December 2019 Whale Watching Highlights
This month we started our twice a day whale watching trips for the summer season which means that we run both a morning and an afternoon trip each day – double the trips, double the fun!
Throughout December we sighted our resident species, the Bryde’s whales and common dolphins who had lots of newborn babies in tow! On one trip we also watched a group of adult common dolphins playing with a pufferfish. Dolphins are known to use the toxins in pufferfish to stimulate a narcotic effect.
On Boxing Day, we came across a lone, adult male orca making his way into Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. There had been reports of a male orca entangled in a cray pot line a few days beforehand that was making its way southwards towards Auckland so, our crew knew the chances of it being the same male were pretty high.
We managed to line the Dolphin Explorer up parallel to the orca to sight the bright orange float at the top of the cray pot line which was wrapped around the male’s right pectoral fin. Within seconds, our skipper radioed the police boat nearby to help assist with ensuring that other vessels in the busy harbour didn’t get too close. The Department of Conservation and the Orca Research Trust were also contacted who both hit the water pretty quickly.
After closely monitoring the animal, devising a plan and the conditions to be right, the two organisations were able to free the orca the following day. We also viewed the rest of this male’s pod on both days. The summer season is the time of year when we are most likely to see sharks. Adults come into more coastal areas to lay eggs or give birth to pups. During December we had our first sightings of sharks including bronze whalers and smooth hammerheads.
There were always plenty of seabirds around too including passenger favourites, the little blue penguins who can be easily spotted rafting on the sea surface on a calm day.