Swimming with dolphins

It was raining again when we woke up on Thursday. After breakfast, we headed over to Dolphin Encounter to see whether our tour would be going forward. It had been fogged in that morning, but by noon the rain had let up and the sun was breaking through the clouds. They decided to go ahead with the tour—but mentioned that the sea would be rough. We’d already taken the seasickness medication we’d brought (but not needed) for the container ship.

They outfitted us in pretty heavy wetsuits (I think the water temp was ~10°C) and gave us some basic snorkeling training. They said it could take anywhere from 30-45 minutes to locate a pod of the dusky dolphins. They’re wild animals, and they reiterated that they do nothing to train or lure them, there’s always a chance we’d see none at all.

After about 15 or 20 minutes we saw two or three break the surface, but apparently they weren’t interested in us, and swam away. So we continued on for another 5 or 10 minutes before we found a few more. This was it. We pulled on our masks and gloves and prepared to jump into the cold water. They told us the dolphins respond to sound, so for the best experience, we should make loud noises into our snorkel.

With cloudy skies and nutrient rich waters, there was almost no visibility in the water beyond a few feet, so it was a surprise each time to see one or two dolphins swim right by. Sometimes they got very close. And then there’d be nothing for a while except me making dolphin-noises in my snorkel. Then another would swim by, usually coming up from behind me or crossing in front of me.

I rented an underwater camera but most of my photos looked like this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter typical photo 1

And this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter typical photo 2

I swear a dolphin had just been there!

kaikoura dolphin encounter typical photo 3

A few times I managed to capture a fleeting glimpse of a dolphin, like this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter dolphin back

And this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter dolphin close

Even two at once!

kaikoura dolphin encounter two dolphins

I know they were my photos, because I took a shot of Stephanie waving at me in the water:

kaikoura dolphin encounter stephanie snorkeling

And she took a shot of me (note the ominous storm clouds in the background):

kaikoura dolphin encounter justin snorkeling

The Dolphin Encounters folks must have taken pity on me, because they included a bunch of good shots on the CD (taken by other lucky people who had rented the camera before me) that look a lot more like how they do in my memory. Like this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter good shot 1

And this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter good shot 2

And this:

kaikoura dolphin encounter good shot 3

· Outdoors