Swimming with Wild Dolphins in Kaikoura

July 19, 2012

We didn’t have anymore time in Christchurch as we had to leave at dawn for a very special day… we went to swim with WILD dolphins.

Yes even me!

It was an amazing drive, seeing the sun come up and even more beautiful scenery, the only shame was that we had to rush, there was no time to stop even once if we were going to make our boat.

Roads like this were our saviour… we got stuck behind a lorry quite early on so had to make some time up later… these straight roads are so rare in New Zealand and I made the most of them. 

Then we reached our destination… Kaikoura. Beautiful.

The company we swam with has a cafe (with amazing food) and it’s right on the beach. 

Below is the view from the boat, it was an amazing morning for it… the sea started off so calm, which I was so happy about. Especially when I realised we was on the smallest boat.

You can also spot Albatross’ here, HUGE birds. Their wing span is amazing. That black dot is the only one we saw though, we were too far out I think.

We were out on the water I would say for about 40 minutes before we spotted our first Dolphin, we had a fair way to get out to sea first then we had to find the groups.

This was a group of four, so we had to keep looking. 

 Then we realised why we had to keep looking as we found a group of around 200 dolphins having their playtime!

This meant it was time to jump in.

So how did I find swimming with dolphins?

Given all my practise swimming in the sea in Thailand so much easier than it could have been a few months before, but harder than I thought. We had to wear full dry suits, they help you float and keep warm, this water is not tropical, it is cold.

Also the sea and it’s inhabitants still terrify me… and dolphins are quite big, and very, very playful!

When I first jumped into the water, the cold was a shock and it was rougher than it looked and I did have to push down the panic, but I did it for the most part.

To get the dolphins to swim around the group we had to play with them, that means lots of noise, swimming in circles as fast as you can and the best one is to dive down. My husband loves the water so I stayed near him as he dived down and made noise and I made myself dizzy by swimming in circles.

The dolphins rush right up to you and around you, it’s scary and amazing because they are wild, and it makes you feel so special that they had chosen to play with you, I did have a few WOAH moments when they were swimming at me, part scared but mostly it was just amazing.

If you make eye contact with one, then that is just insane. A dolphin looking at you? Crazy good.

This is not like any swimming with dolphins holidays I had seen where you are in a pool and are petting a tame one. These are wild.

I highly recommend it. One of the best things I have ever done.

Some advice… we made a big kedgeree with brown rice and ate it for breakfast, we thought it would ensure we had plenty of energy for swimming in the cold sea. For me this was a big mistake. 
The cafe does amazing breakfast, and all I should have eaten is some toast and coffee.
Remember how I get seasick? Yeah that’s what happened. I only got to go in the water once.
I got out after the first swim and we tried to catch up with the dolphins (as more and more showed up) and everyone else went back in another two times.
Once I was back on the boat I was sick, not even the sick where if I got back in the water it’d be okay, because I couldn’t stop being sick long enough to get back in. The kedgeree and the sea getting suddenly very rough meant it was over for me (and most of the boat, so many people were so ill, one girl was crying for her Mum!)

The seasickness pills I took did nothing (except make me ridiculously drowsy, be really careful when buying these, I was falling asleep on the way back). The sea was so rough we had to give up… but not before seeing a group of over 300 dolphins playing. That was amazing, I was so glad I managed to look up long enough to see that. 

 After a couple of hours of sitting and recovering I felt much better, and starving (my stomach had been emptied) so we went for fish and chips at Coopers Catch, a little shack on the edge of what feels like a surfing town.

We sat outside in the sunshine (with ginger beer of course) and trying to fight the seagulls away from stealing our chips.

We went swimming with Dolphin Encounter and highly recommend them, a really slick operation and the staff are great, really knowledgeable and really great with all the pukers.

I was brave in New Zealand, swimming in the sea and jumping out of planes!

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One Response to “Swimming with Wild Dolphins in Kaikoura”


  1. […] after Kaikoura we headed back to Marlborough for our two days in the Sounds… yup that beautiful place I […]


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