My wife and I went on Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari. We had a great time and we definitely recommend anyone loving animals to try at least once. For me personally the biggest value though was that the vessel that we travelled on was a marine research boat and we’ve learned heaps about marine life.
I guess the biggest surprise for me was the number of whales in Hauraki gulf. I mean it’s Auckland, the biggest city of New Zealand and probably the highest boat traffic too. Yet there’s estimated 200 permanent whales in the area that’s why sighting one of them is nothing unusual. There are heaps of dolphins too and heaps of birds which makes it worth every dollar spent.
Part of the trip is learning about marine life and I’d like to pass some of the knowledge here because it was fascinating. I’ll start with plankton and krill because that’s how our trip started. We stopped at some point and two marine biologists took a sample of the water colour, plankton and krill in the water. For me personally the biggest surprise was that the krill is actually visible if you look closely. I always thought it’s microscopic and sure, it’s very small but you can still see it. When you look closely in the jar with a sample there they were, little flea size creatures moving very quickly. It was fascinating.
We then saw dolphins; a few interesting facts about them. The boat finds dolphins by following birds, in particular, Australian Gannets. The birds have much better view and knowing that dolphins are great hunters they follow them to find a school of fish. The first group of dolphins we found was a nursery and it was amazing. Admit it, you don’t really think about baby dolphins, do you? Neither did I until you see those little creatures unrepeatable from their mums. There are a few interesting facts about it. Firstly, mum dolphin apparently feeds baby dolphin every few minutes! Hungry buggers. I guess that’s why they never leave her. Then we’ve learned that dolphins in different regions use different communication frequencies and sounds which means… that they speak many languages. Apparently dolphins from afar wouldn’t understand each other. While learning those interesting fact’s we’ve also learned a couple of sad facts. One of them that dolphins are very social mammals and the sea is enormous. If by any chance they are rejected by group or get lost somehow, they are the only other known mammals to commit suicide. They literally drown themselves. Also, dolphins live approximately 30-40 years, however, when captured and stored in captivity, their life shortens to average less than 2 years!
We’ve seen many dolphins that day and we were lucky enough to see two whales too! The boat that organises safari takes notes of whale’s sighting and notifies harbour master’s office about the location. There’s a new law in New Zealand that around sighting of whales boats, especially container ships and cruise ships must slow down to 10 knots and ideally avoid the area. The majority of their life whales spend at the depth of about 10 meters below the surface whereas container and cruise ships can be even 15 meters below the water surface.
The whales are found differently than dolphins, particularly by… following different species of birds. It’s interesting because our captain even joked that the aim for us is not a whale or dolphin watching but birds watching in order to locate the others. Nonetheless, once you’re close enough a fountain of whale’s spray when they take a breath can be seen from up to a mile and is 3-5 meters high. The sighting was very exciting and despite seeing whale only for a few minutes (we didn’t want to disturb him much) it was an amazing experience.
I’d recommend anyone coming to New Zealand going on a tour like that but a tour that would be connected with educational part too because it’s very valuable to understand how we affect the environment around out. I’m going to finish with a summary that the research vessel has mentioned. For a few years now other than monitoring plankton, other than monitoring whales and collecting whale’s poo, they started monitoring in both whale’s poo and in the water itself the amount of… microplastics. It is super sad but that becomes the reality we live in. We can only wait until you go to your GP and you’ll see this one extra test they request – a blood test to check the number of microplastics in ourselves.