I was up at 6:50 for my first day aboard the stray bus. A bit of weighing up between the Strays and Kiwi Experience finally ended in the decision to go with Strays (from what I had heard Kiwi Experience is largely full of drunk 18 year olds, where as Strays was aimed a bit more at the 20's market). First stop was Kaikoura, the whale watching town, about a 4 hour drive up the coast from Chirstchurch. I was somewhat surprised to find that there were only 13 people on my bus, I had been lead to believe that the buses at this time of year were renowned for being full if not over booked!
Travelling with Strays made travelling easy, each day the bus driver would book up your nights accommodation for you sort out any trips that you may wish to do (often at a discounted rate). On arrival I tucked into some fish and chips on the beach as I waited to go whale watching, it was a glorious day and the views were up to New Zealands usual high standards.
Kaikoura is known for it's abundance of sea life, especially species that are normally only found far out to sea. The reason for this is down to a 1.5km deep trench that drops away just a few hundred metres from the shore. This trench attracts all sorts of sea life including dolphins, killer whales and what I was about to go viewing, the sperm whale. The whole process of sperm whale spotting can be a bit hit and miss as the whales have been known to dive deep under water for up to an hour plus at a time. The captain of our boat used something like a passive sonar system to find the whales and would then rush to the site where they expected to see the whales surface. The whales would then hang around on the surface for 5-10 minutes before diving again, giving us ample time to take some photos. It was an absorbing experience getting to see the huge whales just 10 or so metres away. We managed to see 2 whales in the couple of hours we were out searching and a rather playful bunch of dolphins too, that happily played in the bow wave of the boat as we headed for shore.