New Zealand is a country surrounded by dolphins – tourists choose it just for the opportunity to swim with them! Here are the top ten best places you can see dolphins in New Zealand, starting from the top of the country and travelling down:
1) The Bay of Islands
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dolphin tourism operators in New Zealand, and the Bay of Islands is no exception. You go out on a ferry, sail around a bit until you find dolphins, and hope they’re attracted to your bow wave. They usually are. It’s apparently marvellous fun for them to swim in. Then, if the dolphins don’t have any calves with them, you’re allowed to get in the water. Sometimes the dolphins will come right up to you, sometimes they won’t.
The Bay of Islands is a great place for swimming with dolphins because the water is quite warm compared to the rest of the country, and because there’s some pretty scenery around, instead of just ocean, such as the imaginatively named Hole in the Rock.
The two species of dolphins you’re likely to encounter in the Bay of Islands are the common dolphin and the bottlenose dolphin. The bottlenoses are the stereotype of what everyone expects dolphins to look like; the common dolphins have yellow patches on their sides. Both species can be really friendly towards humans, but they can also get boisterous and downright violent, which is why you’re not allowed in with them if they have calves to protect, or seem in a slightly odd mood.
Also, if you’re extremely lucky, you might see some killer whales. (You’re not allowed to swim with those.)
2) Goat Island
Goat Island is a haven for snorkellers, with its clear water and abundance of beautiful, colourful fish. You can see bottlenose and common dolphins at Goat Island as well.
You can get a ferry that’ll take you to see the dolphins out in the Hauraki Gulf straight from downtown Auckland. This is where I saw my first dolphins in New Zealand – where I saw my first dolphin that wasn’t performing in a tank. And watching them leaping and diving alongside the boat was better than watching them leaping and diving through hoops. I saw them playing between the twin prows of the catamaran, turning over to surf on their backs and even having sex. Gay sex, at that. Yup, I’ve witnessed gay dolphin sex.
I don’t think I got in the water that time, but I got as close as I could to the dolphins by dangling my legs over the side of the bow. I was delighted when one of them tapped my foot monstruos marinos reales.
We saw both common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins that day, but unfortunately no orca. We did, however, get a fantastic show of gannets working with a pod of dolphins to hunt fish.
There are yet more dolphin tour companies operating from Tauranga, which, again, offer the opportunity to see common and bottlenose dolphins, along with killer whales, and occasionally even something as magnificent as a baleen whale. These tours take you out past Mount Maunganui into the Bay of Plenty. I remember I found the scenery almost as interesting as the dolphins themselves. For example, some way beyond the Mount there’s this huge, tiara-shaped rock formation rising out of the sea like Ursula at the end of The Little Mermaid – I really enjoyed sailing by that.