At 6.45am on Tuesday morning I was waiting outside the Kiwi Experience office to be picked up for the start of my adventure. Heading north to the Bay of Islands we passed through some beautiful countryside, compared to Australia, New Zealand looks really green! Probably to do with the fact they haven't had a 5 year drought here. The journey took about 4 hours in total, and our driver took us on a quick tour of the town, telling us what there was to do and see, and what he recommended. Whilst we were travelling up we had had to fill in a form to book what activities we wanted to do. I put my name down for swimming with dolphins and sea kayaking.
Swimming with dolphins was pretty much as soon as we got dropped off, so I had to quickly change into my swim things on the boat and then we were off to find some dolphins. After about 45 minutes we found a pod of 4 bottlenose dolphins so after a safety briefing and being given our snorkels, masks and flippers we were sent into the ocean to swim with them! It's hard to describe the experience of looking into the water and seeing the dolphins swimming up from beneath you and then around you. All I can say is it was amazing! Unfortunately the person I had given my camera to to take photos didn't manage to get any when the dolphins were with us, but at least I have the memories!
In the evening our hostel had a BBQ which was very welcome after a tiring 4 hours aboard the boat and swimming against the current at times.
Wednesday morning I got up for 9am to go sea kayaking. There are 144 islands in the bay, and we probably went around 4 or 5 of the nearest ones to Paihia. It took me a while to get used to my kayak, and I got stuck on some rocks near the start! Oops. Which meant I was then behind the rest of the group, and my arms got tired at having to paddle really fast to catch up with the others! One of the islands had a vineyard on it, which apparently produces some of the best wine. We also went past a mangrove forest, where apparently you can get lost if you go into, so we didn't go in! We stopped at another island (Tore-Tore) to go for a 10 minute walk up to a scenic lookout, on the walk we saw a tui bird, one of the native birds of New Zealand. Then it was back in the kayaks and over to our last island of the morning where we stopped in a little bay and went swimming, looked for shells and had juice and biscuits which our guide had brought along! Then it was back to the mainland. 3 hours of fun, although I was extremely tired.
However, with Kiwi Experience you get free use of a mountain bike when you book to do kayaking so after lunch I got on a bike and cycled 20 minutes up to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is where the Maori chiefs signed an agreement with England for peace and to become part of the British Empire in 1840. It's almost the New Zealand equivalent of the Magna Carta. It was very interesting and it's always nice to realise how little you really know about other countries!
It was then time to give the bike back and go to the hostel and wait for the bus. It's a shame I couldn't spend longer up there as there are some nice walks around through native bushland and Russel, a small town nearby is quite historic as well. Still, back to Auckland for a day where I get a free day trip with Kiwi Experience and then I'm off to Coromandel Peninsula and Mercury Bay.