My twenties are rapidly abandoning me and Saturday 11 April marked the final chapter in my decade of wonderfully misspent years!
Without having my nearest and dearest around me for the usual celebrations of bubbles and Hall & Oates, it was down to my partner in crime to deliver the goods, which commenced with a breakfast in bed of cookies, tea and international birthday cards. Once Matt had sneakily wrapped my presents next door, I was allowed out of the room to tear them all open seconds later.
I’m now fully equipped with all the gear… (but still absolutely no idea)
My final present was a golden ticket for a boat trip around the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park on the Dolphin and Whale Safari! In all my 29 years this is probably the first birthday I have spent on the ocean. Swapping a bar stool for a boat is definitely better for the soul.
Now, as much as I was thrilled to be spending my day seeking out cetaceans, we have attempted this before and still haven’t come close to the elusive whale, so I wasn’t putting all my hopes on this happening. Nevertheless, I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be, whales or no whales, and I couldn’t wait to spend a day on the beautiful big blue. Fortunately, the weather gods were on our side.
We headed down to the harbour and grabbed a mid morning snack of ice cream (because calories don’t count on your birthday) before boarding the boat.
The captain announced that due to the wind, we might be in for a bumpy ride once we got out of the harbour. Although we had been warned not to, we positioned ourselves on the front of the boat, keeping a keen eye out for shadows in the water. It was all of ten minutes before we were covered head to toe in salt water from the waves splashing up at the boat – not the best day to be wearing a white cotton dress! At least we were lucky not to be one of the many people who were suffering inside from sea sickness.
If you want to spot whales and dolphins, the secret is to hunt out birds. If you see birds flocking and diving around an area in the ocean, they’re probably hunting fish that are being chased by cetaceans. Apparently you can see more than 22 species of whales and dolphins in the gulf. The captain and his onboard team are marine biologists and they had even seen blue whales in the area. A group of killer whales were once seen as close in as Waitemata Harbour (our local swimming spot) chasing some sting rays for dinner.
After an exhilarating few hours riding waves, we found a pod of dolphins and stopped the boat. Hundreds of them were leaping out the water, including babies.
When the boat started up, the dolphins swam up-front at the bow, jumping out of the water, just an arms length away. I’ve been lucky enough to get up close with wild dolphins many times and each encounter is absolutely breathtaking.
After four hours we were on our way back to Auckland Harbour. The captain announced that we would all get free tickets to come again as we didn’t spot any whales. Apparently, during the winter months (June – August) there is a 100% chance you will see whales, so we’re saving our next trip for then.
That evening I was whisked away to Harbourside for a slap up fish supper overlooking the water. The rest of my birthday was spent snorkelling around Goat Island (Go Pro video to follow shortly) on Sunday and a visit to our favourite fish and chip shop for one last birthday indulgence.
The presents didn’t end there. Yesterday we went to a screening of A Hard Days Night at the Civic Theatre as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) where I got totally sucked into Beatlemania and now have a huge crush on John Lennon.
This monkey did good.
Thanks for all my cards, presents and dollars from the UK. I had the absolute best birthday ever!