Dolphin Encounter, NZ

While I usually spend my mornings sluggishly checking my emails or eating last night’s dessert, this morning was different! I got up bright and early, put on a wetsuit, and jumped into the Pacific Ocean! It turns out the shock of freezing cold ocean water is better than coffee when it comes to waking you up.

Anyway, I had a reason for jumping into the Pacific, and that reason was dolphins.

A company here in Kaikoura, New Zealand called Dolphin Encounter specializes in finding pods of dolphins in the ocean and dropping humans in the middle of them. Lucky for me, I was one of those people today, and I had a blast. The dolphins got within a few inches of me and at some points I definitely felt like they were taunting or playing with me. I saw some dolphins mating, a baby with it’s mom, and one energetic fella jumping into the air over and over again. The best part was that I was in the water when seeing all of these things, right next to the dolphins! Not the mating ones though. That would’ve been weird.

There was the old guy with scars all over him and a dented dorsel fin, who charged me a few times out of nowhere, giving me Jaws flashbacks. There was the youthful pair that circled me, making me spin in circles. I’m pretty sure they were laughing at me. There was the group of ten that swam side-by-side directly below me, close enough to touch. There was the lone dolphin, swimming beside me and looking at me with bored eyes. A sea of characters with distinct personalities, apparent even with only a few hours with them.

We visited a few different pods of dusky dolphins, and it was interesting how different one pod was from another in terms of their interaction with us weird and flailing humans. In order to attract the dolphin’s attention, we were supposed to make noise, look like a dolphin and dive down. Clearly, we looked quite strange, squealing like pigs and attempting to dolphin kick.

Even if I didn’t look cool, I loved it! It was amazing to get so close to such smart animals, in their natural habitat. I’ve definitely never seen a dolphin so close-up, and I’ve definitely never seen so many wild dolphins. Even when we were back on the boat, the dolphins followed the wake and jumped in the air. They mated right beside the boat, surrounded the hull, and twirled like figure skaters in the air, landing on their backs and doing it over and over again for the cameras.

It felt like we were tourists to a strange land and they were running the show, deciding when enough was enough and playing only with the people they felt like playing with. Sometimes I felt like the inferior creature, with their obvious intelligence and command of the water so apparent. If they wanted to swim away from us every time, they could have, easily. Instead, the stuck around, entertaining and being entertained. It felt like how a wildlife interaction should be, without the cages and training we’re so used to. It was a privilege in every sense, and I would jump into the freezing cold Pacific every day if it meant mingling with such amazing creatures.

Pictures to come!

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