Today we’re going to be swimming with a super pod of dolphins.
It’s really early morning, 7.30 in fact, that we meet the team from Dolphin Seafaris at the Tauranga Bridge Marina. There we’re getting all our gear because today, yes, we’re jumping in the water with a pod of dolphins.
It’s nice to have a morning coffee out on Taunga wharf getting ready for another adventure.
We get a super warm welcome onto the Dolphin Seafaris boat from the team, Cameron, Natalie and Lucy giving us hot drinks and biscuits what an awesome way to start a tour.
It’s a super beautiful day and the water is absolutely calm making it a really nice harbour cruise as we are making our way out toward the ocean meanwhile we’re getting commentary on the microphone from Cameron telling us all the Maori legends and history surrounding some of the significant landscapes we can see for example, The Mount which we just walked the other day and also a statue you see at the harbour. Once we are out of the harbour we one of the team members is gathering us at the front of the boat to give us a run down of how this dolphin swimming is going to work. She’s going through all the equipment we’re gonna be wearing we’re gonna have a snorkel and mask as well as a wetsuit to keep us warm int he water and she’s also going through what it is like to find the dolphins, they don’t find the dolphins 100% of the time, it’s more like 95% of the time, but there are a few conservation laws which determine whether we can swim with the dolphins or not. For instance if the dolphins have a calf in the pod, then it is not ethical to actually swim with the dolphins and that’s because the baby dophins, the calves, need to feed very regularly and if the mother is distracted by the fact that there’s some crazy humans swimming in the water then she just might forget to feed it so it’s very important not to disturb their natural behaviour.
But before we see any dolphins the team are slowing down the boat because they’ve spotted a few New Zealand fur seals which are really awesome to watch. And we get plenty of time to snap up photos, do some filming but we are here for the dolphins so we’re speeding back up again.
And we are looking for dolphins and so far so good. No Dolphins.
The flock of birds that we can see on the horizon indicates that there may be some dolphins pods nearby so we head toward them.
This is how it works. You see a pod of gannets and you usually see a pod of birds somewhere around you make a line between all the birds and you can follow how the dolphins are travelling and tells you where the dolphins are heading toward or where they are from, so one over there there is another right here so if we make a line over there all the way that way we’re gonna get to see some dolphins.
After spending 2-3 hours on the water trying to find these dolphins Cameron, our skipper, which has heaps of experience sailing on the Tauranga Harbour, finally finds us a massive pod of dolphins. It is absolutely huge and there are super playful.
Cameron slows down the boat almost to a snail pace to see if the dolphins are interested in playing around with us and as soon as he kicks the gear in a little bit just to give a little bit of speed and a little bit of waves he can tell that the dolphins are super keen to be with us. They are jumping around they are gathering together at the front of the boat playing with the waves at the back playing with the wake. It’s so cool to see them interacting with each other and with the boat.
And with that in mind, knowing that those dolphins are here to play with us, he also checks if there is not babies around because if there are baby dolphins, as Laura explained before, we won’t be able to swim with them, but it looks like it’s a go ahead today and we will be able to jump in the water with them so the group that decide to swim with dolphins today jump at the back of the boat while the dolphins are playing around the boat. We are strapping on our swim suit we are strapping on our goggles we are strapping on our snorkels and we are getting ourselves ready to jump in the water with those amazing marine mammals.
The team also take the time to explain to us what is going to happen those dolphins are super playful so they are gonna be actually giving us a real show. but in order for us to actually interact with them even more we are going to be holding onto the back of the boat there is a very special apparatus that the team has built and placed at the back of the boat and the boat is gonna be moving forward at a very slow pace. This will give the dolphins the opportunity to swim alongside us which is something that they do really like doing and it’s probably going to give us some of the best viewing experience we’ve had in this country.
And we’re not disappointed as soon as we head into the water, the dolphins are right beside us we could almost reach out to them and touch them which we obviously don’t do because well, we need to hold onto the boat and I don’t think a dolphin really wants to pet.
Holding onto this ladder on the back of the boat is a really different dolphin swimming experience than anything else that we have done before. And it’s actually really cool cos we’re moving along with the boat and that is keeping the dolphins really interested. Also the team recommended that we actually make some noises and sing a song and that will attract the dolphins as well and sure enough, they definitely come super close to us. I think it’s our rendition of Star Wars that did it.
The type of dolphins that we’re swimming with today are common dolphins, or more specifically, they are sub species of common dolphin called the short-beaked common dolphin and these types are only found around the shores of New Zealand and Australia.
Common dolphins are really well known for swimming in huge pods up to hundreds and hundreds of pods but they’re even known for having up to a thousand individuals in one pod and we can definitely see that today. I don’t know if there’s a thousand dolphins but there are definitely hundreds. I have never seen this many dolphins in one place.
Not only are we seeing hundreds of dolphins, but we’re seeing dolphins in all directions, there are some swimming on the surface, and there are some actually diving underneath us and dolphins when they hunt they most commonly go for schools of fish that are on the surface but they can dive up to 280m to hunt for prey.
We learn loads of fact about these amazing dolphins from Cameron who is on the microphone for the whole time giving us commentary obviously we hear it when we’re out of the water, not when we’re actually sticking our faces in the water but he’s telling us loads of amazing facts about their life cycle and these dolphins usually live up to 22 years old.
Not only we are seeing so many dolphins today I personally feel that I have never been that close to a dolphin before and that’s thanks to the apparatus that we’re holding onto while going through the water and on top of that, the water is absolutely crystal clear meaning that we have a huge visibility making sure that we get to see even more of those dolphins, despite the fact that some of them are super deep in the water.
But sadly, all good things have to come to an end. And this is one of them, we actually have to get out of the water because there is a limitation on time that we can spend with the dolphins but the real reason that the dolphins got a bit bored by us and got interested in something else. yes they did find a seal, a massive New Zealand fur seal is swimming in the water, and they are super intrigued by what that is, they are drawing circles around it and trying to check out what is this other marine mammal.
I’m having a hard time getting over the fact that those dolphins look so intelligent and look so curious they look like they investigated us for the whole time we were on the water they looked like they were interested by the boat as soon as we arrived and they looked like they were impressed by the skills of the seal that was swimming every time the seal was getting out of the water the dolphins were actually peaking their head out of the water too.
But to be quite honest, if some of you guys don’t feel that comfortable in the water let me tell you that there is absolutely no need for you guys to swim with the dolphins to have an amazing experience. With water so clear, we get an absolutely amazing viewing of those dolphins by just standing by the water and peaking our head off the boat. Plus as soon as we start getting some speed we get to see the dolphins in action.
The common dolphins are known for being one of the most acrobatic species of dolphin and seriously as soon as the wake gets bigger the more dolphins come to the back of the boat to challenge each other to amazing acrobatic feet.
There is some more dolphins! More even more!
It’s said that the common dolphins are the most social dolphin species and you can definitely see that these guys don’t even want to jump alone. They jump all together in groups and it’s amazing to see them all interacting with each other.
The dolphins seem to follow us pretty much to the entrance of the Tauranga Harbour. It’s really awesome I don’t know how many hours we’ve spent with these dolphins, but they just don’t seem to want to leave us.
Dolphins do eventually decide to call it a day with us though and go off to do their own thing. Meanwhile, we get ourselves quick lunch and we are absolutely exhausted from all the swimming, and the excitement of the day. So we decide to sleep on the way back to the Tauranga Harbour where we unboard and head back to our hostel.
We can actually see them super deep underneath us sort of coming in groups of four at a time just gliding underneath us like little families taking the kids out and like “hey kids, look at those crazy humans.”