Swimming with Dolphins in Paihia
Well, check this off the bucket list. We actually swam with wild dolphins in open water!
After our stay in Kerikeri, our host dropped us in Paihia at a great little hostel called The Pickled Parrot.
Almost like a home away from home. It made us think of our college dorm complex-good ole McAfee Commons-especially when it came alive at night with people cooking and watching TV.
We were looking forward to a little ‘vacation’ of sorts in between hosts, and we knew we wanted to try to swim with dolphins. But when we arrived, it was a rainy, grey day. And it didn’t show signs of clearing any time soon.
We walked to the grocery store (and back again) in the rain. Then we listened to the rain outside our window while we watched 2 movies and ate dinner. We were pretty bummed that our short stay in the Bay of Islands was being rained out.
And yet when we woke the next morning, the sun was peeking through the big, white, fluffy clouds!
We decided the night before to splurge and spend a bit more money than we had planned to take a locally owned and operated sailboat for a full day of sailing, swimming with dolphins, and island walking, complete with a BBQ lunch. But when we arrived at the booking center the next morning, we were crushed to find out the boat wasn’t sailing due to lack of interest (5 paying customers wouldn’t be enough to cover the operating costs of a boat that usually carries 40).
We hadn’t really wanted to go on the big touristy boat, but here we were in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand on a beautiful day. So we went ahead and chose a 4 hour afternoon tour on the smaller (but still touristy) boat, the upside being that we saved a bit of money (try $89pp as opposed to $116pp) and we were still going to swim with dolphins!
We boarded the boat that afternoon and were reminded that even if we did indeed find a pod of dolphins, we may not be able to swim with them if they had babies or were feeding. And we weren’t allowed to touch the dolphins, either (their skin is very sensitive and could be damaged. Plus hands reaching out to them can scare them away.) So we were still taking a chance, but it was a risk well worth taking.
Drew and I were able to lay on our stomachs on the bow of the boat as we cruised out in the bay. It almost felt like flying. Once we spotted dolphins, some of them started to swim right next to the boat–and right next to our heads!
Our guides determined it was safe for us to swim, so we geared up with snorkel masks and flippers. Then into the water we went!
Dolphins are very social animals. They love interaction. So we were told to swim underwater and do acrobatics or sing to the dolphins.
It was ridiculously surreal to swim RIGHT next to these dolphins! They would look us right in the eye as they glided along. At one point Drew dove under the water and looked up to see 5 dolphins swimming directly over him!
We don’t have an underwater camera, but here is some video of our first glimpses of the dolphins from the boat:
If you are in a rss/email reader & can’t see the video, click here!
Back on board the boat, we made our way to Urupukapuka Island for a quick stop. A short little walk to a lookout gave us some stunning views!
On our way back to Paihia we disembarked at the little historic town of Russell where we saw the oldest working church in New Zealand.
After a quick snack of fish and chips by the beach, we caught the ferry back to Paihia.
We decided this outing was absolutely worth every penny! Walking back to our hostel, I felt like Rapunzel in Tangled:
“BEST DAY EVER!” 😉
View more pics from our experience on Facebook!