New Zealand EN, Travel Blog

Exploring New Zealand Diary – Bay of Plenty, Swimming With Dolphins

The day started very early. We booked with the Orca Wild Adventures, and we needed to be at the Tauranga Marine at 7:30 which was around 35-40 minutes drive from where we were staying. We arrived at exactly 7:30 and to my surprise (and I felt a little shame) we actually where the last one to arrive!

We got into the boat, there the crew (to lovely marine biologist) offered us some hot beverage (really needed it was a cold morning) and went through the safety briefing and the day’s schedule.

The schedule was pretty simple we were to go out to the open sea to search for dolphins and any other interesting wildlife we could find. Then we would anchor next to a small Maori owed island for a swim and barbecue, yes the trip included a lovely barbecue on the boat, and then we would go again in the open sea to look for more wildlife as we made our way back to Tauranga.

Tauranga Marina

At around 8 we slowly made our way out of the Marina. The sun was slowly making its way up and the sea was still calm.

As we exited (and entered at the end of the day) we passed next to the statue of Tangaroa and where we threw some cookies for good luck.

The statue of Tangaroa represents Tangaroa the God of the Sea in Maori culture, whose duty is to protect the sea and all of its inhabitants. In accordance with Maori legend, Tangaroa was the son of Rangi, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother.

Tangaroa is portrayed as a crouching warrior, performing the Wero, a traditional Maori challenge given during the welcome ceremony to test the visitors’ intentions and grasping a taiaha (a long club fighting staff).

The statue was erected in 1976 and was a gift to the people of Tauranga by one of the former mayors – Sir Bob Owens, to celebrate the centennial of the Ports of Tauranga.


Once out of the marina we made our way into the open sea and start searching for dolphins. And it didn’t take long to find our first pod of dolphins!

And the pod had a baby (or juvenile as the crew called it)! Most precious little thing!

Because there was a baby in the group, unfortunately, that meant we weren’t allowed to swim with them. So we enjoyed their companies for 15 minutes, and then we when on our way to try to find another pod.

Worth mentioning that on our way we could see the smoke from the White Island volcano that erupted in December claiming the lives of many of people that were visiting the place.

After maybe another 20 minutes of sailing, we found another pod. This one didn’t have juveniles with them and the conditions were good enough to allow us to get into the water.

The way it works is that the crew lowers two metal bars on each side of the boat where people and hold on to, and on the back, on the boat, they lower a mattress for those who don’t have the strength to hold onto the bar while the boat is still moving. Below you can see a photo of one of the sidebars. Every bar can hold up to 4 people.


We stayed awhile with the pod giving everyone the opportunity to get into the water and enjoyed their company.

By the time everyone had a go, it was lunchtime. The crew pack the sidebars and the mat, and we made our way to Motti Island so barbecue and, for those who wanted, a swim in the bay.

Motiti Island

Motiti Island is a Maori owned island occupied by around 27 people. Because it is a private property we were not allowed to go ashore. The boat anchored in a nice little bay and while the captain was cooking lunch, we could have a swim in the bay.

As people jump into the water, this little fella came to say hi. I think he was the highlight, to be honest!

We stay a good two hours at Motiti Island and it was time to slowly make our way back. The captain of course tried to find more marine life to show us, and he found a herd of fishes hunting. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the species but it was quite impressive. And boy did they make some noise!

This was an amazing day! We had the opportunity to see dolphins, as promised, and even more marine life, the crew was amazing and the whole experience very well-organized! I would strongly recommend to anyone that is in the area.

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