Our last New Zealand port – and quite a contrast to the busy and large capital we were in yesterday, Wellington. This was a great change of pace and and great way to end our NZ ports.
It was a beautiful “sail in” port. You always know when the ship thinks it’s a good port to get up early for and take pictures – they have early morning stations with coffee, juice, and “the roll” of that area. For instance, we’ve already had the Panama Canal rolls. They had the same great rolls, only this time they were the “Kiwi rolls!” In addition, they open the front bow to the passengers so they can get out to the front of the ship for good picture taking.
And a beautiful sail in it was. Picton is only about 20 miles across the Cook Strait from Wellington. It can be a rough crossing, but we were fortunate to have calm waters. Picton sits at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound. As you go through the Sound to get there, you go by many small little islands, most are protected animal/bird reserves. All around are little bays and inlets. It is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen. And every once in a while, you’ll see a home tucked in along the coast. I decided before ever reaching Picton that this would be a great place to spend several months. I took so many pictures, it was hard to choose just one for this Blog.
Doug and I took a ship’s excursion for half the day here. It was called Dolphin Cruise and Guided Walk at Ship Cove. The cove was one of Capt. Cook’s favorite places to land in this area. He was here many times. The company the ship contracted with was called Nature and Wildlife Tours and it was so good, I’m including their web address in case anyone ever gets here and wants a quality company and great tour: www.naturetours.co.nz They do more than just dolphin cruises. I’m sure you can learn more on their web site.
Our guide was Larissa. She was from Switzerland but met a Maori man (on the dance floor – she teaches salsa dancing) and ended up in Picton. She still teaches dance, but also gives these tours. She was great – very enthusiastic and full of energy! This is a picture of the map they had on the catamaran we were on and it just shows our path way through the Sound and how many bays and islands, etc. there were in this area. Our ship came in this same way, so going back out on this tour, we were able to see it again – but with stops along the way this time.
Our first stop was to see the bottle-nose dolphins. There were so many of them playing in a certain area of the Sound – where they find most of their food supply. They came right along our boat as well. It was such fun to see so many of them up close and personal. And I was lucky to get this photo as one jumped out of the water near by! This almost looks like what I’ve seen at the Disney parks, but this was right by my boat!!!
Our second stop was a bit unexpected and not part of the normal tour. A few days before, an albatross was spotted in the Sound and appeared either lost or hurt because it was by itself and didn’t leave the area. Some smaller boats came by and fed it so that it could hopefully get stronger and be able to move on. We came right up to it and could have reached over and touched it we were so close. It was an amazing experience. I have never been that close to a bird in nature before. This picture shows the whole bird. I have one where it is almost looking into my eyes.
The next stop was also a rare opportunity. We came upon a group of very rare birds – King Shag birds. There are only about 400-500 left, and we saw a group of about 25 on one of the little islets we passed by. They have black heads and backs and a white breast with little “wings” that are a combination of black and white. I want to Google them when I get home to learn more about them, but our guide told us we were so lucky to have been able to see these birds since there are so few of them left.
Our next stop was at Ship Cove. We got off our catamaran at this little dock and our guide and captain made us hot tea and hot chocolate while we ate date scones they had brought along. We saw lots of different birds here. Also you could hike part of the Queen Charlotte Walkway from here. There is also a monument to Cook listing the dates he was here and on what ship – one time on the Endeavor and four times on the Resolution between 1770 and 1777. Currently there are also Maori works of art and a bridge showing the connection between the European settlers and the Maori people. We didn’t so as much walking around here as I had thought we would, but I think that was because our guide realized that most of the people in this group could not do much walking.
So, back on board our little boat and off we were to see the fur seals who hang around a salmon farm – I’m sure the salmon farmer is not thrilled about the fur seals here! It was fun to see them swimming around – much more action than the ones we saw in Wellington on our “seal safari.” There we only saw them sleep and sit on rocks in the sun. Here there was a lot of splashing going on!
After our tour, we had a quick bite to eat on the ship before setting off to walk around the town of Picton. There is really only one main street. It is a charming little town and we enjoyed going in and out of the little shops. And the library was a busy place that day – it had free Wi-Fi, so everyone from passenger and crew were in and all around the outside of this building! We have learned if you want to find free Wi-Fi, follow a crew member when he gets off the ship! And, since this was our last NZ port, I had my last hokey pokey ice cream cone!
As we sailed out of this wonderful little town, I had to go back on deck to watch us leave not only the town, but Charlotte Sound. I was with Barb and we were snapping pictures from both sides of the ship. At one point the captain announced the spotting of the dolphins, so we saw them once again. I also spotted the lost albatross as we left. He was all alone, and I wasn’t sure it was him until I looked at the picture I took and zoomed in.
My last picture of this wonderful place – I felt as though I were leaving paradise behind. And I couldn’t share enough pictures – this is one place you really have to experience to appreciate. I hope to be able to come back some day and spend more time here exploring these little islands.