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Watching Whales and Dolphins in New Zealand

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You get the choice of one company, one boat and one price. Thankfully, it is a good company, good boat and good price.

Where the Whales Came

I'm no marine biologist, but certain facts concerning the monsters of the deep are common knowledge.

Great White sharks, for instance, are terrifying eating machines and nobody has ever seen one and lived to tell their tale.

Unless of course there happened to be a bottlenose dolphin passing by which saved the human life by charging into the shark forcefully before giving the grateful person a ride back to land.

Whale Watching off Kaikoura, New Zealand.
Whale Watching off Kaikoura, New Zealand.

According to my knowledge little is known about the Sperm Whale.

The books I read as a child taught me they were roughly the length of the Empire State Building and they terrorised fisherman, destroying fishing vessels and munching crewmen; sometimes by the dozen.

When they weren't wrestling giant squid of course.

Recently though, I've started to doubt the accuracy of these books.

So I'm on board a boat loaded with sophisticated gadgetry, leaving a small town in New Zealand's South Island in the distance.

A stroll through the town revealed Kaikoura as a pleasant yet unremarkable destination, but the little place has a secret. There's gold in these waters; gold in the shape of a quite remarkable variety of marine life.

If there's such a thing as a social club of the ocean, here it is.

It seems for membership, there's just one rule; no small fry. It's a list that reads like a who's who of the underwater world: Humpback Whales, Mako Sharks, the endangered Hectors dolphin (hardly a surprise in these waters), New Zealand Fur Seals, Dusky Dolphins, Great White Sharks and the fisherman eating beast I've made the trip for; the Sperm Whale.

It was a shame that all the Sperm Whales had obviously been drugged, for they made no effort to attack our boat, but still it was a sight to behold. Stood portside, thirty yards from a fifteen metre long specimen, there's no mistake you're witnessing an event few others are privileged to.

I compare it to how women, and some men, would feel if they were to meet Brad Pitt after years of admiring him on the big screen. For me, having sat bewildered as I watched these scenes on the Discovery channel from my armchair in the past, here I was fulfilling my own desire.

Thankfully, equally as impressive as the array of fish and mammals on show is the common sense shown by the tourist industry regarding access to the sea-life.

If you want to make the trip out to the whales, you get the choice of one company, one boat and one price for the whales and likewise for dolphins. Thankfully then, it's a good company, good boat and good price.

Whale Watching

A half-day trip out to see the whales will set you back a little over 30 bucks. That is the same price as another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on offer in Kaikoura; the swimming with dolphin's tour offered by a company associated with Whale Watch. I didn't do it, sorry but it was just too cold.

The acrobatic Dusky dolphins may be cute but that doesn't stop the water temperature from being so low in these winter months. The time of my visit meant I missed out on one last adrenaline rush, available only in the summer.

The company providing the service is called JAWS, which should offer a clue as to the area of business they operate. And no, they're not in the dentistry trade.

For less than the value of a pink note you can be thrown in a prison cell, dropped in the water and stand trying to breathe regularly in diving equipment as Mako sharks (like a Great White's little brother in appearance, but his bark is worse than his bite) and Blue Sharks try to force their way into the cage with you!

No doubt the staff of JAWS possess the same youthful fascination for what they do, as the staff of Whale Watch. Even when half a dozen whales had been located, the crew eagerly sought out a different kind of fun for the grateful tourists. It was dolphin time!

Dusky Dolphins in Silhouette -- Ben Morris.

Hunting down the Dusky is not difficult, no need to call on the on board technology, which is capable of locating big fish should visual spotting reap no reward, as the dolphins have formed into a closely knit group of approximately 200 and, leaping through the air, they cast perfect silhouettes as the sun falls on the day.

Stevie Wonder wouldn't have seen them, but he'd have certainly sensed they were there!

It's truly mesmerising. Not only had we seen the world's second largest sea creature (the blue whale stands on top of the podium) now we were being treated to a playful performance by the Dusky dolphins; cheering on the most acrobatic individuals. It turns out everyone loves a show-off!

I was glad to head back to mainland though, as I needed to write a serious letter of complaint to the author of the 1972 classic, 'Monsters of the Deep' picture book'.

There are a couple of things he's got wrong.

By Ben Morris.

Kaikoura Links

Kaikoura Coast Track:
The unique Kaikoura Coast Track offers you the rare combination of uncrowded walking and friendly farm hospitality, for three memorable days and nights. A two day mountain biking option is also available; although to keep the surroundings peaceful, track use is limited to ten walkers and eight mountain bikers each day.

Kaikoura Helicopters:
Flying by helicopter is a magical sensation and Kaikoura Helicopters offers some of New Zealand's most breathtaking experiences. Whale-watch with a birds-eye-view and see the whole mammal, from head to tail.

Whale Watch Kaikoura:
Not only do they introduce you to the magnificent Sperm Whale, but also to migratory Humpback Whales (June and July), Orca (summer months), New Zealand's own tiny Hectors dolphin, the high spirited displays of the Dusky dolphins, New Zealand Fur seals and the Royal Albatross.

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