The morning presented calm waters as National Geographic Orion made her way into the waters outside of the town of Kaikoura. Soon our guests set off for a variety of wildlife expeditions, including an excursion with albatrosses and a stunning encounter with a sperm whale. The dive team descended in a local, marine-protected area and found many of the southern rock lobsters Kaikoura is named after. The truest highlights were the dolphin encounters that included three different species – common bottlenose, dusky, and the smallest of all, the endemic Hector’s dolphin.
National Geographic Orion
Great Barrier Island sits forty-five miles northeast of Aukland, New Zealand. It is a massive island with a long and occasionally troubled history. Birds were the original caretakers of the island but were overthrown when Polynesians arrived around the year 1000. The disturbance to the island then was nothing compared to the near extinction event that followed the arrival of Europeans. Cleared of endemic trees and nearly all the native avifauna, the ecosystem of Great Barrier Island barely held on. More than a century later, the tide began to turn. Through the conservation efforts of mostly private individuals, the island is on its way to becoming a haven for indigenous flora and fauna. From the glorious native kauri tree, almost wiped out in the demand for timber, to the charming and iconic kiwi bird, positive change is taking place. Our visit today was a fantastic opportunity to explore a conservation success story in progress.