Swimming (or not) with dolphins

Bay of Islands, Friday 17 February 2012

You know when some days start off with such boundless enthusiasm and inspiring optimism that you’re convinced that nothing in the world can dampen your spirits or threaten your march to perfection? This was one of them. Unfortunately, hammerhead sharks managed to get in the way of my girlish excitement and the opportunity to swim with wild bottlenose dolphins. Come lunchtime, I was a deflated ball of insolent teenager.

I booked myself on a four hour cruise of the Bay of Islands that departed at 8am, in the hopes of spotting some marine mammals, from whales to dolphins, to orcas, and maybe even getting to splash about with some dolphins. After 90 minutes spent looking, unsuccessfully, for a pod of orcas that had been spotted earlier that morning in the Bay, the boat scurried off between Rupert Murdoch’s island and some other spit of land to locate some dolphins. Find them we did. But they were utterly uninterested in interacting with a group of humans, and high-tailed it out of that cove.

Onwards, then, elsewhere. Don’t ask me where we were this time: there are 144 islands in the Bay and the captain wasn’t overly fond of providing a running commentary on the direction of travel or the geography of the Bay. When the crew had ascertained that there were no juveniles in the pod, we were all about to unload ourselves into the water when a sharp shout of ‘Hammerheads!’ went up. Seeing as none of us much fancied being lunch for a passing shark or two, we abandoned that drop and found ourselves pretty much out of time and having to head back to port.

By the time that I’d disembarked at Russell, I was feeling all rather disappointed. To a degree, I still am. But a beer at the first licensed premises in New Zealand (The Duke of Marlborough, Russell), helped to salve the wound. (And neither should I feel that hard-done-by; I have, after all, both scuba dived and snorkelled with dolphins before now.)