One of the things that we like about the South Island of New Zealand is the fact that it’s just slightly smaller than the state of Georgia and just a little bigger than the state of Illinois…but…there are only 1,038,600 people on the South Island vs. 9,687,653 in Georgia and 12,870,632 in Illinois. (That’s only 10.7 % of the population of Georgia and 8.1% of the head count in Illinois!)
Laure took this bucolic photo as we moved along Highway 1 toward Kaikoura. Although sheep populations are down significantly from the early 1980’s, there are still an estimated 15,860,000 sheep being raised/farmed on the South Island… That’s more than 15 sheep for every person living on the island.
FYI…New Zealand also farm raise deer…1.1 million of them, and the country is one of the world’s 5 largest exporters of dairy products with about 2.1 million dairy cattle.
Unfortunately, the weather was against us on this day. It clouded up and visibility was greatly reduced. We encountered low lying clouds shortly after Laurie took the photo of the sheep peacefully grazing in their field…
We arrived in the town of Kaikoura to gloomy skies. Our outlook improved as we walked along the Pacific Ocean shoreline. It was littered with Southern Fur Seals!! These fur seals are more closely related to Sea Lions than true seals. Their dense undercoats made them a long-time object of commercial hunting but they were able to survive by using remote islands to pull out of the water and breed.
These Fur Seals were pretty laid back and we could get close enough to take decent photos. However, they are pretty quick and many New Zealanders and tourists are bitten by them each year. As you can probably tell by the posturing, someone was getting a bit too close and the Seals were giving a bit of a warning.
A female Southern or New Zealand Fur Seal can measure 5’ long and weigh about 110 pounds. The males can grow to 6.5’ long and they can weigh up to 277 pounds.
This was our view of the Pacific Ocean for the day… While the view was limited, it was still beautiful and impressive too! From Kaikoura, it is almost 6,000 miles across the open ocean to South America!
This is the multi-use Railroad Depot, also housing the Dolphin Watch (Swim) and Whale Watching Offices.
Our goal and desire was to go out whale watching…especially because this is one of the few places on earth where one can view Sperm Whales! Sperm whales can be up to 67’ long and they can weigh around 45 tons. They can dive to a depth of 9800’ for food. They feed here just offshore in the 6500’ deep Kaikoura Canyon. Too bad…soo sad! With the poor visibility the tour operator wouldn’t have been able to spot the whales, so they just cancelled cruises for the day. Check out what might have been for us at http://www.whalewatch.co.nz/marine-life/the-undersea-canyon. The Kati Kuri, a Maori sub-tribe of the Ngai Tahu from the South Island owns and operates this extremely popular tourist attraction.
FYI…Yes, both the South and North Islands of New Zealand offer passenger train services. There are 2 scenic trains operating on the South Island, one from Christchurch west through the Southern Alps and the other from Christchurch through Kaikoura and on up to the ferries that cross Cook Strait from Picton on the South Island to Wellington on the North Island. For more information, go to http://www.railnewzealand.com/trains/.
Whale watching was out but the good news is that we were able to book a trip with the near shore Dolphin Encounter cruise! The choice was swimming with the Dolphins or just going along for the ride and watching … The water was really cold and we didn’t want to go through the whole wet suit bit, so we opted to ride and watch.
We saw lots of Dusky Dolphins…and we saw those Dolphins frolicking (or seeming to frolic) with the many passengers on the boat who’d opted to swim with the Dolphins. We’d ride along for a bit, find a group of Dolphins and then try to drop the swimmers in the water in the middle of the action. Most of the time, the Dolphins were at least curious about the swimmers so there were some interesting close encounters…
As I said, it was a gray day! Here’s Laurie in a prime Dolphin viewing position on our boat. Can you believe that I actually took a photo?
FYI…Dusky Dolphins live all year along the coastline near Kaikoura. Although this species of Dolphins are smaller than most, the males can still reach 6.5’ in length and they can weigh close to 190 pounds. For more information on Dusky Dolphins, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dusky-Dolphin.
FYI…Seven other species of whales pass by Kaikoura at various times each year as they migrate north and south. There is a lot to see!
At one point we came along side this small commercial fishing boat. Seabirds were everywhere looking for any scraps for their lunch. We were told that the large fish in the photo is a Ling Cod. From what I’ve learned, there aren’t any Ling Cod in the South Pacific…only much smaller Blue Cod. (7 lbs. and 24”) I guess that the heritage of the fish will just have to go unheralded…
This was our boat for the Dolphin Watch or Encounter. Her name is “Lissodelphis’…which is the genus for the Right Whale. We embarked and disembarked on land. I’m not sure that this is the case today as new harbor facilities have been completed at Kaikoura. For more information on the Dolphin experience, just go to http://www.encounterkaikoura.co.nz/dolphins/.
This was our hotel in Kaikoura… The Anchor Inn faces the road…and just across the road is the Pacific Ocean. With 136 reviews on Trip Advisor, it is still ranked #2 in Kaikoura. With February being the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the current rate at the Anchor Inn for a standard room is $185.00 per night. ($155.40 US) Check it out at http://www.anchorinn.co.nz/.
So…with the poor visibility did we miss any scenic vistas?! Judge for yourself… We had no clue just how beautiful this area was. We still had a great time but it would have been nice to have a clearer view of our spectacular surroundings!
Kaikoura has a permanent population of roughly 2,200. It lies on the coast about 2.5 hours north of Christchurch. The mountains in the photo are the Seaward Kaikoura Range, a branch of the Southern Alps. The town was originally developed due to the proximity to the whales…for whale hunting. It continues to prosper primarily due to modern day whale hunting…with cameras! For more on Kaikoura, just click on http://www.kaikoura.nz.com/.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing this photo travelogue with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave