Banks Peninsula on the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Nestled in this peninsula is Akaroa, which hosts a number of attractions and activities that take advantage of this uniquely beautiful part of the world.
Europe meets New Zealand
Only 90mins from the city of Christchurch, Akaroa is a hidden gem. It was the only attempt of a French settlement in New Zealand, and this is still apparent today with a taste of France oozing through the town. From the cafés, shops and the colonial architecture, it felt like you could be wandering the streets of Europe. For this reason, Akaroa was one of the highlights of our road trip and a unique experience.
We camped our van at the Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park which spoiled us with stunning waterfront views of Akaroa Harbour. The location was close to town with only a quick walk down the hill before you were walking the streets of France again.
One of the most amazing experiences on offer in Akaroa is the chance to swim with the area’s resident dolphins. Hector’s Dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world, found only in the shallow coastal waters of New Zealand’s South Island. They are recognised by their distinct black facial markings and a dorsal fin shaped like a Mickey Mouse ear.
Swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura had been on my bucket list for about two years after a friend told me about her experience. Unfortunately, we missed out as we didn’t book early enough. You need to book way in advance over the summer time. Fortunately for us, we stumbled upon the Dolphin Experience with Black Cat Cruises, a boutique experience that you can still book up to two days prior (in peak summer time too!).
Hector Dolphin’s are among the world’s friendliest and are happy to come up and play with swimmers on these tours. Getting this close to these spectacular marine animals is an unforgettable experience. Especially when dolphins are your favourite animal!
Black Cat Cruises was very professional and the tour ran very smoothly. After a quick briefing on the wharf, we were fitted with wetsuits, booties and snorkels. Then we jumped on board to find the Hector Dolphins.
The boat ride in itself is beautiful with calm, green waters. Within 10mins, we discovered a friendly pod who were really curious and willing to play. It wasn’t long before we were all pouring into the water. I was the first one in, I couldn’t get in fast enough. Once we were all bobbing in the water, the dolphins started swimming up to the group and circling us. My partner, Dan, couldn’t stop laughing at how excited I was.
After two hours of floating in the water, we retreated to the boat and were greeted with a warm hot chocolate and a biscuit.
It was a beautiful and fun adventure – highly recommended for anyone in the area!
Tour: Dolphin Experience – Swim with Dolphins in Akaroa
Company: Black Cat Cruises
Cost: Adult is $155 ($80 to watch) and for children it is $120 [8 to 15 years] (watching $40) [5-15 years]. Prices are in New Zealand dollars and include GST.
Duration: Two hours on the water (plus half an hour before and after)
Helpful Tip: Tours run at 6am, 8.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, and 3.30pm year around except for Jun, Jul and August (because it’s so cold!). The earlier the time slot you book, the less wind and people out on the water so you could have a better experience!