A morning on a harbour cruise to check out the wildlife sounded like fun. With boarding passes in hand we waited patiently for the boat to arrive. The boat was licensed to carry 99 passengers, we were told, and with a big group of Asian school kids arriving, there certainly seemed to be a full complement.
All aboard the Black Cat
The morning started with the usual safety briefing drill, no running, no smoking, keep children under control, and whereabouts of life jackets. All quite necessary, and the the skipper took us around the harbour, checking for wildlife to show us.
We saw some New Zealand Navy Seals being put through their paces
And farmed fish business is alive and well in this area. We saw rows of mussels growing and further out, a salmon farm. Young mussels grow through stockings, anchoring themselves to the ropes with their strong beards. The farms are usually located in sheltered or semi-sheltered areas where there is sufficient depth of water at low tide to keep the longline droppers off the bottom. Salmon farming takes place in large floating net cages, moored to the sea floor in clean, fast-flowing coastal waters. Young fish from freshwater hatcheries are transferred to cages containing several thousand salmon, and are harvested when they are about two years old, weighing 2.5 to 4 kilograms.
Farming mussels and salmon
The passengers were all hoping to see wildlife and we weren’t disappointed. The small Hector’s Dolphins were difficult to photograph as they raced through the water, swimming alongside the boat, zipping underneath, then reappearing again. Hector’s dolphins are among the world’s smallest marine dolphins, found only in the inshore waters of New Zealand. They are the only dolphins in New Zealand with a rounded black dorsal fin. Their bodies are a distinctive grey, with white and black markings and a short snout.
Traveling close to the cliffs we saw Elephant Rock, can you make him out? Plus sea caves and other interesting rock formations.
Everyone rushed to look at the babies – cameras were clicking madly as the boat quietly eased closer to the nursery rocks. These are New Zealand fur seals, and when the sealers arrived in force during the 1790s, the demand for seal-fur hats, seal-leather shoes, and seal-oil for lighting, almost had them hunted to extinction. With a complete ban on sealing after 1894, they are making a come-back.
New Zealand fur seals
Robin had been standing up at the bow of the boat taking photos for most of the trip, and finally came inside to warm up. And there on the wall was a great picture of a Hector’s dolphin, showing it leaping out of the water.
We then did a little more exploring, driving to Duvauchelle Hotel for lunch. The hotel was badly damaged by the earthquakes that struck the region in 2010 and 2011. The oldest parts of the hotel were demolished after the earthquakes, the remaining parts of the building were reopened as a single-storey establishment in September 2013. Our lunch was delicious, pork spare ribs for him, and belly pork for her, and the prices were very reasonable too.
Lunch at Duvauchelle Hotel.
There must be something about little old Post Offices, as we have found several during this trip, then lo and behold, there was another one. This little beauty served as the Robinsons Bay Post Office from 1912 till it closed in January 1960. It was the smallest Post Office building in Canterbury.
The former Robinsons Bay Post Office