This was one of the highlights of the trip so far, which we booked with Encounter Kaikoura. Despite being utterly amazing, it came with some significant seasickness drawbacks! Booking on the early 5.30am tour was perfect for us at it meant we could also make it to church “later” in the day. We arrived bleary eyed at ten past five ready to get suited up and were provided with a long john wetsuit, additional wetsuit jacket, neoprene hood, fins, face mask and snorkel. We chose to wear a rashy underneath in addition to our swimsuits. After a short video briefing we headed onto a bus for a short drive round the coast to the harbour, where we hopped on board our boat.
After reading plenty of reviews we had purchased some seasickness tablets and taken them ahead of time. Although the weather was fine, the sea was choppy and had a large swell. The dolphins in Kaikoura are completely wild, and aren’t enticed in any way, which means the first part of the trip is spent looking for them. We passed a small pod of dolphins, but continued on as our guides decided they weren’t in a playful mood. A few minutes later another group was spotted, and after donning our hoods and masks we were ushered into the water.
At this point seasickness tablets stopped working, although the cold water abated the feeling slightly. On entering the water, we had been advised to make clicking, whistling or squealing noises, as this attracts the dolphins attention. Other ways to do this was by diving down into the water – which proved to be very successful. Swimming ever tightening circles is another way of interacting with these inquisitive creatures who seem to find it a game to tie you up in knots! However fun this encounter was, fast twisting, turning and circular movements, did not help reduce the queasiness!
“One drop wonder”
Usually on a tour, swimmers enter and exit the water up to five times as the dolphins grow bored of human company and the party regroups to find a new pod. We were lucky enough to have what the guides called a “one drop wonder” which meant we spent our entire time in the same place, entertaining and being entertained by the dolphins. Our forty minutes or so was spent shaving a wonderful time with this creatures in between bouts of retching! If you’re interested, dolphins seem to find humans being sick quite amusing too!
Once the time was up and we exited back on the boat, my queasiness got even worse. At this point in the tour we were given some time to take photos of the dolphins from the boat, although by this point I could only squint out of half closed eyelids, over the lip if a bucket. Ian managed to capture some photos of them performing acrobatics, despite feeling a bit queasy himself.
I spent the remaining time curled in a ball, bucket between my knees, wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle, rendered completely incapable of even getting changed! The crew did a wonderful job of looking after me and others in a similar position. Finally, we arrived back into the calm waters of the harbour, where I suddenly felt much better, if not a wee bit cold! Ian being the loving caring husband he is captured this stunning photo of me.
After the short transfer back to the centre, we rewarded with luxuriously hot showers which had no time limit on them (a double luxury after using mainly timed showers at campsites!).
Throughout the tour, we also had several encounters with Albatrosses. They followed our vessel, probably hoping that we were a fishing boat and would leave some tasty titbits behind! We were lucky enough to see both the Wandering albatross and the Southern Royal Albatross.
If you are planning on doing this trip, I’d advise taking some preventative medication, and still expect to feel unwell. Having an empty stomach helps too? You just have to take the get on with it attitude! Apart from church, we had the remainder of the day free to recover, which I would recommend! However, despite the lingering queasiness that continued throughout the day, the experience was well worth it – I would get on a boat again in a heartbeat!
Check out the video to see some of the footage we caught: