. Preparing to stay out during sunset, we (me and two other women staying at my hostel) decided to grab a drink beforehand, which was accompanied by a beautiful view of a rainbow.






We went out again a bit before sunset, determined not to miss them. It turned out to be quite a pretty evening (though chilly), but there was no sight of penguins. There was a point when we didn't think we would see them at all. And then suddently we saw something moving in the water.




It was already quite dark when the penguins started coming in, so all of these photos are going to be very, very bad. But penguins!





The blue penguins are quite small, and they are the most adorable creatures I've ever seen. They stood huddled together on one side of the road, waiting until it was safe to cross (on a sidenote, it's ridiculous that there is a car road here at all, as it doesn't lead anywhere except the visitor centre and information point for the penguin colony).



This one came quite close, though not on purpose, as it got really scared when I moved.




After seeing penguins I still had one whole day in Oamaru, and it actually turned out to be quite a cool little town. I started the day at the local farmers market, and tried a local cheese roll. As far as I can tell, it's basically a cheese toastie with a lot of cheese, but the slice of bread is rolled up.

For some reason Oamaru has become known as a steampunk town. Steampunk is a branch of science fiction inspired by 19th century, especially the Victorian era, culture and aesthetic, and the steam-powered technology of the era (hence steampunk). There is a steampunk museum.







Which was pretty cool, but very weird. It's basically a collection of old stuff that has been tinkered with, and the artists have made up stories about them. So it's a museum of imaginary things. They had this "portal", though, which was a room filled with lights and mirrors, and gave you a private light-show.














There is a Victorian precinct in town, which is completely on theme with the steampunk genre. It is filled with vintage and second-hand shops, as well as arts and crafts, many of which are selling stempunk-inspired gear. Even the playground has a steampunk-theme, for example the swing-set is shaped like a penny-farthing.




Summer is really starting to come now, and it turned out to be a wonderful day weather-wise, so I made some time to walk around the public gardens as well. (The only problem with having reflective sunglasses is that it completely ruins your selfie-game when your arm is reflected in your glasses.)