Nature at its best in the Marlborough Sounds

The dolphins leaped out of the swell around our boat, turning on their sides to examine us. Their white under-bellies were clear to see as they rolled in the water to get a good look at us. These bottle-nosed dolphins were just as curious about us as we were with them. The energy on-board was buzzing. There was a connection between human and dolphin that only the heavens could describe.

Bottle nosed dolphins in Marlborough Sounds

Our guides on the Dolphin Watch Ecotour were equally excited. Their genuine passion and love of nature shone through in their commentary, as Australasian Gannets circled the skies above.

Australasian Gannet

Pulling in at one of the many, beautiful bays of the Marlborough Sounds we saw New Zealand fur seals majestically preening themselves on rocky outcrops. We stood at the bow of our tour boat, capturing the beauty of nature with our camera lenses, our eyes and our minds.

New Zealand Fur Seals

We were on our way to Motuara Island Bird Sanctuary, as part of a half-day tour.

Half day eco-tour in Marlborough Sounds

The children sat with excitement on the boat, feeling at ease with their other travelling companions and happy that there were a few children of similar age. Sophie made friends with a boy her age, whilst Alice nuzzled in for a kiss with the boy’s younger brother – who was equally taken with Alice! Life-jackets were optional, but gleefully received by the children (especially as they had whistles attached – thankfully not too ear-piercing!).

When we reached the island, cleared of all introduced predators and a haven for native bird species, there were two options; a guided walk to the viewpoint at the top, or a leisurely rest by ‘the watering hole’ to watch native birds drink and bathe.

NZ Native birds at watering hole on Motuara Island

Top left; Bellbird/Korimako. Top right; NZ Robin. Bottom left; NZ Parakeet/Kakariki. Bottom right; Fantail/Piwakawaka.

Dan took Charlotte and Sophie for the hike (I’d experienced it with a friend in 2009 and opted out this time round; since I had sleeping Alice weighing down my arms). I sat with Chinese Grandma and Granddad by the watering hole, where we were treated to the sight of all the birds above, as well as beautiful Kereru (NZ native wood pigeon).

We took a little stroll up to one of the little blue penguin nesting boxes and peeked in to see one. A very friendly robin led the way, popping back and forth to keep an eye on our progress.

By the time we returned to the water-hole, Charlotte & Sophie had already made the descent down from the peak and were waiting for us! They’d had a great time. Charlotte had even been given a natural baptism – when a bird ‘pooped’ on her head. She is still asking what species of bird does red ‘poops’!

Motuara Island, Marlborough Sounds

We all made our way back to our boat for the return cruise through the Sounds, with the girls marvelling at the crystal clear waters, jelly fish, kina and mussels.

Return boat trip

And we were all grateful for the tea, coffee, hot-chocolate and biscuits (except the ginger biscuits were a little tough going on Grandma’s false teeth!).  Alice drifted off for a nap, with the hum of the engine, whilst I sat out on deck admiring the native bush and nesting shags.

NZ shag species roosting

We made a quick stop at the Bay of Many Coves Resort (which Dan and I knew from our pre-children days as ‘Punga Cove’). We looked on whistfully as a couple disembarked to enjoy an evening of decadent accommodation, fine Marlborough wines and dining.

Dan and I had stopped there, when it was ‘Punga Cove’, way back in 1997. We  had walked the ‘Queen Charlotte Track‘ and treated ourselves to one night of luxury accommodation. Dan told me later that he was planning to propose to me whilst we dined at the restaurant there – but just as he was plucking up the courage to get down on one knee a bunch of rowdy trampers walked in and he lost his nerve! It ended up taking him six months from asking my Dad for my hand in marriage to actually finding the opportune moment to propose (and it ended up being in the vineyards of Marlborough on Valentines Day).

Bay of Many Coves

There was little time for romance on this trip, but the memories keep us strong and our time will come again (even though we’ll probably be silver-haired by that time!).

We returned to Picton in time to enjoy the Maritime Festival and fireworks. A perfect ending to an incredible day where nature really did put on the most wonderful show. The weather wasn’t its best (note the warmer weather gear!), but at least the rain held off and the wildlife was certainly happy with the conditions 🙂