Saturday, February 21, 2009


Whale Watching is one of those things that I have always wanted to do but have never done. Mostly because I didn't want to be disappointed. I didn't want to spend 2 hours plus on a boat and then come back to shore not having seen a whale. You know, it's not one of those Disney things that's a guarantee; it's nature! On top of that, you would have to pay dearly (whale watches are pretty expensive) for the privilege of not seeing a whale.

In the town of Kaikoura, about 2 1/2 hours up the coast from Christchurch, they offer whale watches to see the Sperm Whales that reside on the New Zealand coast. They say they have a 95% success rate at spotting whales and that if you don't see a whale, they will refund you 80% of the cost of the whale watch. These are numbers that I can get behind. I'm in!

Due to weather and sea conditions, they don't determine if a particular whale watch is going to go out until 15 min. prior to its scheduled departure. We arrived at 2:15 for a 3:00 watch so we sat and watched a whale movie waiting to hear if we were going to go. The whale movie really psyches you up, so now if we don't go, the disappointment will be even greater. They call our trip - we're on! with a "sea sickness" warning. Great, I get sea sick on flat seas. While I could have backed out at that point (with a full refund), I had come too far on this journey. We swallowed our Dramamine (even Marty, you doesn't get sea sick, took some)and we were off.

It only took 10 minutes on this boat to realize that this was not going to be an easy couple of hours. The Pacific Ocean swells were not kind to my stomach. I took my slow deep breaths, stared at the horizon and prayed that we would at least see a whale so that it wouldn't all be for naught.

Since Sperm Whales can dive deeper and longer than any other whale, they spend a lot more time under the water than any other whale which makes finding them a little more challenging. But sometimes nature doesn't disappoint. After just 15 minutes at sea we spotted our first Sperm Whale - these suckers are huge. There he was, just floating on the surface, taking in his air. You could see the water bursting from his blow hole and then all of a sudden he made his move to dive and that magnificent tail was in the air.

Back inside the boat to search for more - ugh! Being inside is worse than being on the deck. At this point Avocet and Siena came to sit with me in the back of the boat where it is "supposed" to be better as they were not feeling too well themselves. Great, just what we need, 3 sea sick people.

Another whale has been spotted. We go out on deck to see this second beauty. This one gives us a blow hole performance but never does dive. It doesn't matter, my attention is not on the whale at this point as the swells have gotten larger and the sea sickness has gotten worse. I toss my cookies into the sea. Does some sea life eat this stuff or will it wash up on some beach onto some unfortunate swimmer? Time to go back inside.

Sometimes life is not cruel and makes a fair (?) exchange. After another 12 minutes at sea, two Sperm Whales are spotted side by side. This is rare as they are solitary creatures. I'm feeling a little better (little being the operative word here) and the girls are holding up O.K. We are trying to enjoy this incredible scene. Siena says "What if they both dive at once?" I told her that would be awesome but not to count on it. Well, they both started moving at the same time and yes, they both dived simultaneously. What a magnificent sight seeing both of those tails up in the air at once. I would include the picture, but there isn't one, just the memory.

Heading back to shore now I'm holding my own but Avocet gets sick. At least afterwards she says that she feels a little bit better. We swing by a Fur Seal Colony and get up close and personal with the seals and their pups. They really are adorable. We also get a look at an Albatross, the world's largest flying bird, gliding across the sea.

I had told the girls before we left that this was a once in a lifetime experience. They now say they know why. Who would want to feel like that again! I personally don't want to do it again but in hindsight, it was well worth it this time around.

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