May 2019 Whale Watching Highlights
What a month and a great start to the cooler winter season! Similarly to April, we encountered small groups of common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins during the start of the month. As explained in last month’s blog post, we see bottlenose dolphins quite frequently at the start of the winter season. On the days where we cross paths with them, we record the important information about them so that it can be used to make better management decisions.
We were also lucky to be visited by a couple of groups of orca over several days in the early parts of the month. One of our passengers spotted the orca before the crew on one occasion – it pays to look around when you’re on safari! Some of the encounters were particularly special as they approached the Dolphin Explorer, giving our passengers a close up look of their awesome beauty and power.
Orca can be particularly boat-friendly so it is very important to maintain a healthy distance away from them. If they do approach, manoeuvring the boat out of the way if it is practical to do so, or, placing engines into neutral/switching them off completely is the recommended guideline.
By mid-May, we were seeing Bryde’s whales on our trips, including mother and calf pairs. We are always happy to come across baby Bryde’s whales, with an endangered species status, any new additions to the small population (there are thought to be less than 200 in New Zealand) are great to see!
By the end of May, we were starting to see common dolphins in much larger group sizes of nearly 1000, more typical of the winter season. Groups of common dolphins band together in these colder months. We believe they do this to increase their foraging success – the more dolphins working together, the more likely they will find prey and keep it together for all of the animals to feed. Colder water temperatures means a need to increase feeding to stay alive, so the more of them working together, the better!
We are now closed from 4th – 26th June (inclusive) for boat maintenance but are already looking forward to getting back out into the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park to see what other amazing sights winter will bring!