Today probably gets my vote for the best day so far… And it has stiff competition for that title. It also had the potential to be really naff but it definitely wasn’t.
The drive from Christchurch was amazing. Less views of the Pacific Ocean than I expected (I think that we get these on Thursday as we drive up to Picton) but quite steep rolling hills covered in many types of dark green vegetation. Definitely in wine territory now. Rows of grape vines with nets over them (to protect them from birds? Insects?)
The whale watching team were really professional. We really needed their expertise but also they made the trip so much more interesting. They really care about their animals and environment and are really passionate about what they do. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where the continental shelf is very narrow, because of a huge ocean canyon, and the really deep water (over 1,000 metres), is close to land. So deep water creatures can come much closer to the shore than usual. At the moment, there is only one male sperm whale in the bay who constantly dives for food (often giant squid) for between 40 minutes and an hour then surfaces for about 10 minutes to re-oxygenate. The skill of the crew is to spot where the whale has surfaced in the huge bay and get the boat there within a minute or so, so everyone can see the whale and especially see him dive back down.Why is it one of my best highlights? The boat was great fun, we skimmed over the waves at 30 knots. The commentator was so enthusiastic and so knowledgable. We saw literally 50+ dolphins playing in the water doing back flips and just messing around. But I will never forget the awesomeness of being right alongside, almost within touching distance, the hugest, most powerful whale – they can swallow a shark whole – and watching him dive. It was truly awesome for me.
Click on the photos for a larger view.