One angle of our journey to NZ was a plunge into nature and wildlife. The mountains are very steep and craggy, and that’s coming from a Rocky Mountain baby, so while we admire them and did get in a couple of hikes, mostly our immersion was in the sea. The ocean, which is magical and mysterious to me since I’ve never lived around it. We saw zillions of seals along the highways, and birds, and even Royal Albatrosses coming in for a landing on a very windy day.
In Kaikoura, we were slated on a whale watching tour. I vaguely looked forward to it–I’d never seen one, after all, and it seemed worth doing. The company is a good one, run by local Maoris who realized there was money in tourism and the great trench that runs just beyond the shallow waters. Whales love it, which means that Kaikoura was once a major whaling center. Whale tourism, I think we can all agree, is much better.
We saw one, a sperm whale who came up for a drink of air and dutifully hung out on top of the water for awhile, blowing through his spout. It was cool, but honestly not one of my top ten moments in nature. I took it in, and I can see him there, all shiny gray massiveness, in memory, but it was not one of my top ten Nature moments, and maybe I sort of had expected to feel more awe. As I pondered this on the way back to shore, wondering what was going on in my head, the tour guides said, “Oh, folks, we have a treat for you today.” Curiously, I looked over my shoulder–
And the water was alive with something splashing. Lots of somethings, spread over a huge area. They cut the engines and we drifted into the middle of the somethings, and they turned out to be dolphins. Hundreds of them, dancing, swimming, practically singing in their joy. They leapt into the air, splashed back down; gracefully arced out of the water, and cleanly slid back in. There were babies and mamas swimming in synch and everything in between. I hung on the side of the boat, astonished and awed and full of joy–and realized that there were tears streaming down my face, pouring. I couldn’t stop it, and just let them go, not caring if I looked like a crazy lady.
We hung in the midst of them, just drifting, and they showed off, coming over to the boat, going under and around and into the air as if to communicate with us, for a long time. Finally, we drifted to the edge of the pod and the captain fired up the boat and we headed back. A trio came with us, as if racing the boat, and when they couldn’t keep up, jumped into the air in exuberant spirals, bidding us farewell.
As long as I live, I will never forget it. It was the purest expression of joy I’ve ever witnessed.
Have you ever had a moment in nature that took your breath away? Have you seen dolphins?