Kaikoura (Dec. 27th)
On the morning of Dec. 27th we left Picton and started the 4 hour drive to Christchurch. Halfway through the trip we stopped in Kaikoura, which is right on the eastern coast, in order to go swim with the local fur seals. Tons of local businesses will take you to swim with dolphins and seals. My dad had booked one on their way from Christchurch (where my family originally flew into) to Picton. We all got into wetsuits and got fitted for snorkel gear, then all loaded into a bus with a few others and drove down the road about 15 minutes. We then transferred into a little motorboat and headed a few hundred meters off the coast to a huge rock where the fur seals typically rest and sun themselves after days of diving for food.
The water was freezing. I thought my hands were going to fall off. But, just as the guides said, after 2 or 3 minutes I was fine and in heaven. Not only were we swimming with seals, but we were also swimming through beds of bull kelp, so there was tons of other sea-life to see if the seals weren't in the water with us. The seals were amazingly friendly and I had a few swim directly underneath me and look me straight in the eyes. They were beautiful and graceful and huge! My dad had one glide right up against him! The kelp was awesome too. I loved swimming right through it and watching it sweep rhythmically back and forth with the current. We were in the water for about an hour and by the end of it we all started to get a little cold. Still, the experience was amazing. Being able to be observe such a magnificent animal in its natural habitat is quite incredible. This is still one of my favorite things I have done in New Zealand, this and fiordland.