We woke up really early this morning (4:30 a.m.) to head out for our swimming with the dolphins encounter. Although it seems crazy to wake up that early, we had heard and read that going this early means less ocean swell and a better chance of seeing dolphins, dusky dolphins out here to be specific, the only place in the world to see this breed.
After checking in at the main office, you head back to the "wet suit" room, where we changed into wet suits, snorkel gear, head covering, and flipper fins. Once David and I got over laughing at each other we sat through a 15 minute briefing on how to "entice" the dolphins once we saw them. Suggestions included squealing, making eye contact, swimming in circles, and diving underneath the water. After learning in the video that the dolphins here are entirely unprovoked (meaning they are not fed or treated to any special treatment to swim with humans) we took an approximately 10 minute bus ride to the boat that would take us out to the South Pacific. It took about 25 minutes to find the dolphins and get prepared to enter the 54 degree water...
I am sure that there are absolutely no good words to explain the next 2 hours of our lives. When they said we would see dolphins we thought maybe there would be 10 or 20 at most...but the pods we swam with numbered over 300 in total!!! They are the most amazing creatures, they truly swim about 2 inches below your belly and with the squeals and circular motions they recommend, it's really true that they stay and play with you. David even had a dolphin that tried to get him to speed up while making circles and then jumped over him when he was finished. We got to swim in 3 different locations in 2 hours. It was unbelievable...you forget how cold it is as well as the fact that you are out in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, or how stupid you sound making those high-pitched noises..
After the swim, the boat captain lets you sit on the bow of the ship to take pictures and video of the dolphins we had just swum with. We hope the pictures that we bring home do the experience justice. It's all we've been talking about.
We got back to Hapuku around 10 a.m, showered, and headed out to Christchurch. About an hour into the drive, David realized that we were getting low on gas. We saw a turn off to a city off the main highway. Rule #1 in New Zealand driving...the next "closest" city is usually about 25 km away up and down the hillsides of mountains...NOT like the States where gas stations line the sides of the road. While I panicked silently, David coasted as much as he could with the gas tank reading lower than "E". Not sure how we made it, but we found a 1950's-ish gas station in a town with a population of maybe 30 and we were back on our way. This must be our honeymoon, because I didn't kill David, which I had every intention of doing if we had actually gotten stranded halfway through the middle of nowhere.
We finally made it to Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, which is impeccably clean and beautiful. It took about 2 hours to get there, and we were pleasantly surprised to be staying at a truly luxury hotel. We napped, walked around, had the most disgusting Chinese food ever for dinner, and stayed in to watch a movie...it was a long but unforgettable day.