Our group spent two days in New Zealand volunteering in the Marlborough Sounds. We helped create a paththrough the bush for the Department of Conservation to use during a biodiversity operation. Clearing the path was hard work but very rewarding. In addition to strenuous work, the island provided breathtaking vistas, lots of wind, and close encounters with spectacular wildlife.
We saw stingrays andhad our first encounters with the devious and unrelenting assault of the weka.However, the most remarkable encounter occurred just off the shore of the island.
The island is in the Cook Strait, a 45 minute ferry ride outside of Picton.The boat we took was equipped with a warm and cushiony interior, which, coupled with the repetitive, rolling waves, made for an ideal place to rest after two days of tough work.Though some of us could have used it, no one was sleeping on our trip off the island.
I was roused from my light slumber by a couple voices asking if anyone had seen what they had.Curious as to what had been spotted, I walked to the other side of the small blue boat and looked out the window.All I saw was the endless swell of the waves and the great hills on the shores to either side.While nothing out of the ordinary was visible to me, my question was quickly answered.Someone replied that they had spotted the fins of some dolphins sticking out of the water.
I walked to the back of the boat and stepped out to the open air to get a better look.After a few seconds, a couple dolphins surfaced, far behind our boat.
Dolphins are incredibly social animals.Not only do they travel in large groups, called pods, but they love showing off for humans and swimming in the wakes of boats.Our excitement grew exponentially as we watched their fins slide smoothly through the bumpy waves towards out boat.
By the time the dolphins were just off the port side of the boat, everyone was out of their seats, cameras raised and eyes open wide in hopeful anticipation.A little splash appeared from the underside of the water.Then suddenly, the waves erupted in the stunning, syncopated show of the dolphin.Their perfect, parabolic leap seemed to create an aperture in time.Within an instant, the air had filled with the sleek, grey bodies.There were so many that it was overwhelming.They jumped with an enthusiasm and elegance that I believe could only belong to the wild animals of the world.As they hit the apex of their path and angled themselves back to the sea, they seemed to hang unsupported in midair, momentarily defying the laws of motion and gravity to give us a glimpse into the grace and glamor of their world.