We've been travelling North from Auckland to the Northlands on the North Island. Even so, this is probably the furthest South I've been. We've been quite busy, but the most exciting day was the Bay of Islands day trip we did where we got to see lots of dolphins. (main text contains photos…
We arrived on lateish on Monday night at a campsite at the base of Haruru Falls (looks good to paddle with more water) and looked through the leaflets looking at boat rides around the Bay of Islands. 8:30am the next morning we were on one after finding out that the YHA membership gives us a good discount off the full day trip with Kings (the locally owned of the two operators). When we left Piahia the day we gray, but the water was quite calm so our skipper informed us it should be a good day, and it was. Within an hour we'd found a pod of 50 or so dolphins, we couldn't swim with them because they had young dolphins (quite common up here), but they were amazingly playful, jumping out and flipping over and just having fun.
We followed them for ages just watching them frolick in the water; they looked to be having a whale of a time! NZ has the stricter laws than anywhere else regulating the contact commerical trips have with dolphins, and as a result of that they've got one of the few increasing dolphin populations in the world. When we had to leave them we headed off through the Hole in the Rock, which exactly what the name suggests, a huge natural arch way the boat can (just about) fit through. We also went into a huge cave with water dripping from the roof and shoals of swimming fishies in the sheltered water.
At lunch time (when we need to leave the dolphins alone too) we were dropped off on a beautiful island with a lovely sandy beach. We had snorkel gear, but it being spring here the water hasn't had chance to warm up yet and was a shock after Fiji. One woman saw a few rays, but she'd been living in the arctic for a while so could't feel the cold. The rest of just just sat on the beach and did what one does on a beach: relaxed. After lunch we found the pod of dolphins again and although they were less playful this time, they still surfed the bow wave of the boat quite nicely.
They still had young with them so we couldn't free swim with them, but the skipper lowered a huge cargo net into the water and allowed us to jump on to that and do a spot of 'boom netting'. The meant we had to hold on to the net while the boat raced along side the dolphins. It was a strange sensation, one guy said he felt like they were fishing for sharks, using us as bait. Unfortunately the dolphins were too fast for the boat and we didn't get to see them too close. We're going to head to Kaikora and go on a dolphin swimming trip there.
We've done lots of other cool stuff too, like seeing the place where the Mauri's declared their independance in 1835 and then changed their mind in 1840 and joined Britain, just when they were about to be invaded by a mad French man. It's a great place New Zealand, and we're hoping to get some paddling in soon. Kim's doing great, and it's great to have a home down here, but it's still quite strange seeing places advertising “Spring Sale, starts October 1st” and such like. But it must be spring; the fields are filled with lambs.