|On Saturday we drove on to Picton via a couple of wineries near Blenheim. Marlborough (this area) is world-renowned for good wines and we sampled some excellent ones at Drylands Estate, and Fromm.
Arriving in Picton we found nothing really worth mentioning. The town has a beautiful setting at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound but nothing else of note. We did manage to find the one decent restaurant in town though so all was not lost!
Yesterday we drove down to Kaikoura for our third attempt at getting out on a boat to see some whales (the other two were as you may have guessed, cancelled due to poor weather and very choppy seas!). We were finally in luck and the trip was absolutely fantastic. We sailed out to Kaikoura canyon, a 1600m deep trench in the sea floor where the cold and warm currents meet creating a rich feeding ground for Sperm Whales. Another boat had left half an hour before us and found us our first whale immediately. They can hold their breath for up to 77 minutes under water but tend to come up to the surface every 40-60 minutes to recharge. We watched the whale breathing which was fascinating and then saw it dive back down showing us his huge tail. It was very slow and graceful, but you still got a sense of the fact that you were sharing the water with the planet's biggest predator, and that it was actually about as big as the boat!
We saw two different whales do the same thing, and then saw the first one again. It was still amazing the fourth time, and I don't think we would've got bored of watching these beautiful creatures for ages.
While we were out whale-spotting we also saw a huge variety of birds including several different types of Albatross, and even one Royal Albatross which is the largest sea bird in the world. Two inquisitive seals also swam alongside our boat, but the best part of the trip was on the way back in when a school of Dusky Dolphins swam and jumped at the side of the boat within inches of where we were standing. There were 15 to 20 of them and they were extremely playful, it was magical.