This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while now but becoming a homeowner and planning a wedding kinda took over my life and so my blog has been very much neglected!
I felt that with the recent earthquake in New Zealand that there was no better time than now to share some love for mine and Jonny’s favourite spot in NZ. Beautiful Kaikoura 💙 unfortunately Kaikoura was severely hit by the earthquake and has been left with no proper road in or out; and homes & businesses have been badly affected. We were totally devastated to hear this news. This news video shows just some of the devastation; along with the amazing rescue efforts of the military.
So, I am dedicating this post to the amazing community of people in Kaikoura right now ❤ our thoughts & prayers are with them as they rebuild their lives, homes and businesses.
Here’s our Kaikoura story:
For those that don’t know, Kaikoura is a tiny town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Home to lots of exciting marine life! We were stopping off here for one reason only – to swim with wild dusky dolphins 🐬 we’d booked into our hostel for two nights – just enough time to do the dolphin swim before heading off to our next stop. But we did not anticipate just how much we would fall in love with this place…
It was literally just a little over a year ago that Jonny and I drove our retro Nissan Sunny into Kaikoura for the first time (we went back at the end of our NZ trip!). The love affair began when we stopped off for lunch to cure our “hanger“. As we looked around to take in our surroundings we were in total awe of the stunning snow peaked mountains that stood behind the glistening turquoise sea 😍
Our relationship continued to develop when we checked in at our hostel – Albatross Backpackers. This hostel was hands down our favourite place to rest our heads in not only NZ…but the whole southern hemisphere!
The cosy atmosphere, the art corner, the kitchen full of freebies, the board games, the freshly made pancakes, Ben’s BBQs, Katie’s peach & apple crumble, the free recycled bikes, the rollerblades, the eco friendly approach…this was a little home away from home. But the best part was Ben & Katie who own the hostel! These two know how to do business well👌 they are full of ideas of things to do in KK and will point you in the direction of all the best places to eat. They’ll also offer to bring your shopping back to the hostel after you make the silly mistake of cycling to the supermarket for 4 bags of groceries 🙄😂
And then of course there’s the dolphins. The day we made the decision to go travelling was the day my bucket list was started. Swimming with wild dusky dolphins in Kaikoura was the first thing I added to the list. I had been dreaming of this moment for 2 years and was SO excited that it was finally here 🐬🎉
The Dolphin Encounter experience:
Dolphin Encounter is located right around the corner from The Albatross (this was a total fluke for us!) on the Esplanade, just facing the beach. You are also able to do an Albatross encounter if that’s your thing (birds don’t do it for me as much as dolphins 😂); and there’s also Café encounter to get yourself fed before/after your trip!
We chose to do the 8.30am swim and when we arrived were told that there was a “slight to moderate” swell so sea sickness was a possibility. After many bumpy boat trips on our travels I had worked out I don’t get sea sick which is a totally blessing due to my phobia of vomiting! But I do go into panic mode when I know there’s a chance of others being sick around me 😬
Next we got our wetsuits which were amazingly thick & came with a jacket, hood & booties – the team do everything they can to make sure you have a perfect fitting wetsuit to stay as warm as possible. We got our snorkel gear & fins sorted then sat down to watch a quick DVD on what to expect on the trip. Then there was a short bus ride to the harbour and onto the boat we got.
Within around 10 minutes of being on the boat we started to see dolphins 🐬❤ I just couldn’t wait to get into the water! The boat was a little bumpy but thankfully no one was chucking up…yet!
It took us around 20 minutes to find our first dolphin spot. We waited for the siren to sound to indicate that we were safe to get into the water and then in we jumped. Nothing could have prepared me for how cold that water was. Even in a 10mm thick wetsuit ❄❄❄ it totally took my breath away! Even Jonny who can tolerate the cold pretty well was struggling. But within minutes there were dolphins all around us and the adrenalin soon warmed us up. It was incredible!
We were taught that the dolphins will interact with you if you do three things – swim in circles with them; free dive down into the water with them; and sing to them! Now, I cannot free dive to save my life. But I can sing and I can swim in circles. And I did both of those things superbly if I do say so myself 😂 the dolphins were literally swimming within arms reach of me and every now and again they’d have their eye right on me. It was AMAZING! I found that their favourite song was ‘Under the Sea’ from the Little Mermaid 🤗 Jonny focused more on the free diving which the dolphins really responded to – they would dive down with him and then jump out of the water in unison. It was like watching Olympic synchronised swimming 🐬🏆
We had three opportunities to swim with the dolphins and we spent around 45 minutes in the water in total. By the third time we had so many dolphins swimming beside us – it was unreal!
When we got back onto the boat we had a much needed warm shower; then we got changed and had some hot chocs & ginger nuts while watching the dolphins show off their acrobatics alongside the boat! It was such an incredible sight.
Our guide Tracy was a legend – she knew so much about the KK marine life & was a total dusky dolphin expert! We also loved our chats with her about scuba diving with sharks in Oz 👌
This trip was hands down one of our top 3 activities on our RTW trip. I cannot recommend it enough 🐬 Make sure you check out @dennisbuurman on Instagram – he’s the boss man at Encounter and his pics & videos will make you want to go even more!
If you don’t believe me from reading this; you can see for yourself by watching my dolphin encounter video:
While the dolphin trips aren’t currently running we have been assured that the duskies are still in Kaikoura’ waters 🎉 we hope so much that it isn’t too long before Encounter can get their trips started again 🙏 **PSSST, DOLPHIN TOURS ARE GO AGAIN!!!!**
Other reasons we loved KK…
The Peninsula walk. The best way to see stunning Kaikoura! There’s a lookout point as well just up behind Albatross Backpackers which is another very pretty walk with an epic view at the end 😍
The seal colony! Just before you set off to do the beautiful peninsula walk you’ll come across a big colony of cape fur seals! Some will be snoozing in the car park after a busy day or two at sea catching food for their pups; others will be chilling in the sun; and the playful pups will happily come investigate GoPro’s in the shallows! They are fascinating to watch. Just don’t get too close to the big ones as they apparently have a nasty bite!
The ducks! My fave thing to do (other than swim with dolphins) was to hang out and share my ice cream with the team of ducks at the river in town.
The Sunday roast at Donegal House – you can’t beat a good ol’ Irish Sunday dinner. It was almost as good as my mum’s 👌 The many “fush and chup” shops! And we’ve heard the crayfish is the best in the world (we ashamedly never did try it…but there’s always next time!)
You only have to see Kaikoura to understand why we fell so in love with it. I really want this post to encourage tourists to get back as soon as the roads the reopen! It is so upsetting that a 90 second earthquake has caused this much devastation; especially at the start of summer & high season 😢
Kaikoura, we love you ❤ please get well soon x