I’m sure most people would experience a feeling of delight and excitement upon the prospect of witnessing wild whales and dolphins with their own eyes. I know this is how I felt as I awoke one Sunday morning knowing I would be embarking on a
The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is surprisingly close to Auckland itself and is, even more surprisingly, visited by an incredible one third of all marine mammals found throughout the globe. It was established in 2000 and protects the features of the Hauraki Gulf, including the plants and wildlife.
The trip departed at 12.30pm on a mostly sunny day. The sun shone through the clouds and glistened on the calm waters of the Viaduct Harbour. The Sky Tower peered impressively over the top of near-b
We boarded the ‘Dolphin Explorer’, a modern vessel which was purpose-built for whale and dolphin watching. There were areas outside and inside of the boat to sit or stand and admire the views surrounding us.
We set off and slowly made our way out of the harbour. The sight of the city moving further and further away was quite staggering, and definitely to proved to be a view worth photographing!
We headed north west of Auckland into the Marine Park, which is part of the Pacific Ocean and covers an incredible 1.2 million hectares. It also includes the Waitemata Harbour, Firth of Thames and eastern coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula. Its huge size may explain why such a vast amount of mammal species visit the area; at least 25 of
The crew of the Dolphin Explorer pride themselves on being heavily involved with research programmes within Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. They work with educational institutions to assist research and learn more about the mammals which live and thrive within the waters. Therefore, the Dolphin Explorer facilitates the completion of vital research methods whilst allowing visitors and tourists to enjoy everything the Marine Park has to offer.
Impressively, the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari sees dolphins on 93% of its trips. These can inclu
Furthermore, up to 22 species of whale have been found within the Marine Park, and sightings occur on 75% of the trips, which can include Bryde’s Whale and Fin Whale species.
Seabirds also call the Park home; about 24 species in total. These include Australasian Gannets, Petrels, Shearwaters and sometimes even penguins are sighted. These birds all have interesting behavioural patterns which makes for good viewing from the Dolphin Explorer. Gannets don’t hang around when they hunt – they dive into the water from heights of 30 metres, at speeds of around 140kph! Shearwaters follow whales on the basis that they will disturb the fish, and then swoop down to catch them from under the surface.
On this basis, during our
We ventured right out to sea and even spotted a seal on the way. I think we surprised him as much as he surprised us! The boat picked up quite a speed and it was lovely to stand on the front of the boat and feel the wind on my face, whilst taking in the ocean air and the picturesque surroundings.
Before we knew it, hundreds of dolphins gathered in front of us, with their fins just appearing above the water’s surface. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought we would see dolphins but not that many so close up!
I expected the dolphins to be a little shy and avoid the boat, but I was wrong. Astonishingly, they swam right next to the boat, and seemed to try to keep up with it or even race with it. They dived in and out of the water. It was a strikingly impressive scene and I won’t ever forget it! We had some perfect photo opportunities too, the dolphins seemed to be showing off a little and often all dived out of the water together.
They are the most beautiful of mammals, but are in fact some of the most fierce creatures in the sea. They do not mess around when it comes to catching prey! However, they did put on a good show for us which looked amazing. I really was shocked at the vast amount of them that were roaming around together in certain areas of the sea.
In a four-and-a-half-hour trip, we saw lots of dolphins, and it was definitely worth the wait to see them. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a whale, which is apparently rare when so many dolphins are present, as they like to hang around together. However, it was a magical experience. A true dolphin encounter.
To top it off, the staff on the boat were very welcoming and friendly. It was also great to be able to roam around the boat, stand outside to take in the sea breeze and fresh air, and then warm up inside the comfortable lounge areas.
The captain spoke to us on regular intervals over the intercom, and was very relaxed, knowledgable and humorous. He definitely added to the trip as a whole, and it was certainly obvious that he has 15 years experience on the Dolphin Explorer.
This is a great way to truly immerse yourself with wild marine mammals which thrive in the waters surrounding Auckland. I found it quite hard to believe there were that many dolphins living so close to the city itself. A fantastic day trip for all ages, and a definite must-do whilst in New Zealand!
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