The children and I had the privilege yesterday to take a tour with Whale Watch. There is no way we could afford the tickets normally, but we happen to know a lady who works there. She sent me a note recently, saying that they were taking the Year 4 classes from Kaikoura on a tour, which they do annually, and had extra space. She thought of us, since she knows we homeschool, and asked if we’d like to go. Would we! You should have heard the excitement here! The two youngest were not able to go, but a dear friend in Kaikoura offered to keep them for me so I could go along.
Thursday morning was the day of the tour. We got up early and ate our breakfast on the way to Kaikoura (a one-hour trip) as we watched the sun rise over the hills and enjoyed the snow on the mountains. When we got down to the coast, we noticed high waves. We dropped off the little boys and went to the Whaleway Station–to be met with the news that sailing had been canceled for the day due to the high waves! What a disappointment. So, we picked up the little boys again, went to a secondhand shop, and came home to do school.
The trip had been rescheduled for Friday, so yesterday morning we got up early again, again ate our breakfast while we enjoyed the early morning beauty, and again dropped off the little boys. The waves were still high, but not as high as the previous morning, so we got to go on our tour.
We were informed, soon after we got underway, that a whale had been spotted not too far away. He had just sounded (gone under) and would surface to breathe again in about 40 minutes. The primary whale in Kaikoura waters, by the way, is adolescent male sperm whales. They like the deep water in the trench that comes close in to land here. They can dive 3 km deep, and stay down for about 40 minutes at a time. While we waited for that whale to come back up, we went to Goose Bay, where the continental shelf comes within 500 meters of the shore for a special treat: a pod of dolphins was feeding there! Normally, in the winter, the dolphins are in the Marlborough Sounds, so they would not usually be seen on a Whale Watch tour right now. There were probably around 200 Dusky Dolphins, and we got to be right in the middle of the pod for 15-20 minutes! That was fascinating! They leaped out of the water, spun in a half circle, and fell back in with a splash. They frequently slapped the water with their tail, scaring fish so they could feed on them. I was intrigued to see that they often swam in pairs, two dolphins side-by-side. We’ve seen them often from the highway, but it’s much better out at sea, right in among them.
Soon it was time to head over to see the whale. We all went back in the cabin and sat down. As we were traveling, I happened to see, out the window, a spout off to our right! After I saw it a second time, I started pointing it out to people around me, and after the third we were able to catch the attention of the Whale Watch crew–they hadn’t seen it! They immediately altered course and went that direction, but just as we got there the whale sounded. So, we turned and went back toward the other one–but as we got there that one sounded, as well! What a disappointment. So, we slowly moved around, searching for another whale, and they turned the engines off at one point so they could listen with the hydrophone to try to locate a whale. After awhile they did find one, and we got to watch it breathe on the surface for several minutes. Then, the whale waved his tail at us and was gone. What a special experience!
After we picked up the little boys and visited for a while with our friend, we headed for home. We stopped along the coast on our way home and had a picnic, and explored the rocks for awhile–it was too beautiful a day to just go home immediately!