Did you know that whales don’t actually spout water from their blow holes?
That assumed ‘waterspout’ is condensation. Mammoth whales need to expel equally mammoth gulps of air, and what initially looks like a gush of water is actually hot air meeting cool air and forming a plume of mist.
This is just one of several facts learnt on a scenic cruise from Auckland to discover the marine mammals of the Hauraki Gulf.
Aboard the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari catamaran there’s a high likelihood of encountering Bryde’s whales and common dolphins, although sharks, orca, bottlenose dolphins and other species have all been spotted in these waters.
The large open deck affords stunning views of Auckland’s skyline, volcanic Rangitoto Island, a smattering of motu and later, the Jurassic-like curves of The Coromandel.
Like any wildlife encounter, the safari is a trip entirely dependent on nature’s goodwill. Should the sea life not grace you with their presence immediately, the team have a number of marine-based activities and knowledgeable commentary to keep you entertained, and in the unlikely event the mammals are a no-show, they will issue a full credit to return another day.
Kids will be mesmerised by the catching and bottling of zoo plankton, which the team collect for research. Adults will learn about the company’s main objective; protecting the Hauraki Gulf while educating the public about its inhabitants. Every crew member is passionate about the environment and by simply being on board, you’ll be contributing to conservation.
Something else you’ll learn on this trip is how to spot the presence of a whale. Of course you can look for the tell-tale jet of condensation, but there’s also such a thing as a ‘whale footprint.’ While the waves clap together, look for an oval patch of flat water that momentarily forms across the surface. Caused by the flick of a whale’s tail, soon after you’ll likely spot something huge and grey.
Due to their colossal size, Bryde’s whales surge from the water in what seems like slow motion. If it wasn’t for a small, somewhat dwarfish fin (totally disproportionate to their enormous scale) you’d be forgiven for thinking a submarine was rising from the depths.
Admiring these behemoths it’s easy to forget dolphins are a highlight of the tour, too. As the showmen of the sea, there is no way they will be outdone by an idling posse of whales.
Catching a ride in the boat’s momentum the dolphins’ energy is infectious. They congregate at the front of the boat in order to catch a free lift, leaping and diving in the waves. Until suddenly they are gone. The sea envelops these gorgeous starlets and they disperse under the surface as the cruise heads back to shore, berthing back in our biggest city.