Sunshine and warm air this morning! Oh so nice!
Akaroa is famous for the little Hector’s Dolphins that you see in the area. These dolphins are pretty special, only being found in the waters of New Zealand (and for that reason also known as New Zealand Dolphins). The biggest of them only grow to 1.4m and they are also known as panda dolphins because of their colouring – black, grey and white. There’s even a company that runs ‘swimming with dolphins’ cruises. That’s not really something that either of us were all that keen to do, though, so this morning we headed down to the harbour for our cruise with Akaroa Dolphins.
Our cruise was on one of the smaller boats and is known for being more personalised and had a great commentary. Akaroa Dolphins is a family run business and the owners are 5th and 6th generation locals. There were only 20 passengers (capacity 50) so there was plenty of room to move around. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in as we left the pier, but that didn’t really bother us. We were there to enjoy ourselves and it was still a lot warmer than the other cruises we’d done.
As we headed out through the 17km long harbour we saw spotted cormorants and then a pair of white-flippered penguins. These are a sub-species of the little blue penguins and are only found in this area. No matter how often I see penguins, I still get a buzz from seeing them.
Then the dolphins appeared. There were a few feeding and they swam around the boat while they were catching fish. We didn’t disturb them for too long and soon came across another pod. These dolphins played around the boat for quite a while. They zoom along really quickly just under the water and then suddenly dive deep or come up out of the water, sometimes just cresting or sometimes jumping right out. They were swimming around and under the boat, just playing there until we moved on, and then a couple of them stayed with us, surfing the bow wave for a while.
The scenery along the coastline, both inside and outside the harbour, is great. This is a coastline that was formed by volcanoes so it’s pretty rugged. We sew several different species of seabirds and then came upon some fur seals playing in the water and lounging on the rocks. Several of these seals were quite active – a lot more so than any of the others we’ve seen. We also saw another yellow-eyed penguin but this one was pretty distant – halfway up a cliff face and we probably wouldn’t have spotted it if the skipper hadn’t pointed it out.
We really enjoyed the cruise and thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife; the dolphins were a real highlight.
After lunch we took a drive out to try to find an olive grower whose olives Stephen tried yesterday, but they had no signage so they were a bit hard to find and it turns out that they don’t have a retail outlet or tasting room at the property, anyway. We did stop at another olive grove for a tasting but their olives were nowhere near as good.
Then we went back into town and bought ourselves a very cute NZ Fur Seal to take home.
We had tea tonight at a Tapas restaurant. The food was very good; an enjoyable last night in New Zealand.