Sunday 9th March – whale watching

We were up at 7am in Christchurch ready to leave at 8am, pretty quiet driving day to Kaikoura.

We stopped in Cheviot for morning coffee, I got into trouble by ordering my coffee from the coffee lady rather than paying first and then it being ordered….

We arrived in Kaikoura around 11 and headed to the peninsular to see seals, but more excitingly spotted penguins on the way!!

Excitement was restored as we pulled into the car park as there was a seal basking on the boardwalk! Didn’t even need to approach the sea to see them! We did get out though and see the others out on the shore and rocks. The ones on the shore were really well camouflaged in amongst the seaweed.
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We were meant to go for a walk, but the weather was pretty gloomy, so most of us hung out in the bus – seen enough seals!

After a little drive through the town we got to our hostel, Dusky Lodge, named after the dolphins found in the area.

We dropped our bags in the room and set off in the rain to find some lunch. I may have accidentally bought myself a necklace on the way (v pretty, glass and only $10). Can’t remember the name of place we ate, but it was a pun of some sort and served a v good bacon and egg roll.

With time to spare we walked back to the hostel, put more clothes on and headed off to the whale watching place – a birthday pressie!! There was a small issue in that someone had booked our trip for 9th February rather than 9th March, but apparently they’d refunded the money when we didn’t show and they could fit us on the 3:30 boat.

We had to wait before checking in that the captain gave the OK to go – if the sea is too rough they don’t sail. We got the OK, but with a seasickness warning. I’ve never been seasick, so was keeping my fingers crossed!!!

After watching a brief safety DVD we got a coach round to South Cove to get on the boat that was taking us to find some whales!! We had a driver, her mate, a narrator and a health and safety person. Rachel our narrator was fun, told us we had to stay seated while we were heading out to sea, how to try to avoid seasickness, how to best use a sickbag, if we needed the loo to let them know and they’d slow the boat – can make a bit of a mess otherwise!! Rather cleverly she asked us to put our seatbelts in and watched us all looking for them – they weren’t any – they use it as a check to check the level of english understanding of the passengers – needed for the safety announcements when we were out on deck. She asked if we knew what kind of whale we might see today – SPERM was my response – thankfully I was right and she then proceeded to do what she called the Australian test and pointed put its head vs tail on a photo! She also told us that a sperm whale can be as long as the boat at 18m but we’re 20 odd tonnes he’s 60 something

Normally they travel about an hour out to sea to find the whales, but one had been sighted about 30 minutes out earlier in the day so we headed there and sure enough there was a whale!! It seemed too easy……. They generally surface for 10 minutes to breathe before diving back down for 50ish to feed.

We were allows to go outside and got to watch our whale Mr T (Tiaki – guardian/protector – a resident) for a good few minutes, on the water, blowing air out of his airhole (apparently on the left hand side right at the end of his nose). All too soon Rachel said he looked like he was diving and to get ready, sure enough he went with a flick of his tail down back for more to eat.
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We sat there for a while, watching the birds flying around. Various albert rosses (read it aloud, I can’t work out how to spell it) and other seabirds – sadly taking photos doesn’t reveal how large they are – massive birds with a wingspan of over 2m, but sat on the water with no background for perspective they just look like seagulls!
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The driver/captain came out to have a listen to the whales clicking – using their echo location to hunt for food – the probe is directional, ideally you want the noise evenly through 360 degrees – it means you’re on top of the whale. I got to listen and we could hear 3 – the first was really loud, Mr T and we knew he’d only just gone back down, but there were 2 more further away so quieter and we headed in their direction.
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Someone must have asked about us being in top of the whale – what would happen if the whale came up and bumped his head..…. She explained that the whale were pretty clever and when they were surfacing they stop scanning for food and scan on a different frequency (one we can’t detect) for things above them, so they’d detect us and move away. This also helps with knowing they are surfacing – the clicking disappears!

We got closer to the other whales and then there one was, but we caught up with him just as he dove down. Was really great to come across him without time to get a camera, meant you could just simply watch.

While we were hunting for the 3rd whale they played us some of the noises they can make. There was the normal click click click when they’re just echo locating for food, then there’s the ‘machine gun’, really rapid click that can be up to 240 decibels can they use that as a weapon – can kill predators with the noise eg a Mako shark. The last noise was sexy time noise! Similar to the noise made on Finding Nemo apparently!

It seemed the last whale was busy machine gunning/hunting. After a while it was getting beyond time to head back, but they were prepared to stay out longer, but sadly someone had to get back to shore….. So we all had to come inside and not hope to spot a whale out of the window!

Standing outside/simply walking around had made me think about what Nikki must be going through right now – she’s somewhere in the sea between Hong Kong and China, sailing, sleeping, cooking in a boat at a 45 degree angle – I don’t think they slow their boat down so someone can go for a wee!!

We arrived back at the centre bang on 7pm, the time we should have been at dinner, so were ready to hightail it to meet them, but there was Snowflake waiting for us and we had a gossipy saunter instead!

We’d all pre-ordered dinner at the Groper something or other and got there just as the food was arriving – I knew I’d ordered a Drunken Cow but couldn’t remember what it was – a pizza as it turned out!!

Was a really yummy dinner and was great chatting and catching up on everyone’s afternoon – some had swum with dusky dolphins – a pod of around 60! Others had been kayaking and seen lots of seals. Tim bought me a birthday pint – such a nice young man (still reminds me of Chris Booth, v odd). Dan and Snowflake were looking for partners to play pool with so Ben and I stepped up, I potted a ball, but other than that I think we served just to elongate their game! They left Ben and me with the remaining balls once the black had been potted, we played for ages!!

I headed back to the hostel before most – think my age is getting to me!

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