The morning dawned…dark and stormy with gale force winds. Today was our one day in Kaikoura and we had hoped to go whale watching. We did not have any internet and so we were unsure if the cruise had been canceled or not. We arrived at our location at 7:30 and yes, it had been canceled. We rebooked for 1:15 and hoped for the best.
Kaikoura is a classic beach town, with many little shops and eateries. There were some fun signs around town that we really enjoyed reading. We also have learned that if it is a café, they close at 4 pm. Even if they serve beer and wine! Luckily, our very interesting place to stay had a small kitchen and we still had food left.
The place we stayed, The Artists Retreat, was the most creative location we have seen yet. Bob and Karen built this building from scrap materials from other houses. The windows and doors are all different, the floors are just plywood and they actually lived here while they were building their permanent home about 100 feet away. They also built an artist’s workshop and studio (hers) and a garage to store collectible cars (his). I fell in the love with the studio and the artwork was very creative. But in the garage, I found my car. And it belonged to Karen! While I was drooling over it, Shawn was admiring the various car racing jerseys that you would wear in the racing pit that were hanging all around. Bob was quite the collector.
When we arrived last night, we went to visit the end of town where the seals hang out. The sun had set but we could still see some lying in the rocks. They do remind me a bit of slugs, without the antennae. We were able to watch one head to the sea as they go out to feed at night. This is a very rocky terrain they were lying on and his reentry was slow and not very graceful. I am sure that they lay around on the rocks because it is just too hard to move and getting in the water must be such a relief. This guy found some cushion on the seaweed.
We head towards our Whale Watching tour area to see if we are going on. The sun has come out and the winds have died down, but they did provide a warning for those going on the boat that it was going to be a rocky ride. We took some anti-seasickness meds before we got on and I am glad that we did. Made it much more enjoyable but for some, not so much. I really felt for those who were sick, as I have been there myself. NOT fun.
This part of the south island has a huge drop-off in the ocean floor, allowing male sperm whales to winter here and grow larger. They meet up with the females in warmer waters in the warmer months. We start on our journey with a quick safety video explaining that whenever the captain is underway, we must be seated inside. Off we went about 10km offshore to begin our hunt for whales.
I always wondered how they find whales and they guarantee that 95% of the time they do see them and will refund 85% of your money if you do not. Whales keep a regular schedule as to when they surface and the whales in this bay surface about every 45 minutes. As we zipped over to an area we see a whale tale flip and go under. Cool! But I had hoped that this was not the best we would see as the boat was a bit far away. They do have to keep 50 meters from the whales so as not to harm them or get in their way.
The captain uses a huge microphone that he puts into the water to listen for the whales. They make a clicking sound and he can tell by how loud the clicks are how close by the whales are or in which direction they may be heading. After circling around and chasing clicks for about 40 minutes the sounds stop, signaling that they are planning to surface. And there he is! We were up on the top viewing deck and of course, everyone runs to the side the whale is on. He is spurting every 20 seconds or so and sperm whales do not spurt straight up but on a 30-degree angle backward. This one they called Holey Moley as he had a hole in his fin on his back. What fun to watch! Overhead a small plane full of sightseers kept buzzing our heads. NOT liking that and luckily they eventually go away. The cool thing about seeing the whale from above is you get a better view through the water of the whole whale while we only see the top part of him.
The guide sees the whales so many times he can predict when we will see the whale flip his tail before he descends. And I was in the perfect spot to see it with Shawn right next to me. Soooo cool! I have always wanted to see a whale up close and this was exciting.
The trip was not over and we get back in our seats as another whale has been sighted. We head in another direction but soon turn around. We arrive in the middle of a pod of dolphins! They were crazy showoffs and gave us a lot to see. They are the most active dolphins in the world and never stop moving. They even mate while moving. Whew! Love watching them perform.
We tried to find another whale but our time was up. We had a very exciting day on the water, despite the rolling waves. Kaikoura will always be in our hearts after today.