By Holly Brega
Stumbling around in the dark without waking any of the 10 sleeping travellers was a little harder than I expected.
I was impressed with myself for packing my rucksack the night before, as it would now be close to impossible. Stepping over bags, guitars, and beer bottles without disturbing a soul was the first mission of the day. What I was about to do would be remembered forever.
Travel north from the city of Christchurch in New Zealand and you will find the town of Kaikoura. It is renowned for whale watching and home to an abundance of albatross and many species of fauna and flora. Having found my bike, I cycled along the waterfront, witnessing the sun rising to meet a small body of people in the distance. They’d had to face the same obstacles as I did earlier that morning. As we suited up, the chatter was limited but the warm glow from the sun seen in each other’s eyes seemed to say more than words.
After choosing snorkels we headed out to the water’s edge. I could sense the excitement heightening and the restlessness starting to show. Rosy cheeks flourished and bright eyes stared out to the clear, still waters off the peninsula of this small coastal town. It looked calm now, but I knew that would soon change.
As the boat rode the waves over the Hikurangi Trench, my eyes fixed on the sunrise. Closing my eyes for two seconds, I would then open them to find a new array of colors through my camera lens.
These waters are full of marine life that provides rich feeding grounds for many species of dolphin and whale, and very soon a pod of around 200 dusky dolphins accompany us.
These inquisitive marine mammals were playing all around the boat and before I knew it, I was swimming alongside them. All the commotion bubbles reduce my long distance vision, and as I look up out of the water a small pod are swimming straight for me. I emit a high pitched squeak, a noise I’m told will tell them you are not a threat, and wait. Suddenly, about a foot and a half in front of my nose, I find a dolphin nose.
That split second I will always hold in my memory. I can see into his eyes, I can tell he means me no harm, I feel so close to him. Then, in the blink of an eye, he swerves smoothly, yet sharply, to my right. The distance and timing were perfect. Any more and he would have knocked straight into me. Any less and he would not have satisfied his own curiosity.
Back on the boat hours later, as we return, the sun is high and the mountain range is waking up. I feel rejuvenated. Returning silently to my dorm, I find not a kiwi has stirred.
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