New Zealand - Kaikoura
Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
124Trip End Ongoing
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Yet again the sun was shining, the sky was clear...and the trip was cancelled! We couldn't believe it. We were prepared for the disappointment this time and had already scheduled an extra day in Kaikoura and booked on the 6:15am trip the following morning in case of such an eventuality.
We used the afternoon productively to post our broken camera home, read up on Asia and catch up on some Internet duties.
The following morning we awoke at 5am to be greeted by rain, cloud and mist...yet the trip went ahead
After a quick coach journey to the catamaran we boarded and were greeted by our Maori guide. We managed to push far enough to the front of the group that we got a window seat in the boat - this actually turned out to be a bad decision as we were blocked into our aisle by a miserable French bloke, who proceeded to get sea sick and not want to move at intervals throughout the trip.
The trip, as predicted by the tour staff, was VERY choppy and bouncy. The trip actually came with a severe seasickness warning so we jacked ourselves up on seasickness tablets before leaving the hotel. There were times when the boat was at full speed that we almost took off and the waves crashing over the side of the boat meant that if you were stupid enough to stand out on deck you probably wouldn't remain on board for long!
The boat was a modern, hi-tech affair with a plasma screen showing us our route out into the deep blue sea (PIC). It really did get deep quickly, as the picture shows, jumping from 120m deep to over 1200m within a minute or so (PIC) when we moved over the continental shelf. The diagrams down the side showed our depth in relative terms, such as the height of 4 Empire State Buildings
Once we were into the deep water it was time to find the whales. After a couple of false alarms the captain stopped to listen for them (PIC) and identified one near by. Eventually we saw the tail of one whale just disappear into the water - before anyone had the chance to get a hand to a camera. We hoped this wouldn't be our only sighting, but time was getting on.
With less than 20 minutes left we finally spotted what we came to see, a huge Sperm Whale floating on the waves, blowing clouds of spray into the air every 15 seconds (PICS). You can only see about 20% of the whale above the surface and that gives you an idea of how massive it must be. He stayed around for about 5 minutes before deciding to dive down and give us that famous shot of the disappearing whale tail (PIC).
The Sperm Whale is the most frequently seen whale in Kaikoura, as they have a number of resident whales there all year round. Many other types such as the Blue Whale, Killer Whale and Humpback Whale all migrate through the area at various times of year. The Sperm Whale isn't the biggest whale (that honour goes to the Blue Whale) but it has the biggest throat and can swallow 2m long sharks whole
They are one of the loudest of all whales, emitting a clicking noise up to 160 decibels - that's louder than the noise you would hear standing right next to a jet engine starting up! However, it's not a patch on the loudest animal in the world - which apparently is a shrimp!
Final Fact: The Sperm Whale carries around 3 tonnes of oil in its head! When first caught by fishermen this oil was bizarrely thought to be sperm - hence the name!
Once the whale had dived down we cruised around looking for another but sadly our final glimpse was as short lived as our first, the whale diving out of sight just as we got onto deck.
Happy and relieved to have finally got on a whale tour and seen a whale, yet disappointed that we had only seen one, we returned to shore and drove to Picton at the north end of South Island. From here we boarded the ferry to cross over to Wellington in North Island. We got there in plenty of time but we would have been forced to make a tough decision if the 6:15am boat trip had been cancelled - to cancel the ferry or miss out on the whale tour. Luckily it all worked out.
The combination of the early morning, seasickness tablets and long drive to Picton had taken it out of Andrew (PICS) - as he fell asleep waiting to board the ferry.