Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dolphins Come For Dinner

I thought I’d work on another blog post this afternoon while David went fishing, I had no idea I’d end up with a totally different post to the one I had in mind!

An hour or so after he left the boat ramp in the Takacat dinghy I got a phone call from him to say that he was surrounded by dolphins and gannets, leaping and diving all about him and riding his bow wave. I was disappointed I wasn’t with him but he was too far out to come and get me so I told him to take some photos on his phone, and then to get on and catch dinner!

Half an hour later I got another call- “Grab your camera and get to the jetty quick, I’ll pick you up! The dolphins are just around the point and heading into the bay” So I threw on my jacket, grabbed my camera and was at the jetty ready & waiting. I’d like to say I gracefully leaped into the boat but it was a rather undignified entry due to the fact the low tide deck was higher than the water. I’m definitely not as agile as I used to be but to be fair the dinghy is not a very stable platform either. Safety seated after a fair bit of wobbling and exclamations of doom from David we zoom off heading for the horizon.

And around the point I see the first dolphin leaping our of the water heading our way.

There’s an underwater frenzy going on and dolphins are all around us leaping, tail slapping and swimming very fast, they’re on the hunt and take no notice of us, there’ll be no bow riding dolphins for me today.

These are Dusky Dolphins and there’s about 20-30 in the pod. Duskys are smaller than the Bottle Nose dolphins we are more familiar with, their head is more streamlined without the beak (at the end of the snout) of the Bottle Nose. The Dusky Dolphin is very social and their pods can number more than 1,000 however it is more common to find them in much smaller numbers, typically 20 to 500 dolphins.

It’s very hard to capture dolphins while they are hunting as they don’t follow a straight line through the water, they twist and turn at great speed as they chase the fish and you’re not sure where they’ll come up for air. When they are cruising I can usually anticipate where they’ll exit the water and often it’ll be a leap which is much easier to catch. These shots are all hit and miss affairs and for every one here there are at least 20 in the bin! Thank God for the quick-burst setting, my camera sounded like a machine gun as I hit the shutter.

We followed along the edge of all the activity as the dolphins chased the fish further into our bay. Above the dolphins the gannets swooped and dive-bombed, exploding back out of the water with fish in their bills. And then with a laboured take off they’d circle back up high again and repeat the dive over and over again.

The Australasian Gannet – Maori name; Takapu, has 1.8 metre wing span and is common around New Zealand coastal waters.

Some sat on the water peering into the depths looking to see which way the fish went.

Once the action moved on, the sitting gannets were quick to take off after the melee.

What a pity the 3 sleeper-vans with overseas tourists that stayed for the last two nights in the DOC camp left this morning, they’d have had a good view of the dolphins. Some swam right up near the jetty where the water is crystal clear.

The hunting parties moved out of the centre of the bay and into the deep clear green waters of a cove on the side. We could clearly see the speed of the dolphins under water here and the rippling line of broken water where fish virtually walked on water to get away from them.

A few dolphins came over to say hello, swimming under and around us. The water in the bay is saturated with jelly fish, you can see a couple at the bottom of this next photo. I got some awesome shots of them yesterday when we were also out on the boat. I’ll post them in another blog (if I ever get time to do them!)

As the hunting and chasing carried on up the edge of the bay, back out towards open water, it was time for us to head for home after another awesome experience with nature. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing. Every day brings new experiences.

Oh, and by the way David didn’t catch dinner either……well he did but he felt sorry for them, so two lucky kahawai got to live another day! Sausages anyone?


  1. Wow.... Extreme envy......wonder how they would have responded to some gentle sax sounds?
    What a backyard you have to play in!

    1. I don't think they would have been interested in the sax Jimu, they had fishing on the mind. Maybe after dinner they would have been more interested ;) It sure is a wonderful backyard!

  2. Talk about "Capture The Moment" You have still got those skills with your camera honed to a sharp level Shellie. Absolutely superb.

    1. Thanks Chris, much appreciated. It helps that my camera is an extension of my arm; glued there everyday, clicking away rain or shine! Practice makes perfect :)

  3. Wow Shellie what an experience!!! Love your beautiful photos and words. Really captures the wonder and passes it on. Happy travels!

    1. Hi Amanda, thank you very much & pleased to hear from you again. Hope you're managing to feed all those birds! Must check out your latest photos, I'm sure they're the best.


Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.