Kaikoura, New Zealand is an eco-tourist’s wet dream. Whales, dolphins, and seals all hang out in the calm waters of Kaikoura just waiting for us to plop down some cash and go out in a boat to visit them. In fact, the town’s name is Maori for “meal of crayfish”, so you can guess what the local specialty is!
The first time I passed through Kaikora on my way up to the North Island, I felt little pressure to do and see it all, due the fact that I would be passing through a second time through the route of my hop-on/ hop-off backpacker bus. However, a lot of the people from my bus were going swimming with the dolphins. It sounded cool, but it was a little pricey, so I figured I would wait until I got some first-hand accounts before making any decisions about it. Instead, I decided to pursue the one free wildlife activity in town and take a hike out to the seal colony.
The seals made their home on a peninsula just south of the town, and I was forewarned that I was in for a four-hour hike to do the round trip. No problem, I thought, I’ve got all afternoon. I hadn’t really met anyone from the bus yet, so I went out on my own to have a little adventure.
As I started along the peninsula, there was a spot where the path divided. One direction took you along the shore, the other along the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I chose the low road, wanting to see the seals up close and personal.
It was all going along well until the shoreline began to narrow. I ended up stepping knee-deep into the water a couple of times because there was nowhere else to walk. But it was just water, so I wasn’t concerned.
I was thrilled when I started coming across huge fur seals in little groups, lying around the rocks on shore. They were totally unconcerned about me, and I was only about ten feet from them. Not only that, there were no other people around at all, just the seals and me! I felt like I was getting a unique chance to commune with nature.
As the ocean crept in again I had to squeeze by one seal a little closer than he (or she, I couldn’t tell) was comfortable with. He let out a big roar at me as I hurried by. I apologized humbly without breaking my stride. This was their turf, and I was outnumbered in a big way!
To my relief the path turned inland a little, giving me more room to walk. As I rounded the corner my feet froze to the rock in surprise.