I know this post is coming out of nowhere as I have writing a lot about Australia, but lately there have been lots of posts about the South Island of New Zealand (it starting to become summer and all) and a lot of people write about Kaikoura and in my opinion, always leave out a one of a kind experience that, as far as I know, can only be found here in the entire country. Swimming with Seals. Wait, I just looked it up and they have a seal swimming operator in Abel Tasman as well and I am just remembering wanting do it this, but we were in the area around New Years and the tours weren’t going out when I was in town. So booo there! Anyway, I went to the South Island on Easter weekend in 2008 to visit some friends and specifically went up to Kaikoura to do the Seal Swim.
I had a great time! There were a couple of groups of girls and like one couple (with one dude) and me. After wet suiting up and boating us out, they put us in two different dinghy’s and shipped us out to two different rocks, so we could get the most out of it without it being too crowded. The guide threw over a raft as well for people in the water to hang on to and most of the group hung on to that, but I wanted to get out there and get the most of the experience. Plus, I don’t think many of the people had been snorkeling before and were kind of scared of the rough water against the rocks.
You get so close to the seals! And you see their huge teeth or whatever, it can be kind of scary! About 10 minutes in, I felt something grab my leg and I freaked out, but stayed as calm as I could. Since everyone else was shirking because of the cold water and animals, I kept quiet. I felt down and felt a small hole in my wet suite, but everything else seemed to be fine, so I just kind of took is slow the rest of the trip. They pulled us back into the dinghy and the dude next to me, pointed out three punch holes in my suite and I was like, oh, yeah, that happened. He told me to show the guide and I did and he was like, that hasn’t happened once this season! And the season was almost over! I guess I was just too playful and they told me that it was most likely a young pup who was trying to play with me before it realized that I wasn’t a fellow seal. How crazy is that?! I told the owners as well, as the wet suite needed to be patched up. Since there were like 30 girls and 1 dude on my tour, I just sat and waited for the dude to finish in his bathroom before using the guys as it was totally empty and clean, unlike after 30 girls using one changing room. Oy.
I am not a fan of jumping off things (national past-time in NZ), but throw me in the water with animals or rafting, and I am game! For some reason, whale watching is really popular in Kaikoura. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in Los Angeles and we always go whale watching for like 1st grade field trips or that you can do it in 100 other places around the country (not to mention the world) but I don’t really see what the appeal is to coming all the way to Kaikoura to do it. Do something different! Jump in the water and swim with seals!
Otherwise, Kaikoura is a cute town. Not really all that much to do and I only came for the seal swim. I stayed one night at The Lazy Shag, which was okay. Looked like an old motel converted into a hostel. Perfectly fine for one night and really close to town.