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"OORP! OOOORRRP! ARRNT! AARRNT! ARRNT!"May 15-20, 1999  Upper South Island, New Zealand

Kaikoura Peninsula
"Woa, geeez! I didn't even see him!"
But he definitely let me know he was there and that I was too close and had better back off! Until then, I didn't even know that seals had teeth. And I certainly didn't know that they could be so LOUD. I just hope that his 'arnt' is worse than his bite (as I take a few steps backwards so as not to find out).

"No worries mate!"For the most part, these 200-300 lbs. sea mammals just lazily lounge on the rocks aside the surf, undisturbed by us, and too relaxed to do much more than occasionally blink an eye open to make sure we haven't wandered too close to them. But in this case I'd done just that. While looking the other direction, I walked around a rock and unknowingly strayed and within a few feet of a napping male, something that I think startled, more than threatened, the both of us.

Up 'n at 'em!!Suddenly surprised, he jumps up, and propping himself up with him front flippers, puts on the most intimidating display he can muster. I nearly drop my camera and loose my footing, as I jump back in shock. My retreat allows him to lay back down, with careful eye still fixed in my direction, and return to his rest.

After my little 'close encounter of the natural kind', I do my best to pay more attention and watch my step. If I do get close enough to get 'arnt'ed' at again, at least I want it to be without the heart-stopping surprise. We gingerly walk through at least two more fur-seal colonies on our way around the point.

Heading out to sea to do a little huntingLooking as if they haven't a care in the world, these sleek mammals lazily lounge upon the rocks, resting up before the next few days that they will spend hunting for food in the surf. Those that have already ventured out into the sea, leave behind big dark-brown patches of oil and sometimes clumps of fur, clearly marking their earlier resting places on the sun-bleached rocks. Within a few short hours Mother Ocean will stretch her wet reach with the evening's high tide, and the entire length of rock shelf that we're now exploring, will be almost instantly covered with foam crested waves.

The unusually rocky and crack-crossed mantleBut for now, we're able to walk out up to 300-400 feet away from the shoreline cliffs on this almost flat, crack-crossed mantle. Before heading up the steep embankment to complete our round-trip back to the van, we stop to enjoy the caress of the cool ocean air blowing through our hair, and take a moment to appreciate the soothing sound of the surf crashing against the rock. Certainly well known for its natural beauty, it seems that the peninsula also has a national, as well as international, reputation for the variety of marine and animal life that call it home.

Home away from home - camping in peaceful coexistenceAlong with the more numerous (and some would say more mundane) flocks of grazing sheep, folks travel for miles and miles to peacefully walk, camp, swim, and boat among dolphins, whales, and numerous seabirds that roam both the waters and the skies. But coexistence wasn't always this peaceful. It wasn't all that long ago that the Kaikoura boats, fighting their way out to sea against the waves in hot pursuit of whales, were shooting harpoons, not Polaroids. Back then, the cry of 'Dar she blows!' would most likely translate into one less giant Sperm Whale in the seas off of the peninsula's coast.

Revenge of the Giant Crayfish - coming soon to a theatre near you!Today, the fishermen of these waters haul in much smaller catch. A variety of fresh scale and shell fish, including (we're pleased to find out) lobster. And as it turns out, Kaikoura is Maori for 'crayfish (lobster) food'. Well, with our little afternoon-long hike along the shore-line, and subsequent climb up and back over the cliff-tops, we've worked up quite an appetite.  We decide to splurge and partake in this local delicacy. But rather than diving for our own (as some still do) we opt for the lazy man's way out and 'hook' them, pre-cooked, at a locally famous seafood take-out joint. We crack open the steaming hot shell and dig out some of the succulent white flesh. Delicious! It's so good, in fact, that Laura swears (between bites) that it's the best lobster she's EVER had. I might just have to agree with her - it's absolutely mouthwatering. Hey, I wonder if our friendly neighborhood seals are lobster lovers too - ARRNT! AARRNT!

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Last modified: July 09, 1999    Photographs and text 1999 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.


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