Cap­ti­vated by the gi­ants of the deep

Glanc­ing around the Whale Watch Kaik­oura re­cep­tion, tourists lined up on ei­ther side of me are bub­bling with ex­cite­ment as they check in.

Go Travel New Zealand - - Kaikoura - By Lisa Bond

Ba­sic safety brief­ings and stan­dards are care­fully com­mu­ni­cated on an over­head screen with an em­pha­sis on child safety, which makes ev­ery­one feel more at ease and com­fort­able. We make our way to the bus and are wel­comed by our bus driver Wil­lie, who then tells us that this is “a pearler of a day” with near per­fect con­di­tions. Af­ter the short bus drive over the penin­sula to South Bay, we are taken to the ma­rina. Here our ves­sel is wait­ing for us with four crew mem­bers. We are seated and spo­ken to by our guide, Aroha, who in­tro­duces us to our cap­tain for the day, Paki, and fel­low crew, Wiremu and Ha­ley. Her re­laxed na­ture and lo­cal wis­dom is com­fort­ing as she nav­i­gates her way through safety pro­ce­dures. Within min­utes, we be­gin our jour­ney out to sea and are in­stantly wel­comed by marine wildlife, as birds soar over­head and seals bask in the seas still­ness. Aroha di­rects our at­ten­tion back to the main pur­pose of our visit; to see some of the world’s largest and most trea­sured crea­tures, whales. She tells us that Sperm whales are what we are most likely to see to­day as they found feed­ing in the Kaik­oura canyon year round. Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and can reach an aver­age of 16 me­tre in length and have the largest brain of any an­i­mal on earth. Aroha also tells us about how Sperm whales use a liq­uid sub­stance called sper­ma­ceti to reg­u­late their buoy­ancy. Sper­ma­ceti can so­lid­ify or be­come liq­uid de­pend­ing on whether the mam­mal wants to dive

down for food or come back up for air. She also tells us about other whales such as the Hump­back, Blue Whale & other species of marine life sighted through­out the year. Sud­denly, we hear news that there is al­ready a Sperm whale on the sur­face. The boat po­si­tions it­self next to the whale. Ex­cit­ing chat­ter and the wow­ing of ec­static voices lls the air around me as we all look in amaze­ment. The whale is sub­merged upon the sur­face with its head in full view.

I quickly snap pho­tos and then put my cam­era down to en­joy this mo­ment of hav­ing such a vast mag­n­f­i­cent and as­ton­ish­ing crea­ture right in our back­yard. As the boat idles, ev­ery­one falls silent as they watch the whale spend time tak­ing in oxy­gen as he lays con­tent in the calm wa­ter. Over the mi­cro­phone Aroha tells us that this is Ti­aki, a semi-res­i­den­tial whale to the Kaik­oura canyon. The crew can dis­tin­guish in­di­vid­ual whale by their unique

tails and dor­sal.

We are able to watch the whale for an­other 10 min­utes be­fore it be­gins to arch its back and dive back down with its sig­na­ture tale ick. Left in its place is its foot­print: A dis­place­ment of wa­ter due to the de­scend­ing tale brush, which once was be­lieved by early set­tlers to be oil left be­hind from the whale.

The ex­pe­ri­ence is ex­hil­a­rat­ing, and left with the rush of the breath-tak­ing sight, we be­gin our leisurely re­treat back to dry land. Glid­ing through the wa­ter with sea spray at our sides, we re­cline in our seats and watch a video about the Kaik­oura canyon; a sub­ma­rine canyon that con­nects into a deep sea chan­nel sys­tem.

It is a bit­ter-sweet mo­ment as we wave good­bye to the crew from the de­part­ing bus. Kaik­oura truly is a marine mecca.

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