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Meeting the locals in the Bay of Islands

Photo: See the many playful wild dolphins in the the Bay of Islands

Photo: The Great Sights Dolphin Cruise & Hole in the Rock boat crew, including resident ‘dolphinologist’ Floppy (right)

by Erin Boyle

If I may, I would like to borrow a popular Facebook catch phrase; “Oh yeah, dolphins, whatever,” said no one, ever.

But if you need some convincing of how special and awesome they really are, I recommend that you pay a visit to their home turf in the absolutely stunning Bay of Islands.

Then you need to get onboard the Great Sights Dolphin Cruise with its not-so-secret weapon – Floppy, a real person no less, their onboard encyclopaedia about all things dolphin.

And she won’t laugh if you ask a silly question, because she has heard it all before.

“I often get asked what the hole is in the top of their head, to which my answer is that it’s their blow hole for breathing. A rather cute one is ‘are dolphins vegetarians?’ Which they aren’t, there isn’t a lot of sustenance in seaweed.

“And the one that never ceases to amaze me is ‘can I get in with the dolphins even though I can’t swim?’”

With lots of different sized pods that come and go in the Bay of Islands, there aren’t any particular dolphins that are always present, but on average a group will be found most trips that Great Sights do. And that’s because the waters of the area offer many favourable features for the mammals.

“I believe that the food opportunities here offer a lot of variety for the dolphins, from the muddy estuary’s where they can get mullet and flounder, to the open water where they chase small yellowtail kingfish.

“Also, if you think about life in general for them, they need to be able to rest and sleep, so there are a lot of nice quiet bays here to do that, which also offer protection when they need it from Orca.”

Floppy loves dolphins almost more than anything, and her passion for them shines through when you ask her why they are so special.

“They really want to understand us as much as we want to understand them. And although it is difficult to describe when people don’t know different individuals, it is so amazing when you get to know them and see the personality of each dolphin. Some have a bit of attitude, some love to just clown around, and others are very serious and responsible.

“And you also see the hurt, like when a baby dies, and the mum carries it around on her back, in a way like a grieving process. So when you think about happiness and sorrow, fun and excitement, things we feel as people, well they feel those things too. They also have so much trust in us and you can’t have the kind of interaction that we have almost on a daily basis with dolphins, with any other animal species in the wild.”

And if you needed any more convincing of how cool dolphins are, how is this for a fun fact?

“When they sleep they shut down just one side of their brain then switch over to the other one later on. If they went to sleep like we did, they would forget to breathe and die.”

Listen to to our podcast with resident ‘dolphinologist’ Floppy from Great Sights Dolphin Cruise podcast


Photo: Swimming with dolphins is a life changing experience

Fact File

Ph 0800 653 339 (freephone within NZ) or +64 9 402 7421

Email [email protected]

Office: GreatSights Bay Of Islands, Maritime Building on the Waterfront, Paihia, Bay of Islands


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Backpacking NZ | Backpackers News

Backpacking NZ | Backpackers News