For the first day in the Bay, I decided to go on a boat and sail around the Bay of Islands. The cruise I picked? The most famous, known as ‘The Cream Trip’ as it originated with a boat that used to go to the islands to pick up the produce from dairy farms on the islands. Over the years, tourists started to go on the boats, and although there’s no longer as much farming or any cream deliveries, the name stands.
This cruise also offers optional dolphin swimming, which I’m very interested in. Especially as it’s refundable should the dolphins not be an option. A fact I become grateful for as the first pod we discover isn’t eligible for swimming due to them having a baby with them.
The bay is full of wild bottlenose dolphins, and this pod numbers around 20, diving and swimming around our boats. Some of them have names, and the captain tells us the baby has been dubbed ‘French Toast’ due to him being born on a day that the French won some sport related event (to be honest I wasn’t paying attention). He seemed very sorry that he was stopping us from swimming with the group, because just when we thought they’d headed off, he jumped up into the air twice to say goodbye.
FYI – the reason you can’t swim with the pods with babies is because the mother has to feed the infant every 10 minutes, and the tours don’t want to distract the mother since the infant mortality rate for these dolphins is already pretty high.
There are over a hundred islands in the Bay, and this cruise sails around 13 of them, giving small details regarding each one as we pass it. The most famous ones are Moturoa Island, which was serviced by the original Cream Trip cruise, Marsden Cross, which once hosted a church and held New Zealand’s first Christian Sermon on Christmas Day 1814, and Roberton Island, where Captain James Cook anchored the ‘Endeavour’.
The two biggest draws of this trip however, are ‘The Hole in the Rock’ and Urupukapuka Island. The Hole in the Rock is situated near Cape Brett on the mainland, and its original name was Motukokako, though it’s more commonly known as ‘Piercy Island’. It’s quite the trip from the rest of the bay, forcing us to sail into a lot rougher waters (which considering how bad my seasickness can be, actually ended up being a lot of fun when perched at the front of the boat). There had been storms the last few days, and nobody had been certain the boat would actually be able to get out there. Thankfully, although the water was rough, it was calm enough for us to get a good look at the tunnel that’s formed under the Island.
With everyone starting to struggle with the waves, the boat headed back in, stopping for a moment so we could check out the lighthouse on the Cape, before heading back to Urupukapuka Island where we were staying for an hour. It hosted a café (Which thanks to it being Easter was closed) and several nature walks. However, of those walks, only a handful were doable in the time I had, so headed along the one I thought I could do in the time easiest. Have to admit I often walked off the path just so I could get a better look at the view.
This is a really beautiful part of the world. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a place that had grass so green and water so blue. I can see why even the kiwi’s come up here for holidays – the Bay of Islands is quite possibly the most beautiful and natural setting I’ve ever set foot in, which is an impressive title considering I’ve travelled more than my fair share.
When we were back on the boat, our captain warned us that although boats were out looking for dolphins, they’d only been able to find the same pod from this morning, so swimming with dolphins wasn’t going to be an option. Disappointing, but what can you do. To counter this though, they would be offering another activity, Boom Netting.
A Boom Net is a large net that they hang on the side of the boat, and have people jump into it. Normally its used to get people ready for dolphin swimming, but it’s alternative use it to fill up with people, and then drag them along with the boat. I was all for it, and found myself sitting at the back, wondering what it would be like.
I’ll say this, it looks completely different to what it feels like. I’m reminded of G-force roller coasters – only where the air has physical weight and can make it impossible to breath. If you’re situated in the back of the nets you are pinned down, incapable of moving and praying that the waves don’t reach past your neck. When the boat stops for a few seconds, the current rips you from the net, and if you don’t hang on for dear life, you’ll find yourself flying towards the front (which I did once, doing everything in my power not to crash into the poor souls ahead of me). Quite a few people only survived getting crushed by people losing their grip by other riders grabbing their arms of legs as they passed them. It’s exhausting, but also a little exhilarating.
The tour also provided us with a free ferry return from Russel, where the boat normally stopped. However, given the time and it being Easter, the town was going to be completely closed off, so I decided not to bother when the boat arrived at Paihia first (due to having to pick up travellers from another trip who were running late for a bus), and headed back to the hostel for something to eat, and to take another crack at the jigsaw.
Three hours later, I at least had all the edges together and some idea of what went in the middle. I ended up leaving it in the hands of 3 new arrivals while I dragged myself to bed in order to get up early for tomorrow’s tour of Cape Reinga.