Saturday, 22 December 2012

New Zealand Part 3: Akaroa

The speed machine!

So after a couple of days in Abel Tasman, I headed down to Christchurch to pick up a hire car and then it was off to Akaroa, which is a small town nestled on the west coast of the South Island in the crater of an extinct volcano. The middle of the crater is well below sea level and is open to the south, which creates a large natural harbour (Akaroa in Maori means 'long harbour') which in turn makes it a great place to see a huge variety of coastal wildlife, even in the town itself.

Canada geese on the shore in the town.

A Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) in a tree in the town centre. 

One of the attractions of Akaroa as a place to view wildlife is the presence of a pod of 1000 Hector's Dolphins, which are one of the smallest and rarest species of dolphins in the world and are exceptionally cute! So on my day in Akaroa I booked a trip out on a wildlife tour boat to go and see them for myself, and I wasn't disappointed! 

A Hector's Dolphin popping up to breathe.

Three Hector's Dolphins swimming by our boat.

And as well as the dolphins in the main harbour area, further out along the coast there was plenty more to see:

A spotted cormorant making a surface dive

A blue penguin. These little birds are extremely rare and skittish around the boats - we managed to sneak up  on this  one while it was on the surface between dives, but most didn't stay around long!

A male fur seal, snoozing regally on the rocks.

A mother seal sleeping near her new pup.
After a far-too-short couple of hours on the boat, we headed back to shore and I took the chance to drive around some of the little single-track roads running around the summit of the crater and out to some of the more hidden beaches around the outer coast of the peninsula. The views were absolutely stunning!

Looking out to sea from the summit road around the Akaroa peninsula.

Looking out to sea over Le Bons bay.