Lobster krill anyone? E-Ko tours part 2.

We leave the Hectors dolphin’s behind and continue the search for other dolphin species that we can swim with. While searching all the bays and inlets of Marlborough sounds, 2 notable things happen. First – someone spots a shark. I didn’t see it, apparently it was just a baby but in that moment I was quite pleased we were not out in the water. I have a huge fear about being attacked by sharks!

We also pass large patches of red sea water moving with the swell of the ocean.  Our skipper explains that is it thousands of lobster krill. Tiny little crustaceans. We are then asked ‘Does anyone want to eat one?’  and Daniel pipes up with ‘yip, I’ll try one’.

Hundreds of tiny krill turning the ocean red

The skipper puts one in Daniels hand – a little bright red crustacean with long slender nippers. Not the sort of thing I would want to put in my mouth! Then it looks at me. Right in the eyes and we have a moment (can you tell I am an animal lover?) and I can’t let this little creature be eaten. I beg Daniel to put it back. Fortunately for this little critter, lobster krill is off the menu today and he is returned to the big ocean to do whatever it is that lobster krill do.

This lucky little guy was taken off the menu

As we are nearing the end of the tour, it looks more and more likely that we won’t be swimming with dolphins today. E-Ko tours have an 80% success rate of getting clients in the water with dolphins but it just wasn’t for us today. But seeing as we are all kitted out in wetsuits and masks, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to go for a little swim. We dock in a quiet bay and hop into the water. The wet suit keeps me surprisingly warm and buoyant. Fish food is then thrown out around us and in moments we are surround by schools of fish darting left and right, picking up the food as it lands in the water. The visibility is excellent – there are just so many fish!

We then pile back into the boat and make our way back to shore. Although I didn’t get to swim with dolphins, it was still an excellent tour. Part of the thrill of having encounters with wild animals is that it is never guaranteed, but when it does happen, oh, how special it is!

I know I will be back for another go at this bucket list item.

Picton Harbour

It’s time to board the Interislander Ferry, our trip has nearly come to an end. This time, motorbikes are the first to load which is excellent as we are booked into the Plus Lounge.

Um, wow!

We will definitely be doing this again when we take the ferry. Big comfy seats, magazines, wifi, huge windows with great views (tinted so passengers outside can’t see in.) It is also fully catered; all food and beverages are included in the price. We head straight to the bar where the staff pour us some wines to taste before we make our selection.

There is so much food, hot, cold, savoury and sweet. What I am most excited about is the large plate of colourful macarons. I may or may not have sampled one of every colour.

Motorcycling is such an unforgettable way to travel the country, but it is tiring and at times uncomfortable. It is such a treat being able to sit back and relax in the plus lounge for the last leg of the journey.

It is a great end to our trip.

As we pull into our driveway I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to get off the motorbike. Our dogs, Frank and Ed are there waiting for us. I have missed them so much.

Anywhere with these two is the place I call home.

1 Motorbike. 11 days. 1935km.

What an adventure.

E-Ko Tours, part 1

Today is bucket list day.

My husband and I spent many years trying to start a family. There was a 2 year period where my life felt like it was just a series of blood tests, pills, injections and procedures.

Life was unintentionally put on hold.

I longed for the day I could make plans more than a couple of weeks ahead.

That activity that I dreamed about doing – swimming with dolphins.

This morning we are joining E-ko Tours in the hope of making that bucket list item a reality.

It’s a beautiful, still sunny day, perfect for dolphin spotting and swimming. We check in at E-Ko tours and change into the wetsuit, mask and snorkels we are provided with. Then we have a short introduction video about what to expect on the trip and some key do’s and don’ts.

The group gets asked if everyone has swum in the open ocean before. I forget sometimes how lucky we are in New Zealand. No one lives more than a 2-3 hour drive from the ocean. Beach holidays are a quintessential part of being a kiwi. The fact that some people live hours away from the ocean, with some never even seeing it, is such a foreign thought.

There are 5 different species of dolphin we might see on this trip; the common dolphin, dusky dolphin, bottle nose dolphin, hectors dolphin and orca. We are told that we are only allow to swim with the first 3 types of dolphins as hector’s dolphins are rare and endangered and in New Zealand Orca are not classified as a dolphin so we can’t swim with them either.

We board the boat and are handed binoculars and species cards. We are the last to board, but get the best seats – right up the front, behind the captain. We seem to have the only opening window – the rest of the boat is enclosed so it means I am not taking pictures through the glass.

Marlborough Sounds is beautiful, lush and green with really still water. We see seals basking on the rocks and also one just chilling out in the ocean, quite content with it’s bit of kelp seaweed.

New Zealand Fur Seal chilling with it’s kelp
Catching some rays while having a snooze

There is lots of bird life and we also spot a pair of little blue penguins swimming. They were so cute and I loved the fun fact that little blue penguins mate for life.

Seabirds enjoying their ocean playground

After an hour or so, we have our first dolphin sighting. Little black ‘micky mouse ear’ fins popping out of the water. Hector’s dolphins have a very distinctive, small, black rounded dorsal fin. We stop the boat and spend quite some time bobbing up and down in the water watching these beautiful, curious and playful creatures from the boat. They are the world’s smallest dolphins with adults measuring 1.2 – 1.4 meters. We are told that there are about 40 that live in the Sounds. It’s quite an experience to watch them. They come quite close to the boat, and we all watch, waiting for those flashes of silver to appear as they come up to the surface.

It was such a special encounter.

To be continued..