The uniqueness of New Zealand’s birds and lack of native mammals extends to the sea. We were lucky enough to go to the only place in the world where you can see Hector’s dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world. For years their numbers declined, due to harsh fishing practices, and due to their slow reproduction – they take 6-7 years to mature, and thereafter only have a pup once every three years or so. A whole area on the Banks peninsular south of Christchurch is now a protected environment, and numbers are slowly but surely rebounding.
All of the dophins we saw were completely wild, but they are the friendliest and most inquisitive of creatures. We were visited by many pods, and we bobbed around in the water in very thick and buoyant wetsuits for a while, as they usually come right up and weave in and out of people. Alas, today they all seemed to have another destination in mind, so they didn’t stick around long enough to say more than a quick hi. Still, while it lasted, it was pretty spectacular.