a photographer and traveller I find very few things in life
as enjoyable as being on the deck of a boat watching sealife
on show all around me.
course I prefer it if the weather is warm, the sun bright
and conditions calm, but even on cloudy, big-swell days
the combination of Mother Nature and her marine creatures
is hard to beat.
off Tauranga in
the Bay of Plenty there
is a fabulous playground for dolphins, whales, orca, seals,
sharks and big-game fish.
the crew at Dolphin
Seafaris in Tauranga know how to show off our rich waters
to visitors and locals alike.
Seafaris offers daily trips out to see the dolphins and,
when it is possible, you can swim with the creatures.
journey with Dolphin Seafaris starts about 7.30am with a
wetsuit fit-out at the Tauranga Marina before heading over
to Mount Maunganui to pick-up fellow passengers from the
we cruise by the docks of New Zealand's biggest export port,
skipper Stuart Arnold gives us a rundown of what we can
expect through the day and our safety instructions.
is also the managing director of Dolphin Seafaris and has
been involved in dolphin watching for more than 30 years.
is passionate about sea creatures, eco tourism and freely
admits he loves his job. Who wouldn't?
in the cabin of the 50-foot catamaran Guardian on a beautiful
day there would be few things I'd find more enjoyable. Not
only is she a comfortable vessel to cruise around in, she
also has a fair bit of toe with a top speed of 27 knots
- perfect for keeping up with speeding dolphins.
lets us know that his crews contain not only divemasters
but also marine biologists who know their stuff about marine
Dolphin Seafaris takes our wildlife seriously and is not
only fully licensed by the Department of Conservation to
work with sea mammals, but helps the government body with
we push out of Tauranga Harbour Stuart continues his commentary
and then pushes the throttle so we can feel the power of
the Guardian. The waves we face are not big but there is
a sizeable swell courtesy of a just-gone storm. The Guardian
rides it with ease although it will be a bit of a test of
the sealegs of many passengers.
first pod we come across is new to the crew and will be
entered into the register of recognised dolphins.
creatures are a bit skittish - possibly feeding, possibly
there are orca in the area - and they remain "at arm's
length" of us for most of the contact.
of their behaviour we won't be swimming with this group.
are still fabulous to watch and spend time surfing the swells
before racing away in some haphazard pattern.
is very cool to see them although the pitch of the boat
makes photography pretty difficult.
DoC rules boats can only spend 90 minutes a day with wild
dolphins and so after 30 minutes or so we head out further
to try to locate a calmer pod.
out to the back of Motiti Island off the coast from beautiful
we pass by the Astrolab, which is an underground volcano
that is so tall its top creates a reef.
the waves break in the middle of very deep water is quite
the Astrolab - named after a ship that sunk after striking
it - I think I see a triangular dark fin sticking out of
the water. But it was only a flash and then it was gone.
Someone else's eyes confirm we saw something but after doubling
back we couldn't locate either a suspected sunfish or big
our return journey the conditions are much more pleasant
with the swell almost gone. Some kilometres ahead of us
a boat has called Stuart to let him know of a pod of some
30 dolphins out from Mauao.
speed there and then throttle back on getting close. The
group is very playful and interested in us and they have
some babies with them so no swimming is possible.
these guys are out to have fun and it is an absolute delight
to watch their antics.
speed by the bow of the Guardian, race off and then zoom
back. There are no big leaps out of the water but they are
close in with us, watching us as we watch them.
daughter Alice got the photo of the day with a close up
of a dolphin peering at those on the boat. It is a beauty!
encounter is soul-enriching as these creatures are wild.
They don't have to be near us and could hide very easily.
everyone aboard appreciated their time, energy and spirits.
stay with them as long as we can and it was an exhilarating
on its website Dolphin Seafaris says: "Rest assured,
we are the best in New Zealand at
what we do and all strive to make your trip the most enjoyable,
comfortable and natural possible."
been out with them for a trip to see the dolphins we can
be making the journey again.