A dolphin discovery tour in the 'Bay of Islands' is one of the 'must dos'.
Staying in Russell we arrived just in time for the launch at the landing. The catamaran coming from Paihia had already landed. Dolphins are exciting mammals with exceptional abilities that let them entangle every now and then in a heartfelt story. Some became popular through series on television or movies like 'Flipper' or 'Dolphin Tale'. Now, we had the chance to meet wild dolphins in their natural habitat.
Swimming with dolphins is dependent on weather conditions on the sea, the time of year and on the individual dolphin or the pod of dolphins. Bottle-nosed dolphins visit the Bay of Islands all year round usually daily. During the months February to March their visits can be lesser. Other species are sometimes present like Common Dolphins, Orcas and Bryde’s Whales.
Soon we met a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins, that is the most extensively studied group. Without any hesitation, they delighted their spectators with joyful and elegant jumps singularly or in small groups. Mother dolphins and their calves swam inseparable side by side.
From the crew, that guided our dolphin discovery tour we learned some facts about these aquatic mammals. Their overall size ranges from 1.9 m to 3.9 m and depends on gender and the region they live in. The dolphins body size rather than their age defines their maturity and with that their first breeding time. Gestation is for up to 12 months. A dolphin calf will suckle for 2 to 3 years. In relation to the nursing period, the intervals between births range from three to five years. Undisturbed female dolphins reach an age of up to fifty years while the age of their male counterpart ranges between forty and forty-five years.
As mammals, dolphins can drown. They return every 2 to 4 minutes to the water surface for exhalation and inhalation. Offshore this sequence can be longer. The affect on their sleep is that the brain is organised in two sections taking turns to rest. This prevents a dolphin from suffocation.
Lucky for us that animal rights activists and consumers refused to accept the high numbers of drowned dolphins in tuna nets. For this reason, tuna canners were encouraged to can only shipments of fishing fleets that protect dolphins.
Watching on this dolphin discovery tour the pod's peaceful and social interaction clearly communicates why traditional Maori carvings of these ocean mammals symbolize friendship, harmony and playfulness.
Leaving the pod behind the catamaran cruised to the Hole in the Rock and the lighthouse on Cape Brett. The hole forced by the power of swell and tide into the stone, and opens a passageway through the rock. Thanks to favourable sea conditions, we were able to observe how the skipper skilfully steered our boat through.
The historic 'Cape Brett Lighthouse' marks the entrance to the Bay of Islands.