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February 27, 2012

Spying on Dolphins

For years I’ve thought about going on a dolphin watching trip on the Hauraki Gulf, Auckland. I mean, it’s my own backyard and I should explore. I first took the trip in January. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a single dolphin, but I received another trip as compensation.

This time, the weather was a little overcast with rain. Hubby dropped me off at Z pier, and I boarded the MV Dreamweaver.

View from Z Pier, Auckland Harbor Bridge

The staff on board the Dreamweaver were brilliant. They were hospitable and knowledgeable about the different dolphins, whales and birds we might see during our trip.

The weather cleared and yachts and fishermen came out in force, ready to spend a day out on the water. We motored past Rangitoto Island, Auckland’s youngest dormant volcano at around 600 years old, and past several of the other Gulf islands including Rakino.

Rangitoto Island

My fellow passengers ranged in age from about three-years-old to grandparents. The kids were well-behaved—much to my relief—and they were the ones who spotted the pod of dolphins first. It was the bottlenose dolphins we saw. This species aren’t as friendly as the common dolphin but they hung around our boat as we travelled slowly along. It was a thrilling experience, looking over the bow of the boat to see the sleek bodies of four or five dolphins surfing along with us.

Dolphin pod, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand

There were about 40 dolphins in the pod with several youngsters, almost hugging the bodies of their mothers as they swam along. We saw splashes of water when fins and tails broke the surface, and the water is so clear we could see the flashes of white bellies and their long pointy noses when the dolphins went under water. Since dolphins are mammals, they come up for air, and it was easy to hear the gasp-like sounds they made each time they surfaced.

Cameras clicked frantically, and both children and adults alike exclaimed with sounds of loud excitement. Yes, me too!

Dolphins, Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand


Some of the trips see orcas and Bryde’s Whales. This was the only dolphin pod we saw, but we did see several Little Blue Penguins and watched gannets fishing too. The Australasian gannets plunge into the water at great speed, making a huge splash. Over time, the gannets go blind and die of starvation. The blindness is caused by the continual diving, which damages their eyes.

It was a rewarding day, and once again, I was impressed by the beauty of the Gulf. It’s so handy and is easily accessible to all with many ferries operating in the region.

Central Auckland Cityscape

We sailed back into central Auckland, extremely satisfied customers. If you’re ever visiting Auckland I highly recommend a trip out on the harbor with Dolphin Planet. They go out of their way to make your day memorable. I certainly enjoyed my day trip.

Is there any type of animal that you’d like to watch in their natural habitat?


  1. DebraG

    I really enjoy whale watching

    • Shelley Munro

      Debra, I enjoy whale watching too. I was hoping we’d see some orcas, which are often seen around Auckland, but it wasn’t to be.

  2. Brinda

    Brinda here, and jealous AGAIN of your adventures. Those dolphin photos are incredible.

    • Shelley Munro

      Thanks, Brinda. They moved so fast that I ended up just pointing and shooting. In my excitement I forgot about changing the setting on my camera.

  3. Savannah Chase

    Your pictures always inspire and make me want to travel to see more of the world..thank you..

    • Shelley Munro

      Well make sure you come and see me, Savannah :)

  4. Sidney

    So neat! I’ve only been Dolphin watching once. I’d like to go again. *sigh* :D

    • Shelley Munro

      Sidney – it was a lot of fun, and the company I went with were brilliant. That really helped make the day.

  5. Mary Kirkland

    I love dolphins, they are such interesting creatures.

    If I were an adventurous person I would say seeing Gorillas in their natural habitat would be great..and scary..those are some big animals.

    • Shelley Munro

      Mary, gorillas are awesome to see in their natural habitat. For me visiting with them in Rwanda is an enduring memory and one of my top five life experiences.

  6. Kaye Manro

    Wow! This is great– I can’t believe you have this almost at you backdoor! Wonderful photos too.

    • Shelley Munro

      We have loads of beaches and islands etc around Auckland. It’s called city of Sails for a reason. Aucklanders and New Zealanders in general love getting out on the water.

  7. Heather

    That would be so cool. They showed footage on the news the other night of a pod of about 2000 (yes, that is the right amount of zeroes!) dolphins off the coast of California. I found a link for you here.

    • Shelley Munro

      The lady on the Dreamweaver told us about one of their trips where they came across a huge pod like that. She said they couldn’t move and the dolphins just played around them for about two hours. Off to check out your link.

  8. Maria Zannini

    I used to watch the dolphins when I lived on the Texas Gulf coast. But if I could watch any animal, I’d love to study wolves.

    I so envy your adventures.

    • Shelley Munro

      Ah, Maria. I’d love to see wolves in the wild too. I heard them while visiting Yellowstone and it was magical and a little eerie. Seeing them…wow! Maybe one day.

  9. Angela Brown

    Having seen animals only in zoos, man-made habitat or via Sea World, I would love to to be an invisible, scentless being and simply travel the world over experiencing all kinds of animals in their natural dwellings.