In November 2016, Kaikoura was totally rocked by a huge earthquake, taking out much of the road system and thousands of businesses and homes. We had thought Kaikoura would be off limits for us and had started making other plans for the time we had intended to spend there but Chris and Barry (who we met up with in Wellington) had said that they heard that things were starting to get up and running again. We wanted to see the area and support the local businesses so we reorganised things so we could still go.
The road heading into Kaikoura has only just reopened and is a really challenge to drive. Lots of bits have been quickly rebuilt meaning some hefty pot holes and ridges. You have to take it slow, but you can make it into the town now which is great for locals.
It was pretty scary to see the damage to the road though- large sections have just completely fallen away and large cracks are visible all the way along. When you make it to the cliff edge and the road next to the sea there are huge areas of rubble that slid down in the quake. Many hotels are boarded up and homes being rebuilt, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful.
They’re really undisturbed by human visitors and seem to bask in the sun in such a way that seems like they’re posing. They let you know if you get a little too close but the bold one snoozing under a park bench was utterly unconcerned by humans.
Kaikoura has a wealth of marine life due to a range of deep underwater caverns which attract a range of species including whales and dolphins. Unfortunately our whale watching trip was cancelled twice in a row, but by some amazing miracle (long story) we ended up on a boat with Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura, seeking dolphins for the second time in New Zealand.
It was one of the most spine-tingling experiences of my life. A pod of 200 wild dusky dolphins, intrigued by us, played and interacted for over an hour in the sea. The gentle clicking sounds of their communication was unforgettable. I couldn’t do this experience justice in words, so hopefully the video below will show you what an extraordinary day this was.