They say the best things in life are free and it’s so true, as we had one of the most memorable experiences of our trip the other day and it didn’t cost us a penny.
After a night camping at Colac Bay and lunch in Invercargill, we headed to Curio Bay as Mark said he wanted to see a “petrified forest”. I must have been off sick the day petrified forests were covered at school as I had absolutely no idea what one was and Mark kept me guessing the whole journey. Things were starting to get desperate (have the trees been struck by lightening?) when luckily we arrived.
For anyone reading who hasn’t the foggiest either the Curio Bay petrified forest are basically 180 million year old tree stumps and logs which fell victim of ancient mud slides and became fossilised. Sea erosion has caused the forest to become revealed. It’s weird. The logs look just like wood but feel like stone. Pretty impressive stuff but not the memorable experience.
(A fallen tree)
After a bit of fossil hunting we headed to nearby Porpoise Bay known for its’ endangered Hector dolphins. It was so beautiful and we spotted a few dolphins out in the bay, so we made a spur of the moment decision to pitch camp for the night. Sorry to harp on about how stunning everything is but New Zealand really is amazing. It was a sunny late afternoon so we decided to take a dip in the sea and maybe get lucky and see more dolphins. The water was painfully cold (sensible people wear wetsuits but not us!) but we persevered and swam for 20 minutes or so with no sign of any dolphins. We were just about to give up when I half seriously suggested we send a message to the dolphins that we were there. So we mucked around making weird gurgling noises under water like lunatics.
We were just swimming back to shore when to our amazement 4 or 5 dolphins appeared around us! It was absolutely brilliant and the whole experience was quite moving. For a few minutes they swam closely around us checking us out and at times got within a metre or so of us. They were quite small and I later read they are one of the smallest dolphins in the world.
Then things took a comical turn. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a wetsuit clad swimmer frantically wading towards us from across the bay. And a couple on the beach also wanted in on the dolphin swimming experience and had stripped down to their underwear and were charging into the water. But they made so much noise that the dolphins were long gone by the time the couple got near us.
After a hot shower we headed back to Curio Bay for dusk and sat watching the cute yellow eyed penguins (also endangered) return to their burrows after a long day fishing at sea. A brilliant end to a brilliant day that we will never forget.