Searching for Seals

In February, when we were in Kaikoura, I went on a massive walk in the morning out to Ohau to see the seal colony.

There were 2 seals.

Recently (thanks Facebook) I learnt that Turakirae Head Reserve in Wainuiomata is home to the largest seal colony in Wellington.

So off we went.

Our walk took us past farm land, green pastures with sheep, framed with huge cliffs. There were even some little lambs, bless them, it’s not lamb season, they will be so cold.

On the other side of us we have the coast, dotted with flax and tussock near the shoreline. I really enjoy the scenery. It’s not what you would describe as being pretty, and I am sure there are people who wouldn’t be able to see the appeal. It’s wild and rugged, but also untouched and beautiful in it’s own way.

The signpost said it would be an hour’s walk but it only took us half that. The walk is flat, but quite challenging. It starts out easy, walking along gritty sand, but this changes into gravel, then shingle, then rocks and at the end we found ourselves having to Macgyver over and around boulders and scrub.

Our efforts were rewarded though, there are plenty of seals here and lots of big boulders to sit upon and just watch. Our furry friends aren’t particularly active. The sun is out, so they seem pretty happy just lying around sunning themselves.

They take no notice of us.

It’s quite an exposed place and we experience a lot of different weather on this walk; bright blue skies, eerie misty weather with sun breaking through the clouds, a sun shower, followed by a beautiful rainbow and then just rain.

Persistent heavy rain.

There is no shelter, nowhere to hide, we just have to take it. But it’s these types of experiences, being exposed to the elements, that I find really invigorating – when I know there are dry clothes and a hot shower available at the end of it!

If your looking for a local adventure and don’t mind a bit of ‘rock climbing’ you should check out this place.

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..