I’ve wanted to see wild dolphins for a long time. It turned from a fancy to a yearning some time during the past year, and the whole time we’ve been here I’ve scanned the vivid blue seas from every vantage point on our hikes, but I haven’t been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
I decided an eco-tour was in order. We were very fortunate when we went out last Saturday; we found a pod right away! They swam alongside the boat and played right in front of us, then moved over to a protected shore, allowing us to follow behind in the boat and then slip into the water with them. S. came swimming with B. and me (but after hearing the tour guide/host repeat so many times that you have to be a very STRONG swimmer, she was starting to doubt her swimmy abilities. She shouldn’t have; she did great and I’m so glad she was in the water with me to experience it.)
I heard their sounds, but I didn’t recognize what I was hearing until S. said, “Can you believe their noises?” with her big eyes excited behind her snorkel mask. Two dolphins swam right under me, and when I ducked my head underwater, their sleek elegance astounded me.
The main species that live and thrive in New Zealand waters are bottlenose dolphins, and that’s what these playful, curious, gorgeous creatures are. D., K., my K, and my A. all stayed on the boat to watch us swim/float/dive/look/listen/ while the dolphins were gliding and turning all around us. I wore my wetsuit, which kept me from freezing. I didn’t notice I was cold anyway until I got out; this is an experience that makes you exist only in that moment, with all of your senses keenly afire. Hard long fins on your feet, strong legs kicking and torso extended as you swim to where the dolphins are, again and again. Mask slightly ill-fitting but good enough to plunge down with, peering through the blue water to see the grey-blue sleek skin just inches away, streaming past and trailing squeals and coos. Strong bite of salt water in your mouth and throat as you come up again and clear the mask and tube. Cough, catch your breath, look around, get your bearings, swim again. Amazing.
Here’s S going in a second time: