March 3, 2016
The big event today was to be the swim with the seals. We were to put on our wetsuits and jump in the ocean near one of their colonies. It didn’t work out. But first, let me relate the morning.
We are staying across on the Kaikoura peninsula that juts out into the ocean. Our innkeeper alerted us to the dolphins in the bay around 9am. We spent the next hour plus watching the acrobats of the sea give us a performance. There was a school of some 30 to 50 frolicking just offshore. We watched them do their double back flips, pirouettes, leaps past each other and just fun stuff. These were natural behaviors without someone feeding them sardines or to the sound of a crowd clapping. I don’t think that they could hear us cheering on the shore. We changed locations a couple of times as we followed them along the coast. It was great fun. It would have great to have been in a boat with them around us but we were plenty close.
Since our scheduled seal swim was not until the middle of afternoon, we decided to check out the South Bay on the other side of the peninsula. We stopped at the Lookout that towers over the town for a few pictures. We then continued over the peninsula to the beautiful South Bay. It was the center of the Kaikoura whaling industry until 1964 when the last whale was commercially killed. It is written that the Maoris promoted the idea of whale watching. They were right. The whale watching industry spawned seal and dolphin sightseeing and produces far more income than whale oil ever could. It is a great lesson in ecotourism.
We walked along the.path to Limestone Cove through the Maori inspired gates. The viewing platforms were well done. The seabirds and the shoreline were dramatic and enjoyable. Finally about noon we decided to head back to town, have lunch and get ready to gear up for our swim. Honestly, we were not more than a little anxious about the idea of jumping into very cold ocean water full of rather large fur seals with sharp teeth. After all, we had watched what happened to the pups who guessed wrong about their mother. I kept rationalizing to Peggy that if it was really dangerous they wouldn’t allow it. After all this a country that has perfected bungee jumping. Besides the sun was coming out and it looked great.
We changed into our swim suits. As we left our motel room we had noticed that the sun was gone and the cloud cover was back. We drove to the Seal Swim venue and were ready to go. The young man was busily cleaning the rubber armor that would protect us from the cold but looked vulnerable to seal teeth. We were quickly advised by the young girl at the counter that conditions had changed and that the sea was choppy near the rocks where we planned to swim. We were momentarily stunned and disappointed. I did notice that Peggy was no longer twitching with anticipation. I figured that since we had not chickened out it counted as an adventure scrapped through no fault of our own.
Eventually we decided to go look at the place where were to have swum and validate the reason for the cancellation. We drove to the seal rocks and it looked like a maelstrom. We began to feel very lucky. We celebrated our near brush with disaster by having a “real fruit” ice cream manufactured at a farm fruit and vegetable stand on the way back. We decided to use some of the refund seal swim money on necessary gifts and baubles. Thus ends the days adventure that didn’t happen but turned out all right.
I think I will celebrate with a beer and fish and chips. Tomorrow we head past Christchurch to the historic French colony of Akaroa.