A little beach time, a little sailing, and a lot of dolphins!
06.12.2011 - 09.12.2011 25 °C
Last Tuesday we caught the bus headed for the beach town of Paihia out of Auckland. The bus ride took us north along the coast for 4 hours. It may have taken awhile but it was nice that neither of us had to drive and we could both enjoy the country side. We arrived at noon and headed to the Peppertree hostel where we would be staying for the next three days. Our room was awesome, we had a balcony that overlooked the main backpacker street and a view of the ocean was just off to the left. We spent the first two days exploring the town, beaches, and eating some local fare. The fish and chips at Vinny's Takeaway was delicious! On the third day we took a tour of the islands via sail boat, it was spectacular and I will get into much more detail below.
The town of Paihia holds a significant place in New Zealand history. The beach near Paihia was the setting for the Waitangi Treaty of 1840. This treaty, between the Maori and the British, allowed the British to annex the country as well as regulate and secure their commercial interest before the French moved in. The treaty was signed on February 6th and that is now a public holiday to commemorate New Zealand's founding document.
Paihia is a great getaway from the city and we found some much needed vitamin D, relaxation, and the active sea life that we were looking for. The people were all very nice and town had a very laid back vibe.
The highlight of our trip to The Bay Of Islands was the day we spent aboard the sail boat, Corino NZ. The Carino is an amazing sail boat captained by Vanessa, a seasoned vet of the high seas and full of knowledge of the area. We spent the day sailing out from the bay and around the islands. We were able to view and learn about the wildlife native to the area.
About 30 minutes in to our day we encountered a pod of bottled nosed dolphins. Usually we would be able to jump in and swim with them, that would have been so cool! At this time it was not possible because one of the mothers had just given birth. A baby dolphin must feed about every 5 to 10 minutes and we did not want to disturb the mother and her new born. Vanessa must always assess a pods behavior and be aware of newborns, the pod's feeding time, and dolphin moods before she will green light a group to jump in. On the plus side, because of the new addition to the pod several pods joined together to learn the baby's clicks and whistles. That meant at times there were nearly 30 dolphins swimming along side of us.
Now, there are three advantages to being in a sail boat versus the usual tour boats when viewing dolphins. First, you are closer to the water and get a great view of them. Second, the crowds tend to be much smaller, so there are more chances to snap photos and not get in anybody's way. Third, and most important, the dolphins swim closer to the sail boat and actually interact with boat. The dolphins actually swim right up to the rutters of the boat and scratch their sides on them, bumping into them and often times make a ruckus. Vanessa has to reinforce them every year because they love it so much. It was great watching these creatures interact and have fun. Not many animals have so much fun, most see fun as a waste of energy, but dolphins relish the attention. We only follow the pod for 20 minutes and then head off to a small island to spend some time in the water and on the beach before lunch.
We spent lunch at Army Bay. It was one of the islands that hosted the New Zealand military in WWII, but never saw any action. The small inlet was a great place to practice our snorkeling skills. The water was a refreshing 17 degrees Celsius, we saw a few fish and we saw one eagle ray. I got the chance to take the GoPro out for a spin on my wrist harness. Good thing this was a practice run because I did not capture anything worth writing home about. After a snorkel and drying off in the sun we enjoyed a BBQ lunch on the boat and set sail back to Paihia. We sailed slowly, no wind to speak of really, but plenty of sunshine and we might have gotten a little sun burned. We needed it though, we are pretty much transparent from three months in Portland (just kidding portland folks)!
While on the way back we came upon the smallest of the penguin family, the blue penguin. This little guy is very shy and is one specie that mates for life. They live in burrows just up the river in the bay. They come out to sea to dive for small fish and must be careful to avoid the sharks. Everyone took a nap on the front of the boat and we coasted back to the bay. It was a great day on the water and McKenna loved viewing the dolphins, especially the little one.
On our fourth day we wondered the town for a few hours before hopping the bus back to Auckland. We will only be there for night, we catch the train bright and early to Wellington.
We have posted some links to our photos in the Favourite Links section on the right side of this page. Enjoy!
McKenna & Scott