Today was the day of my big boat trip. It was a day long trip around the Bay of Islands and if we saw the oppertunity we would be allowed to swim with dolphins, as long as there were no babies. We were told that yesterday they saw a massive pod but couldn't swim because of them so I wasn't hopeful and was glad that if swimming didn't happen I'de get the extra money back (they charge for the boat trip then extra if you want to swim as well). We left at about 9:30 and sailed to Russell to pick up some more people with our captain telling us a little about the history. He also pointed to a large building at the edge of the Russell Peninsular and said it was the Eagles Nest hotel, where rooms went from between $5,000-35,000 a night and that Tom Cruise, Nichole Kidman and Paris Hilton had stayed. Tom Cruise's boat, Suri, had been spotted the day before so rumour has it he's in town.
We were crossing the bay to the eastern side when a large pod appeared, the same was as the day before. However, no babies were spotted!!! the captain said, hurry up, get changed now, so about half that passengers stripped of to there swimwear and ran the the main cabin. I got ran down and was in the first group to go, we were given snorkels and flippers and jumped out of the side of the boat into a large net after being told not to touch the dolphins, and that to keep them there we had to keep them entertained by diving, making noises and clicking. When about 15 of us were in the net we were told to swim out and there was a mad rush to get up close. I saw a few from behind but they were moving on so we got back in the net, held tight and the boat sped forward to catch up with them. The second time was better as there were more dolphins around and I ended up swimming along side 3 of them, they turned towards me, one looking at me and then disappeared deeper. A few mins later I looked and there was one right below me so I swam along with him for a little bit before being told to return to the net so the second group could have a chance. It was amazing, I've been swimming with dolphins in captivity before, where they were ordered to do tricks and things which was pretty cool. This didn't have the wow factor in the sense that you were touching them, and interacting with them, but it was just as good. We were next to wild animals, up very close and the was excellent. Then while the second group went some o the dolphins started jumping and showing off, that was pretty cool. I was surprised that it happened so early on, especially after thinking it wouldn't happen at all!!! a great start to the day.
We the carried on with the tour, sailing past various islands and learning about both the Maori and European history of the area. It was the first place settled by the Maori about 900 years ago, and then the first place settled by Europeans. Our captain was very entertaining and informative, with lots of stories about each individual island we passed. He told us the history of the Cream Trip as well. Back in the 1940's the owner of the dairy farms in the region asked Ernerst Fuller, the owner of the ferry, to collect the cream and milk and deliver the mail and newspapers to each island. He got board of doing it on his own for a while so started taking people along, then started charging them as well!! These days exreamly wealthy people own batches on some of the larger islands so the Cream Trip no longer collects the cream, but we did make a few stops to deliver the mail. It was collected by care-takers on the island as most owners live in Auckland and employ a person to live on, and take care of the houses and boats. They are sort of sailors and handymen and make a fairly descent living but are very isolated.
We then ventured into the Pacific Ocean towards Hole in the Rock, an island when an archway carved into one side by the water. On the way 3 dolphins were spotted and they told is we had time for another swim so about half the people who swam before decided to go again. It wasn't as good this time though, the dolphins were less curious and i only got to see the back end of one. About 4 boats reached it at about the same time and two smaller boats sailed through it. However, as we had a large boat and there were some swells coming through from the other side our captain took the decision not to go through. There were only a couple of metres either side and with the rough water he said it was to dangerous. Then we sailed back to Paihai for about 4:15 and left that boat, it was a long but fun and interesting day!