It was hard to choose between the Dolphin Encounter Albatross Tour kaikoura or the Albatross Encounter Tour. After some debate, we chose the small group Albatross Tour. The boat for this tour is doesn’t have a great of level of comfort with plush seats and a drinks bar. But it does appeal to a growing niche market of nature lovers who relish life-changing close-up encounters with Albatross, giant Petrels and other birdlife.
Be prepared for a rocky ride in places. You’ll get a great sense of adventure and the excitement is exhilarating.
There were only 4 of us on this jet-boat trip to the Kaikoura Peninsula. Gary, our Skipper, has a legendary knowledge of New Zealand native birds, especially those of the Kaikoura Region.
Handy hint: If you’re prone to seasickness, take your medication an hour before departure. When the boat’s going full throttle, you’ll probably be ok but once it stops, that gentle rocking begins and some people get a bit squeamish. Gary told me that it helps to look at the land-forms in the horizon.
A short time into the trip Gary lowered the chum bag full of goodies for the birds. Even before it hit the water, giant Petrels came swooping down around us. These birds were so close, you could reach out and touch them!
I’ve always admired the way Bird & Wildlife photographers can get that perfect shot in motion. I quickly found out how hard it can be. Gary lowered last bag of filled with the yummy fish livers. It was time for me to look at the horizon for a while.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Meat was back on the menu and news travelled fast. The hierarchy was quickly established.
The giant Petrels are incredibly aggressive and I admire the bravery of the smaller Petrels as they skilfully darted around stabbing beaks.
The most heart-stopping moment was sighting two species of Albatross from the Great Albatross family, the Wandering Albatross and the Royal Albatross. These guys can live to 60 years of age and only breed every two years. I could hear the whomping sound of huge wings as they passed the boat. I could have reached out and touched them. Folks, its times like these you just have to put your camera down and revel in the moment.
Pound for pound they’re heaving than the petrels but less aggressive. After a while the albatross folded their massive wings,and floated to another boat to feed. I missed them.
But they’re playing it safe and who can blame them while this sort of preening is going on:
We had a lucky day. Overall, we counted 45 Huttons Shearwaters, an endemic species only found in Kaikoura. Along the way we saw sea fur seals and a couple of friendly dolphins. The male dolphin was enjoying a mating dance with a female.
The agility of dolphins is impressive as is their infectious joy of life, but the impression I’ll take away with me from this tour is the beautiful birdlife we encountered and for now, they get the last word.