Latest News at Dolphin Encounter
Dolphin Encounter® Update for June 2015
Welcome to the Dolphin Encounter® update for June 2015.
Once again, the weather has become much more unpredictable with polar blasts sweeping up the country on a regular basis. We didn’t suffer too badly compared to other parts of the country, which experienced lots of snow and temperatures plummeting as low as -21°C. The Seaward Kaikoura Mountain ranges with its light dusting of snow created a stunning backdrop.
Swell, rough seas and the resulting poor visibility has affected us this month and we’ve unfortunately had to cancel the majority of our tours. When the weather has been kind to us, the dolphins simply haven’t been located in our operational area, no doubt as a result of the vast amount of dirty water from sediment laden rivers. Despite our best efforts using spotters on land and spotter planes, covering a significant area, the dolphins simply haven’t been in our operational area, which is set by the Department of Conservation. It’s been hugely frustrating, but we have to remind ourselves that our tours are at the mercy of Mother Nature and dolphin behaviour and we have to accept that’s the nature of our business!
On the few occasions that we have found dolphins, their locations have been varied. There’s a typical seasonal pattern throughout winter with the dolphins moving further offshore and to the south. On some days though this has meant that they have moved outside of our permitted operational area which has prevented us from operating our tours.
With the dolphins we have encountered, we’ve had some amazing interactions with them. As they move offshore, the clarity of the water improves and we’ve been in areas with fantastic visibility. Pods have been located both to the north and south of the Kaikoura Peninsula and sometimes in areas close to South Bay harbour, like the Kahutara and Goose Bay, whilst on other days they’re located much further away in areas such as Ohau and the Conway. With such a variety of locations, our travel times have varied immensely from as little as 5 minutes, right up to one hour away. This increased travel time enables passengers to keep an eye open for the diversity of wildlife that can be observed in the area. We always say that each tour is unique and we never know what we’re likely to see.
So, this month, as well as dusky dolphins, there’s been a wide range of wildlife that’s been seen. Other species of dolphins have included a few common dolphins racing alongside the duskies and we also had occasions that we saw the Hector’s dolphins. We see Hector’s dolphins on a very small percentage of our tours and rarely see them breaching out of the water. Although seen from a distance, these smallest and rarest dolphins have been too shy to approach our vessels.
The largest of the dolphin species, the orca or killer whale has surprisingly visited on 3 occasions this month. It’s pretty unusual to see orca here throughout the winter time, however this could be attributed to the fact that we have fewer tours and more unpredictable weather and we just don’t cross paths that often. Two of the pods are well known to us due to certain individuals with unique markings. The third group have only been seen in the area on one occasion in 2013 and it was by pure chance with an amazing spot by Ian who happened to see them whilst searching for dolphins. Dennis took this opportunity to head out and obtain some footage of these orca in his smaller boat “rubber duckie” and despite their distance offshore and an interesting swell, Ian successfully guided us into the orca’s location. It took some time to locate them however, and after several frustrating radio calls from Ian notifying us that we were in the perfect spot and we must be able to see them, we finally caught a glimpse of them and realised what was going on. Although the pod was large and spread out over a large area, three of these orca appeared to be drawn to our boat and spent most of the time upside down underneath us playing with it despite us being stationery with the engines off!!! It was an incredible interaction and one of the best orca experiences we’ll ever have.
Humpback whales are starting to pass through the Kaikoura area on their annual migration northwards from Antarctica to the tropics for the breeding and calving season.This month marked the start of an annual humpback whale survey which is being carried in the Cook Strait by the Department of Conservation and former whalers. This is the 12th survey which is carried out over a 4 week period throughout mid-June to mid-July. The objective is to assess the humpback whale recovery since whaling finished in 1964. So, we’ve got our eyes peeled for any humpback whales travelling through and are busy passing on all relevant information to the researchers such as number of whales, locations and direction of travel so that they are able to keep track of the humpbacks heading towards the Cook Strait.
We also had an unusual visitor this month, a yellow-eyed penguin. We rarely see yellow-eyed penguins here as they are generally found further south along the south-east coast of the South Island. They are endemic to New Zealand and are one of the rarest penguins in the world. The total population is estimated to range between 6,000 to 7,000 individuals.
So, despite, the low numbers of tours this month, we have had some incredible experiences on the water. Fingers crossed that the weather improves next month.
So, that’s all our news for now.
Till next time..........
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