Akaroa French settlement and Hector’s Dolphins / La colonie française et les Dauphins d’Hector

by Cyprien November. 07, 2016 2560 views

Being in Christchurch for a second unplanned day, I looked at the brochures in the YHA and my eye got caught by many activities, but two of them were highly compatible to make my day a fabulous one. I first saw a brochure saying “Swim with the dolphins” and quickly overlooked that feeling “Nah, impossible, it’s too amazing to be easily done” that I always have at home.

Pour mon second jour non planifié à Christchurch, j’ai remarqué qu’il était possible d’aller à la “colonie française d’Akaroa” et d’y “nager avec les dauphins”. J’ai donc enfin fait décidé de profiter de tout ce qui pouvait venir (ce que je fais rarement d’habitude), et ai pris des billets pour les deux.

The second brochure was saying “Akaroa French connection”. Why the heck would there be a French connection in New Zealand, I asked to myself? Well, the reason is simple. Akaroa is a city bought by the French Jean-François Langlois to the Maoris in the early 1800, and half paid. The other half of the payment would come with the first French colons, which arrived a few weeks after the perfidious English people signed the Waitangi treaty that gave them the possession of the whole New Zealand. The French colons stayed and some people living in Akaroa are their descendants, even if the city is not French and that Moliere’s tongue is sadly not spoken anymore there.

Bon là je raconte l’histoire d’Akaroa et si vous ne comprenez pas en anglais il y a les explications sur Wikipedia : )

The link between these two is that the whole swimming with dolphins experience is happening in Akaroa, whose bay (Banks bay) is home to Hector’s Dolphins, the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins, with 7000 individuals living only around south island of New Zealand. And Akaroa is the only place where it is possible to swim with them, out in the wild.

Les Dauphins avec lesquels la brochure propose de nager sont des Dauphins d’Hector, les plus petits et plus rares du monde. Ils ne mesurent qu’1m40 maximum à l’âge adulte, sont seulement 7000 encore en vie, et vivent exclusivement autour de l’île sud de la Nouvelle Zélande. Et Akaroa est le seul endroit où l’on peut nager avec eux, dans leur environnement nature.

So in the morning, I took the bus to Akaroa with 7 other people, with a nice driver telling anecdotes about the places we passed by, like these elm trees planted by French people in the east part of the huge Hagley Park that come from Sainte-Hélène island, where Napoleon has been buried. Or this school that we passé by near the road, where a big wooden fence has been built to keep the kids away from the noise. Unfortunately, it also had provided shadow for burglars who could come robbing more easily. So mikes have been added to the fence, and connected to an open website on the Internet, where the inhabitants can listen to the school at night and report any suspicious noises. The story tells that this system has prevented some burglary, but also uncovered a few “adults only” drama going on during the night.

Nous avons donc pris le bus au matin pour Akaroa, et le chauffeur était sympa (super traduction, je sais).

Banks bay seen from the stop on the road

After a short stop to take a picture of Banks bay, we arrived on time for our Swimming with Dolphins experience with Black Cat Cruise (lucky name, right?!). We were handed thick wet suits, as the water was at 11°C, boots, a mask and snorkel, and the 9 people (totally different people from those in the bus, as these two activities are not linked) jumped on the boat for a tour in Banks bay.

Nous sommes arrivés 1h30 plus tard, et après avoir pris quelques photos de la jetée, j'étais pile à l’heure pour l’expérience “nager avec les dauphins”. On nous a donné nos combinaisons épaisses (l’eau était à 11°C), des bottes, et des consignes de sécurité, et nous étions en route pour la baie de Banks, où vivent les dauphins.

Akaroa harbour

Two passengers waiting

After 20 minutes of sailing, we saw our first two dolphins, coming from behind the boat to play with it, and were suddenly gone. In the following 30 minutes, we encountered many the dolphins many times, but they would always leave when the driver stopped the boat to go in the water. As they are wild animals, and that they come and stay with us only if they want to, and are in the mood to play (fortunately quite often), I was starting to be afraid that they would never stay by the boat. But I was wrong. After around half an hour of playing with the boat and disappearing, four of them stayed, visibly willing to share their water with us. We then went calmly down into the ocean (as splashing scares them) and there they were, swimming around us. It was magical, and even if they are wild animals, we could see them in their own environment, because they wanted it, and not because they were forced to. And they were really beautiful to see swim around us, a group of four of them passed next to me, at less than a meter away while I was under the water with my mask. It is unforgettable!

