Catlins & Lions


After a couple of days in Te Anau, we dropped down to the bottom east portion of the South Island to an area called the Catlins – a fairly unpopulated area that’s, once again, filled with more amazing, unspoiled sites, like this one above – Porpoise Bay.

Now, when we heard about Porpoise Bay, we figured it wasn’t named poetically, but still didn’t expect to find what we did.

You roll into the bay, and there’s just dolphins swimming around. Up, down, around, minding their own business, occasionally swimming up to a swimmer then veering off, back to their pod, to do what dolphins do. Then back into the surf to play in some waves.

While we saw plenty of lodges with the name “Dolphin”, there was no tour companies in site offering a swim with them.

They swim with you, if they’re interested.

It was awesome to see a spot like this without the marketing apparatus behind it i.e. DOLPHIN SWIM. $200: We’ll give your money back if they don’t show.

Granted, it’s probably well in place, and we may not have seen it. But the fact remains, that you can still get into the water, be around dolphins and not have to pay anybody a cent. I thought that was pretty amazing.

It’s next to impossible to get a photo of them, because they only swim up to show their dorsal fins, but this is the best I could do: (you see those three black specs, close together on the left side? Dolphins, not lens splotches. Promise.)


Rose and I spent a while staring out, watching them swim around. While the views look tempting to get in the water, the temps are around 10 degrees. So, as much as I love a dolphin…

Later on, we toured down the coast, heading East to a spot called Nugget Point, which is on the very edge of the East coast, and took shots along the way:


As we neared Nugget Point, we were told that we might spot a sea lion or two, lolling about on the rocky beaches en route. Just before the last turn up to the point we spotted this guy all alone, hanging about on a stretch of beach:

They’re hard to spot, because the beaches are full of kelp, camouflaging them. At one point, a jogger was going down the beach with his dog, and I was trying to alert him that there was a big sea lion in his path (apparently they bite). But the guy waved back at us, thinking we were saying hi, and his dog ran up and barked at the sea lion, probably waking it up a bit, before the guy realized it was a sea lion, and called his dog over before it got too close.

With all the action, by the time we got to Nugget Point, it was getting close to 7pm:


And, we’d decided we were going to push ahead to get to Dunedin. So, I barrelled along the highway, trying to get into the city limits before dark, taking the life of every insect I met in our one litre, grey Nissan barbarian, that beeps every time you put it into reverse.


Sadly, the beeline didn’t work. We got to a hostel around 9pm and they were full. Tried a few more places and no dice, so we broke our budget vow and found a hotel for the night.

Please note: I took out the word “Backpacking” from our search Tag, since we didn’t fit the bill this time around.

The good news is that we made it to Dunedin. And, just in time for a scrum.

More to come.





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