January 7 -- Onetahuti

written by bryan on January 13th, 2009 @ 01:56 AM

Bethany from Onetahuti, Abel Tasman National Park

Any day that ends with swimming with dolphins is fabulous.

Bryan and I were awake early this morning to catch the shuttle bus to Montueka to start our 3 day kayak adventure in Abel Tasman National Park. We had heard repeatedly that this small and beautiful park was “the place” in New Zealand. That was if the weather was good. And indeed, for us the weather turned out to be great.

The shuttle bus dropped us off at the tour company headquarters at Marahau where we met our guide, Adrian, and fellow kayakers. We packed up our supplies for the 3 days and boarded the aqua taxi, which was a powerboat brought by tractor to the headquaters. We loaded up in the water taxi and headed for shore where the water was way out on the beach. There was organized chaos of tractors pulling boats to the water and then lining up awaiting their return. But before we were taken down to the water and launched, 4 double kayaks and a single were loaded at the back of the taxi. And then we were away and skimming over aqau water with the shore golden to white beaches. Fabulous. And we kept going and going past this scenary. I kept thinking it can’t be much further because surely we can’t kayak this distance in 3 days.

Finally we reached our starting point of Totaranui We loaded our boats and launched. It didn’t take very long for us to realize that we were the only group to have ever been in a kayak before as we quickly outpaced the rest of the group and spent a lot of time resting and waiting for them to catch up. But they improved quickly and I’m sure by the end of the 3 days they will be keeping pace with us – we started with some but not much experience ourselves.

The water was calm and the views amazing. We saw fur seals along the shore. We managed to be the only pairing to ground ourselves on some rocks. In defense of Bryan’s steering, they really were not that close to shore.

We beached and are making camp in Onetahui tonight. There is a small campground here that is used by people traveling by water or walking The Coast Track, one of the Great Walks. There is untreated water, picnic tables and a open cooking shelter. Our guide cooked us a meal of stirfry and also a very nice dessert.

While we were awaiting dinner we took a walk down to the beach. We were distracted by sudden panic yells “get out of the water” and turned to see a man huck a log into the water before grabbing his son and running for shore. It took us a moment or two to see the dark dorsal fin in the water as the dusky dolphin left the bay. The dad, unfortunately, thought it had been a shark. We could see the dolphin swimming around the head of the bay and figured it would not come back to play after having sticks thrown at it. But the children, now realizing it had been a dolphin, kept watching and some boys with scuba gear started to swim out. And sure enough they were soon swimming with the dolphin and trying to touch it. Just a lone dolphin. Bryan and I could not resist the chance to get close so Bryan took off his glasses and off we swam to join the boys – although we didn’t actively try to touch the dolphin. It came very close, probably within 3 feet of us (although just a blurry blob to Bryan) and once swam directly under us. We stayed probably for 20 mins or so and when we went ashore the dolphin was still circling the children. So we can now say that we have swam with a dolphin – and it was amazing.

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