During our recent trip with Leigh and Christine they both spoke highly of their recent experience with Dolphin Watch Ecotours. We called them and learned we could drive up the next day and do the tour we had in mind -- a scenic half-day tour out from Picton looking for dolphins, birds, and other marine wildlife. Part of the trip included a one hour guided walk at the Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary.
We left Blenheim for easy 30 minute drive to Picton, checked in at the tour office, then walked around Picton for a few minutes before returning to grab our gear from the car and get ready to board the tour boat, a nice catamaran with a two person crew -- Damien, the skipper, and Amy, the naturalist/guide. There only 3 other people on the tour, all from England.
Click here for larger images with captions.
Mike was especially keen to see King Shags on the trip. King Shags are a rare shag (cormorant) endemic to New Zealand and only found in the coastal waters of Marlborough Sounds. There are only somewhere between 500 and 1000 of these birds but they are considered "vulnerable" rather than "endangered" because their populations have been stable.
We were also hoping to see dolphins in the Sounds and we expected to see the New Zealand Fur Seals, too, but we have seen them in many other places and were somewhat less interested in them. Susan was especially looking forward to the walk on predator-free Motuara Island, as we hoped to see a Saddleback and perhaps more Bellbirds. There are Kiwis (the bird) on Motuara too, but since they are nocturnal we had no expectation of seeing one.
After a bit we moved on and found another rock in the Sounds with 3 more King Shags hanging out with more spotted shags. After watching them for awhile we moved on.
At Motuara Island we got off the boat and did the guided walk. Unfortunately we didn't see any Saddlebacks. They told us that DOC had just moved about 100 of them to other locations, so this could be the reason. However, we did see several South Island Robins, numerous Bellbirds, and even got to 2 Yellow-crowned Parakeets.
|Mike at the "watering hole" near the dock|
We stopped a few times to watch some common dolphins, which was a real treat. But while photographing them Susan came out to tell me that the interislander ferry was to pass by and it was likely that the dolphins would play in the large ship's bow wave. And play they did! They were just rocketing out of the water just in front of the ferry, which was traveling a bit over 20km/hr. It was so much fun to watch them having so much fun, and we got some decent pictures of their huge leaps.
We soon arrived back at Picton Harbor, got back into the car and headed back to Blenheim. All in all a very nice and fun little day trip!