Tuesday, 4th December – Kaikoura

Good night’s kip in a comfortable and roomy bed. Window open, so we could hear the roar of the surf. Romantic, huh?

A siren went off around 5 a.m. It sounded like the old World War 2 air raid sirens and it was really eerie. Apparently, this is used to summon volunteers to help with fire, accident, etc. Nothing we personally needed to worry about.

When we got up, the mist had disappeared and we could actually see the snow-capped mountains in the distance:

Temperature a mild 18 degrees or so and very little wind.

After breakfast, making use of the comprehensive resources available in this marvellous apartment (isn’t it nice to have measuring jugs in the kitchen and underfloor heating in the bathroom?), we drove the short distance northward to Whale Watch Kaikoura, who appear to be the local leaders in provision of, er, whale watch cruises.

After Sunday’s kerfuffle with regard to this booking, check-in was trouble-free. Safety briefing, then on a bus to South Bay to board our whale watching vessel. We were warned in advance that there was a heavy swell out there and there was a strong sea-sickness warning. So, being the ocean-hardened mariners that we are (not), we both took a motion sickness pill.

The swell was heavy, all right. It wasn’t a particularly enjoyable ride out to our first stop – the sensation at times was not dissimilar to air pockets on an aircraft where you leave your stomach behind.

Our revered leader on this trip was Lucy, who was very good value. Knowledgeable, confident, humorous – and British. Nuff said.

By dint of collective intelligence gathered from diverse sources such as aircraft, other ships and a hydrophone lowered over the side, we (in the loosest sense) managed to detect a male sperm whale. The ship was rocking really violently at times, so keeping one’s balance was extremely difficult. Anyway, that’s my excuse for some poor pictures when the whale finally surfaced, although I’m quite proud of the disappearing tail flukes when he took a last huge breath and dived.

To be honest, that was it from a wildlife point of view. A few albatrosses glided by and a fur seal gave us a passing glance, plus a few dusky dolphins, the commonest hereabouts. We did go off to search for some Hector’s dolphins which are a) rare b) like calm conditions c) like murky water. None of the above applied, so no Hector’s dolphins. Pity – apparently their dorsal fin looks like Mickey Mouse’s ear…..


Some nice scenery again, though.

Some interesting stats about the area and its wildlife were presented by Lucy, particularly with regard to the earthquake which occurred in this area on 14th November 2016. The reason why this area is so rich in wildlife (even though we saw hardly any apart from one solitary sperm whale – a little disappointing, but at least we saw something) is because it has deep water and it is where cold Antarctic currents meet warm tropical waters, causing an upwelling of nutrients to feed the bottom end of the food chain. The abovementioned earthquake dropped the floor of the abyss by 50 metres. Imagine that if you can.

Back ashore in glorious weather. Sat in the sun at the whale watch café for a while, but Jean could not resist walking down the beach to the sea edge. Me, I just continued to sit in the sun…..

Back to the apartment via the supermarket to purchase the ingredients for one of my (legendary) spag bols. Before preparing this, we sat on our balcony to enjoy the sun, in shorts and sandals for possibly the last time on this trip, accompanied by a glass of fizz. No champagne glasses, so we had to make do with ordinary wine glasses. What a barbarous and uncivilised lot the antipodeans are, to be sure…..

Sat down on the balcony to my spag bol, which seemed to go down well. While all this was going on, the washing machine and tumble dryer were working overtime. These things are important, you know….

A lovely, lazy afternoon – most enjoyable. A fairly relaxed trip in prospect to Arthur’s Pass tomorrow. On! On!

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