Anyone visiting New Zealand who is interested in wildlife and conservation – as well as having amazing experiences – should most definitely make their way to the Akaroa peninsula, just 90 minutes drive from Christchurch. Not only is the peninsula very beautiful, with stunning bays and views, but Akaroa itself is set in a magnificent natural harbour, teaming with wildlife. It is also one of the few places where it is possible to go swimming with Hector’s dolphins.
I chose to go out with ecoseaker, the smaller of the two companies offering the opportunity to go swimming with the Hector’s dolphins – and was very pleased I did! The firm is locally run, and uses a powerful small boat that takes between four and twelve people on the swimming trip which departs at 10.30 in the morning and lasts for about three-and-a-half hours. Steve Hamilton, the skipper, is a 5th generation local and descendant of early French and Scottish settlers. He grew up on a sheep farm alongside Akaroa Harbour and throughout the trip he shared his detailed knowledge of its environment and the geology of the surrounding area, as well as the importance of conserving its wildlife. He and his assistant, Adam, made the trip humorous and very enjoyable, as well as being educational and informative. As well as the dolphins, we saw many New Zealand fur seals, pied cormorants and a couple of little blue penguins. It was far from easy photographing the dolphins, especially when in the water with them, but I hope that the following sequence captures something of the excitement of the trip: