Dolphin Swim in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Sometime in my early twenties, I fell in love with dolphins. I’m not sure what led up to it, but I became obsessed with them, especially the bottled nosed ones with their ginormous smiles. I heard stories of dolphins rescuing people in the ocean and immediately had thoughts of jumping into the ocean so I could interact with them. Well lo and behold, more than a decade later, my wildest dreams came true. Toward the end of our 2 week trip in New Zealand, we signed up with Dolphin Encounter to hop in the ocean and swim with a bunch of dolphins. I thought it was going to be amazing, but nothing prepared me for this surreal experience of swimming with a pod of 500 dusky dolphins!!!



The waters were freezing cold, so before anyone jumped in, we had to don these super duper wetsuits that made us all look like seals. I’m sure everyone secretly hoped there were no seal eating sharks in the ocean.

From the boat, we could see dolphins for miles. Of course, out of a pod of 500, there’s bound to be a few playful ones. They really knew how to put on a show!

Visibility in the water wasn’t great, but with hundreds of dolphins, everyone was within inches away from a multitude of dolphins swimming by. There were times when I swam in circles and the dolphins would swim around me until I got too dizzy to play with them. Then they thought I was a total bore and continued on their way. For something as playful as dolphins, it’s hard to capture their whole essence with just still images, so here’s a little video from my handy dandy iPhone! I had it encased in a Lifeproof case…either that thing didn’t work properly, or I didn’t seal things tight enough because I had water damage which made my phone go haywire. Thank goodness for Applecare!

Dolphin Encounter, Kaikoura, New Zealand from LYNN DAO on Vimeo.

To swim with the dolphins, we stayed in Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast of New Zealand. Loving the idea of staying in a tree house, we booked a room at Hapuku Lodge. Turns out the tree house wasn’t quite a tree house, but an elevated room supported by metal beams. Not what we had in mind, but oh well.

In Kaikoura, there’s also a large colony of fur seals. Great for gawking at if you have some time. Look at all the babies in the wading pool!


But nothing beats the experience of seeing and interacting with some of the most intelligent sea creatures on the planet. Do it if you ever have a chance!



  1. Chona May 13, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    UNBELIEVABLE!! thank you for sharing these pics. i was wondering what you used for that video! lmao!

    • admin May 14, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      The iPhone worked ok, but the GH3 is definitely better! So is Sony’s underwater point & shoot…both of which will unveil themselves in the Big Island’s post – coming soon!

  2. KJ October 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    All of your NZ photos are stunning! So gorgeous. We are planning a trip for February 2014 so this is very helpful. Would you mind sharing your itinerary? Thanks!

    • admin October 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      Thanks for your comment KJ! You will LOVE NZ! We spent 2 weeks on the South Island, but if you have more time, you should definitely explore both! Queenstown is a must, along with Abel Tasman. You can’t go wrong anywhere you drive on the South Island though…it’s all so beautiful. If you look at the other New Zealand posts, you’ll find images of the glaciers, horseback riding through Lord of the Rings land, and more. Have a wonderful time there in February!

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