Latest News at Dolphin Encounter
Dolphin Encounter® Update for January 2015
Welcome to the first Dolphin Encounter® update for 2015.
Summer has finally arrived and we’ve been basking in gloriously hot weather with temperatures sometimes reaching a scorching 32°C. The sea has been relatively calm with fabulous visibility. Swimmers and watchers have had sensational views of dolphins both above and below the water.
There’s been a significant increase in tourism numbers for the whole of New Zealand this season and Kaikoura has been enjoying this boost in tourism. We’ve been super busy this month together with the increase in overseas visitors and the normal domestic Christmas and school holidays.
The dolphins have been located throughout the Kaikoura area and even visitors to our café and those arriving for their tour, have been treated to a spectacle of leaping dolphins as some pods have been on the northern side of the Kaikoura Peninsula in clear view of the Encounter Kaikoura office. The main pods of dolphins have been located in areas such as Goose Bay, Haumuri Bluffs and the Conway with travel times varying from 20-45 minutes.
Pod numbers have been consistently high with numbers ranging from 300-500. Each trip is always a surprise for us however, due to the ever changing social structure within dusky dolphin society. Sometimes there’s more dolphins than we expected and on other occasions, there’s less. It’s always best not to expect to see huge pods and for most people, they were hoping that they’d encounter maybe 5-10 dolphins. Imagine the look on their face as a huge pod races towards the boat. It’s an amazing sight!
Interaction with the duskies changes all the time, it depends on the dolphin’s behaviour and also in part dependent on how interesting swimmers make it for them. Swimmers who are active in the water and making noise increase their chances of an inquisitive dolphin coming over to check them out. On occasion though, we see a group of dolphins hanging out with one swimmer and on their return to the boat we enquire as to their secret for being a “dolphin magnet”, their answer...... “I wasn’t doing anything”!!
Swimmers are well equipped with a range of equipment, however some swimmers prefer to bring their own mask, snorkel, fins and wetsuits and are more than welcome to do so. We were mesmerised one day with two swimmers who brought their own full face mask with integrated snorkel. We’d never seen this strange contraption before but a great concept!
The water temperature is almost tropical now and is likely to be the warmest it will get at a balmy 18°C. Some swimmers keen to jump in without their hoods on have enjoyed listening to the duskies and on the odd occasion, enjoying the high pitch whistling from visiting common dolphins.
Dolphins have been seen playing with a red cod on the surface. Typically, the dusky dolphin is a nocturnal hunter and so observing them feeding during the day is a rarity. Red cod comprises part of the duskies diet, but is only occasionally consumed with the duskies feasting on squid, lanternfish and hoki on a more regular basis. So, it was exciting to witness such a rare occurrence.
Travel to and from the dolphins gives passengers the perfect opportunity to keep an eye out for other marine life in the area and due to the nutrient rich productive waters, we’re always on the lookout. This month, we’ve been treated to several close up views of the albatross feasting on squid and ling. We’ve also seem the shy Hector’s dolphins as well as New Zealand fur seals and the orca or killer whale. New Zealand’s orca population is transient so they’re always on the move. We are regularly asked where and when orca can be seen in Kaikoura, but to put it simply, we never know when they’re likely to turn up. We’ve had two sightings of them this month with one sighting occurring literally as we were heading out the harbour on the early morning tour.....they surfaced right in front of us heading north. The highly distinctive female called Prop actually visited Kaikoura last month and it's unusual to see her again in such a short space of time. We never know the impact of orca on the dolphins with some pods known to actively hunt the duskies, but on both these occasions, the dolphins were leaping and frolicking around as if completely unaware that orca had been in the area.
For some people, the option of swimming with the dolphins is too much for them and you don’t need to be in the water to enjoy coming out on one of our dolphin tours with spectators able to enjoy the dolphin’s bow-riding or marvelling at their incredible acrobatics.
That’s all our news for now, it’s been an amazing month and a great start to 2015.
So, till next time..........
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