16.03.2014 - 17.03.2014
Leaving Hanmer Springs for Kaikoura we were greeted by a grey and wet town. Battling the wind we visited the local seal colony and later retreated to the car to read.
The last day of our 'big trip' could not have gone better. Lusi turned out to be just two days of grey weather and nothing to worry about. The sun was shining so we went back to see the fur seals and this time they were closer and more active.
With Dan's enthusiasm we took a risk (I'm far too indecisive and boring for this) and booked on for a 1pm flight with Wings over Whales. It was a gamble. A boat tour was cheaper, lasted three hours and if you didn't see a whale you got 80% of your cash back. But if you did see a whale it would only be the top bobbing out of the water and it's tail when it dived. Plus trip advisor was rife with tales if bad sea sickness experiences. The flight would only last 30 minutes and there was no money back guarantee. Trip advisor had many reviews of no sightings. But. Taking the flight is up there as one of the greatest decisions we've made on this trip.
We arrive at the airport expecting a light aircraft for 7 passengers. Being the only ones to make a booking we are going up in a tiny 4 (with pilot!) seater plane. A whale is due to surface soon so after a short presentation and safety demo on how to use a life jacket. Without any delay or time for nerves we were in the sky on our very own private whale watching tour.
Within minutes we spotted a ginormous 20m sperm whale dwarfing the nearby tourist boat. Our pilot spun us in circles around him with one wing angled at the sea and the other skywards just 150m away from the surface. It was a rush of fear, awe and excitement. We could see the whole body of the whale splashing around to get air. It was spectacular to see the well known poster shot of his tail fin lifting into the air to propel him into the depths.
With SLR left at home these phone photos are not the best. But you get the idea!
We were wowed. It was only ten minutes in, so the pilot took us in search of a pod of dolphins he'd seen earlier that day. Quickly we saw about ten. It was really cool. After a call on the radio we were bobbing further along the coast where suddenly there was no still water but hundreds of dolphins. And I mean hundreds. It really couldn't have gone better and was definitely worth the £90pp price tag. It was such a special end to an incredible trip.
Feeling elated when we hit the ground we went for celebratory ice cream and discussed at length how great we think we've been at backpacking.