Après 20 minutes en mer, nous avons aperçu nos premiers deux dauphins, venant à la proue du bateau pour jouer, et disparaissant aussi rapidement qu’ils étaient arrivés. Pendant les 30 minutes suivantes, nous avons rencontré les dauphins de nombreuses fois, mais à chaque fois que le skipper arrêtait le bateau, ils s’enfuyaient. Comme ce sont des animaux sauvages, que nous allions chez eux, dans leur milieu naturel, nous n’avions aucun moyen de les retenir près du bateau autre que leur propre envie de rester pour jouer avec nous (heureusement, ils aiment jouer !). Au moment où je commençais à me demander s’ils resteraient finalement avec nous assez longtemps pour que nous puissions descendre nager avec eux, un groupe de 4 dauphins s’est rapproché de la poupe du bateau et est resté là, à ressortir régulièrement de l’eau en ondulant. Nous sommes donc descendus calmement dans l’eau (puisque les éclaboussements les effraient) et ils sont restés là, à nager autour de nous. C’était magique, puisque ce sont des animaux sauvages, et que nous étions là parmi eux seulement parce qu’ils le voulaient bien, et parce qu’ils sont venus à notre rencontre. Ils étaient vraiment magnifiques à voir nager autour de nous, j’en ai même vu un groupe de 4 passer à moins d’un mètre de moi alors que j’étais la tête sous l’eau avec mon masque : inoubliable !

Meeting with the dolphins

Just happy !

And then Jet Skis arrived and sadly they are really more appealing to dolphins than poor humans handicapped by their wet suits to swim, and in a second they were gone towards the fast-moving boats.

Et puis des Jet Skis sont arrivés, et comme ils sont tellement plus intéressants pour jouer avec que de patauds humains engoncés dans leurs combinaisons de Néoprène, en un instant, ils étaient partis.

I ended up my day in Akaroa with a really good Fish and Chips (told you that the city is not French anymore!), took a stroll along the nice beach and we were gone back to Christchurch. During the evening, I worked on my blog and pictures and rested a bit, as the following day would my Stay travel begin at 9:00 AM.

Ma journée s’est fini par une balade sur la plage d’Akaroa, un retour tranquille à Christchurch (d’ailleurs, comme me l’ont fait remarquer deux français avec qui j’ai mange le midi, il y a en effet un décalage horaire qui donne une furieuse envie de dormir à 17h : quand j’étais dans le bus, donc ; et de se lever à 6h du matin), et écrire mon blog avant d’aller dormir puisque le lendemain commençait ma Stray Experience.

The harbour musician

One last picture of the jetty


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There are 10 comments , add yours!
Carmen Boutot 4 years, 2 months ago

#3 Love the symmetry, spectacular views! wow!

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Cyprien Replied to Carmen Boutot 4 years, 2 months ago

Thanks, this is my favorite too :)

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Daris Pro 4 years, 2 months ago

Lovely shot!

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Cyprien Replied to Daris Pro 4 years, 2 months ago

Many thanks for your feedback Dario!

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Magdalena Zet 4 years, 2 months ago

Beautiful pictures! And it was great to read about this amazing experience of yours. :)

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Cyprien Replied to Magdalena Zet 4 years, 2 months ago

Many thanks for your comment Magdalena, the experience is still giong on, and I 'll keep you posted as long as it will last :)

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Helen Hooker 4 years, 2 months ago

What a wonderful experience for you!

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Cyprien Replied to Helen Hooker 4 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Helen, it really is. And I am glad to share it with you :)

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Jc Gabelle 4 years, 2 months ago

Excellent avec les dauphins !! J'adore photographier des bancs. Et des pontons. Mais banc + ponton j'ai jamais fait. Nice picture ;)

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
Cyprien Replied to Jc Gabelle 4 years, 2 months ago

Merci mate ! :)

4 years, 2 months ago Edited
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