Travel Tales #8: Dolphins & Premieres

 I am writing up my gap year travels from 2006-2007 so that I can self-publish a book to pass on to my niece and nephews. I hope they will read about my adventures and be inspired to explore themselves…and I hope you enjoy my travel tales.

Bay of Islands and Auckland, New Zealand, March 2006

Whilst in the Bay of Islands, I decided to use my leaving present from my job in London, which was an experience voucher, and I chose to book a dolphin watching trip.  I am certainly not a natural on the water, but the prospect of seeing wild dolphins was too big an opportunity to miss, so armed with my trusty travel sickness tablets I joined a small boat one afternoon with about 12 others and we set out to find a pod.

bay-of-islands

Beautiful Bay of Islands scenery

For the first couple of hours we didn’t see anything apart from the stunning scenery, but then we heard news from another boat that a pod had been spotted, so we sped off to find them.  When we did, I was surprised to see so many – there were about 30 dolphins bobbing up and down in the waves, swimming back and forth under the boat as we hung over the rails on deck, and sometimes jumping right out of the water.  There were some babies in the pod so we weren’t allowed to get in the water with them, since they have to suckle frequently and people getting in can upset this rhythm.  I thought I would be disappointed that we couldn’t swim with them, but they were so much bigger than I anticipated, and there were so many of them, that the prospect was rather daunting.  We spent a good hour hanging out with our new dolphin pals, taking photos and watching them play.  It was an incredible experience, and as the boat buzzed back to the shore, I reflected on how lucky I was to have had the experience.

dolphins

dolphin

About as close as you can get to dolphins without getting in the water

Later that night, my last one in Paihia, a few of us from the hostel found a beach café and sat outside chatting and watching the reflection of the moon bouncing off the waves.  It was so peaceful and serene, and I felt very grateful for my brilliant trip to the north of the North Island.

I arrived back in Auckland to warm and humid weather where I stayed with Coley and AD for a few days (again).  They were such superstars for putting me up/putting up with me so much in that early part of my NZ trip.  It felt like a proper home from home, experiencing day-to-day Kiwi life, meeting their lovely friends, watching the Home & Away Sunday omnibus, and having plenty of late-summer barbies.  Whilst in Auckland, I booked a hop on/off ticket on the Magic Travellers bus that covered the whole of New Zealand.  Considering most of the travellers I had got friendly with in Paihia were travelling on the Magic bus, I figured it was the right choice for me.

I did experience a few homesickness ‘wobbles’ during my time in Paihia where I really realised I was on my own, especially when feeling shy about approaching new people.  But home was only ever a text message away, and the family and friends that I contacted were a great comfort, plus they told me it was grey and miserable back home so there was really no point in returning!

On my last night in Auckland, Coley, Carolyn and I went to a film premiere that Coley had won tickets to, which was a comedy centring around four Samoan men in inner-city Auckland called ‘Sione’s Wedding’ (marketed outside New Zealand as ‘Samoan Wedding’), which was great fun, and there was a Q&A with one of the main actors before the film, which was an unexpected bonus.

For all the fun I had had, it was now finally time to leave the comfort and security of my friends in Auckland for the last time, and head off to explore the rest of New Zealand on my own.
Links to previous Travel Tales
#1: Nerves
#2: Departure
#3: Tug boats, peaks & pandas
#4: Islands, animals & markets
#5: Sunshine & hostels
#6: Fun & feijoa flavoured vodka
#7: Bays, bravery & the meeting of oceans