Dolphin Encounter News
Dolphin Encounter Update March 2011
Welcome to the Dolphin Encounter® update for March 2011.
As summer draws to a close our mornings have slowly become darker resulting in several changes to our check-in times. The reward remains for the early morning tours, to see the beautiful dawn sky with the enormous sun as it emerges from the Pacific Ocean. For those lucky enough with cameras, they may even catch the magical moment as a dusky dolphin leaps clear out of the water as it races inshore with the sunrise lighting up the morning sky.
Our dolphins still continue to be located within close proximity to South Bay, in areas such as Goose Bay, Barney’s Rock, Mikenui and sometimes even closer with a travel time ranging from 10-30 minutes. The pods have been impressive with group numbers varying from 200-700 dolphins. It’s always great to witness our passengers surprise when we come across such large pods. For some, they would have been happy just to see a small handful of dolphins, let alone hundreds of them. It’s no wonder that it’s a dream come true to see them let alone have the privilege of swimming with them.
We’ve seen a huge diversity of customers this month ranging from tourists to musicians and even famous pop stars, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed the natural experience with the duskies as opposed to the “inhumane captive experience”. For some swimmers it’s quite a challenging undertaking to jump into the Pacific Ocean especially for those who may have never snorkelled before, so we conduct a snorkelling lesson onboard and have buoyancy aids such as kick boards and noodles to assist with nervous swimmers. Although it is desirable to use all of the equipment, for some it’s too much at once and rather than spoil the swim, we encourage those people to jump in without using their snorkel or flippers. The result can be just as rewarding with close interaction with the dolphins and a major achievement for the swimmer.
The water temperature has slowly begun to cool down and sits at 16-17°C. This isn’t surprising though with a little help from some cold southerlies adorning the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains with snow on more than one occasion.
Our sightings of other marine mammals have been varied with the occasional sighting of Hector’s and common dolphins, orca and even a humpback whale. The common dolphins have been seen bow-riding at the front of our boats, their high pitch whistle clearly audible to those onboard. These dolphins are not a social mammal for us, preferring to race after each other or even a few duskies, rather than be entertained by the human race. The Hector’s dolphins by comparison were highly interactive on one occasion, no doubt just wanting to prove that they too can be captivated by swimmers as much as the duskies- a rare interaction indeed.
Our orca sightings are becoming less frequent now which is typical for this time of year with only 2 sightings this month. One pod consisted of individuals such as Koru and Nicky, who are known to us whilst the other pod remains to be identified from our research team. This second pod was a much larger one consisting of around 16 individuals, including a very young calf.
We encountered another entanglement this month, a young humpback whale that had rope wrapped around his tail from a fishing net. It is highly unusual to see humpbacks at this time of year as they are predominantly sighted during our winter months on their long migration northwards from Antarctica.
When we first saw this humpback, he was surrounded by hundreds of dusky dolphins amongst a huge bait ball of fish. This humpback was busy gorging himself on the productive Kaikoura waters and the duskies just loved him as he lunged through the water engulfing massive quantities of water to filter krill, plankton and fish. It was amazing to watch as he emerged mouth wide open, throat grooves expanded concertina-like, with the duskies darting just in front of him.
Help was on the way for this whale with a specialised team trained in marine mammal rescues that were able to get close enough to the whale to cut most of the rope off. The team had serious concerns about this whale’s welfare as it was bleeding and showing signs of weakness. However he was sighted in subsequent days, still hanging around with the duskies, before performing his grand finale, some amazing breaching and pec-slapping. Fingers crossed that with the rope discarded and with his rest stop in Kaikoura, that it will grow old and maybe one day we’ll see it here again in winter as it migrates northwards towards the tropics. A very happy ending.
So till next time..........