We swam with wild Hectors dolphins in Akaroa


As you already know, we love animals and the year in New Zealand has been full of them. Therefore, it was a perfect last activity in New Zealand to go swimming with wild dolphins.

After seeing the Yellow-eyed Penguins in Moeraki, we drove up the coast to Banks Peninsula and the small village of Akaroa. The village is nicely hidden in a large fiord-like bay called ”Akaroa harbor”.

Akaroa harbor. Photo: Patrik Enlund

Akaroa is known for the dolphins living in the bay. The ones living here are ”Hectors dolphin” and as you may remember we saw wild ”Hectors Dolphins” on the west coast (see video here).

”Hectors Dolphin” is one of the smallest dolphins in the world and lives only along the coast of Zealand.

In Akaroa there are a few companies that arrange boat trips where visitors can swim with the dolphins. Everything is very regulated and controlled and always with what is best for the dolphins in mind. Companies that don’t follow the rules are prohibited from swimming with dolphins.

No one is allowed to touch the dolphins. No one is allowed to feed the dolphins. They are totally wild.

We booked our dolphin swim with Black Cat Cruises, which offer a trip with two hours on the water. A maximum of 12 people are allowed to go out and swim with the dolphins on their boat.

Leanne on the boat.

Our hearts pounded and our eyes were shining with anticipation. On the boat out, we bombarded the guides with questions and were like children on the day before Christmas. After a short drive from the pier, the captain slows down.

Just a few hundred meters in front of the boat we spot three dolphins. At first, we just look at them from the boat. ”Hectors Dolphins” preferentially form groups of less than 5 individuals. Even though a huge pod can be in the same bay.

After a while, the captain turns the boat with the stern in the direction of the dolphins. One of the guides tries to analyze the behavior of the dolphins.
– Sometimes they are really happy to come to play and swim with us. Sometimes they don’t want that at all, she says.

We are getting ready to jump into to the cold water with our full length wet suit that we have been provided. Leanne and I have also taken our masks with us.

Here you see me to the left with my Gopro and Leanne to the very right.

Once we are allowed we quickly go in the water and floats like buoys in our wetsuits. At water level, it’s much harder to see the dolphins than it was from the boat. There is no point for us to swim towards the dolphins, it’s better to wait and let them come to us.

But they don’t. They stay at a safe distance of about 20-25 meters away. This particular group of dolphins doesn’t seem to be playful. A little disappointed we climb back up onto the boat.

Once on board, the captain tells us that she has seen several other dolphins and that we are moving a little further. Hopefully, attempt number two will be more successful.

As the boat glide slowly through the bay, we can see the dolphins playing and jumping in the distance. They are incredibly beautiful and graceful.

Photo: Black Cat Cruises
Photo: Black Cat Cruises

Second attempt

The captain turns the boat  around again. A group of dolphins come very close. They swim under the boat, under the ladder and jump out of the water right next to the boat. The guide tells us to quickly enter the water and swim with them.

We move as fast as we can in our heavy and bulky wetsuits, down into the the cold again but full of warmth in our hearts.

Photo: Black Cat Cruises
Photo: Black Cat Cruises
Me and Leanne are closest to the dolphin in this photo.

This time, the dolphins comes a little closer, but still not all the way to us. They watch us from a distance. Even though they are not really that close, it’s still an amazing feeling to be in the water with wild dolphins.

This is an photo from another trip taken by a Black Cat Cruises photographer.

Photo: Black Cat Cruises

The third attempt ended in the same way. The dolphins were there but didn’t come close to play and swim with us. After that, we ran out of time and the boat had to go back to the pier.

Black Cat Cruises gave us 25% of the money back because we didn’t really swim with the dolphins. If we didn’t see the dolphins at all we would have received 50% of the money back. According to their website, they see dolphins on 97 percent of their trips. And on 84 percent of the trips, they swim with the dolphins.

We were unlucky to be among those who didn’t. It was still awesome, even though we were a bit disappointed right afterwards.

Our dolphin swim is a collaboration with Black Cat Cruises. All I will write before and after this adventure is my own opinions and I would never write something that I don’t stand for. All posts are written by me and are written based on how I experience it.