The Highlight.......? The 'Matariki' Street Party!
Akaroa and Lyttelton News
Imagine you were told you could write a wishlist of the best New Zealand activities Canterbury has to offer....and it would come true!
Well Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism recently ran a'' Win your dream 72 hours in Canterbury” campaign over in Australia asking entrants to describe how they would spend their 72 hours. The prize; your dream 72 hours will come true!
The competition came to a close and the lucky winner has just spent this past weekend having the time of his life with his wife visiting Christchurch, Akaroa, the Waipara Wine Region AND Hanmer........His winning itinerary you ask?
- After flying into Christchurch it was a trip straight to the i-site to book all of their tickets.
- Then it was a visit to the re-start mall to take in what's happening within the Christchurch CBD
- Followed by a coffee and snack at the award winning C1 Espresso Cafe .
- Then it was time to jump on the Red Bus rebuild Tour
- For lunch it was off to Madras Street for Pizza followed by some fun wheel action on the Segway Urban Wheels.
- A leisurely afternoon was then spent punting on the Avon. An iconic and classic Christchurch activity, before settling in for the night at a hotel in Christchurch.
Day 2 is ''all things French'' as they headed off to Akaroa. En-route from Christchurch they stopped off for an early morning Gondola ride to take in the majestic views down Banks Peninsula
After taking the 90 minute scenic drive to Akaroa there was time for a stroll in the streets to enjoy the shops, galleries and a french inspired lunch
Straight after lunch it was all aboard the Black Cat boat to enjoy an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. An opportunity to enjoy the marine and bird life whilst taking in the breathtaking views of the extinct volcanic harbour. The team at Black Cat were so pleased to host the winner and his guest. It's wonderful to play a part in makeing a dream trip come true!
After two hours on the water with Black Cat it was back on land for a drive along the summit road. A spectacular peninsula drive with great New Zealand photography locations along the way!
All finished off with dinner at Vangionis
Location: Waipara Valley, Hamner Springs
Sad to leave Akaroa it was then on to a day of pure indulgence as they headed to the Waipara Valley and Hanmer Springs.
The 3 hour drive to Hanmer was broken up by visiting numerous wineries along the way in Waipara wine region and lunch at a local winery.
Arriving in Hanmer called for one thing only - a stop off at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa followed by a body treatment for him and her - one word, Divine!
Late afternoon was then spent meandering through the shops and boutiques in Hanmer before choosing a spot for dinner and home to beautiful retreat for bed!
What a wonderful 3 days!!!
There is so much on offer in the Canterbury region we would find it hard to choose (apart from the Black Cat experience in Akaroa of course!) What would your dream itinerary be if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury? We recommend using the Christchurch and Canterbury Toursim website to help plan your trip!
Where about's in New Zealand you ask? Answer: Akaroa Harbour!
After forgiving them for forgetting that this is 100% pure new zealand in their articles title we can firmly say that the feature is a testament to the international appeal of our stunning and perfectly preserved peninsula and village. Perhaps it's why the worlds rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector's, choose to call this place home???
We just wonder what they would make of Akaroa harbour if we were to take them out dolphin swimming with the Hector's dolphins...or on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise.......
If The Huffington Post decide to travel over this way, an invitation awaits.........
The images from the article speak for themselves......
Akaroa truly is the perfect getaway escape if you are planning a holiday in New Zealand. With the stunning landscape (a photographers dream destination), variety of accommodation and dining options, and of course things to do (cue Black Cat Cruises), what more could you ask for?
A link to the full article from The Huffington Press and pictures can be found here....
We at Black Cat HQ wanted to share a blog post covering this topic, as unbeknown to us, a member of our staff in Akaroa had quietly bestowed a random act of kindness onto a complete stranger (that is until the office received the most heart warming thank you email...which we will get to in a moment).
So what is a 'Random Act of Kindness'? Well according to that great source Wikipedia it is quite simply
'A selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.'
Our skipper Julian did exactly just that and here is the email that followed......
I just wanted to write to say thank you to the lovely captain and crew member of the Black Cat for making my mothers birthday very special.
My mother and her husband have gone through a lot over the last few year. They lost a daughter, then lost all their possessions in the Christchurch earthquakes, had to give away their beloved dog so they could get accommodation, fight insurance companies and EQC but they have got by and they know they are better off than a lot of other people in Christchurch.
So for my mothers 80th birthday my brothers and I all put in and bought her a voucher for two nights accommodation and meals in Akaroa. At the time I looked at your website to see about getting them on a cruise too but we just couldn't come up with enough money to do it. My mother and her husband went to Akaroa last week and decided to go for a walk on the pier. It was while they were watching the Black Cat getting ready to go out that the Captain came over and talked to them. The next thing my mother knew she was going on the cruise herself and she absolutely loved it. She has talked non stop about how great it was and how nice the crew was and she still cannot believe that she was invited on the cruise. You really made her day and I wanted to let you know that, as I feel that she has gone through so much in the last few years, that for a complete stranger to do such a lovely act of kindness was amazing. To see my mum so happy was really special for me as my father just passed away recently and my mum means the world to me. So once again thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.
So why offer a selfless act? If you're getting nothing in return why bother, right? Wrong! Random acts of kindness not only reward the receiver, they reward the person giving. There is so much pleasure to be found in putting a smile upon some-ones face...and as the email above pointed out, you never quite know what some-one has been through or may be going through. So thank you Julian for making not only this lady's day, but for reminding us of the simplicity and ability we all have to make a person smile!
Now you may wonder why we would want to publicise what is deemed to be a selfless act. Quite frankly we want to share the story to encourage YOU to perform your very own random act of kindness! Even businesses are getting behind the action of doing kind, random deeds. Check out this fun video from Coca Cola, who wanted to spread some free happiness.....Coca-Cola Happiness Machine
And lastly before we leave you...
Did you know New Zealand is the only country in he world to have a dedicated Random Acts of Kindness day? (September, 1st FYI )
There's a whole website about it which contains some great ideas.
But why wait until then....it's the weekend, go spread some kindness!
The great thing about riding to Akaroa is that not only does it provide some great climbing, fantastic views, fast descents and some good flat riding, meaning you get a range of cycling experiences, afterwards you get to hang out in Akaroa with the family and experience the charm of the historic village nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano.
There are loads a great accommodation options to stay overnight and Akaroa Harbour and the surrounding hills provides an enormous range of activities, including cruises on the harbour and the chance to swim with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin.
Riding over and staying with the family who drive over combines training with valuable family time, and then there’s always the option of riding back the following day.
With the iconic Le Race cycle event looming it’s a great time to combine an awesome training ride over to Akaroa, an afternoon out on the Harbour and then an evening in Akaroa.
The ride over includes 1800 metres of climbing so you really do get a good solid work out. The Le Race course heads up Colombo Street and then climbs up Dyers Pass, right past where we live, up into the Port Hills above Christchurch passing first the Sign of the Takahe, then the Sign of the Kiwi at over 300 metres above sea level – also the first spot for the King and Queen of the Mountains competition on race day – before turning right and heading along the Summit Road.
From high up on the Summit Road there are magnificent views across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps and eastwards to the sea up Lyttleton harbour.
The ride around the Summit Road really is quite special. With awesome views it never fails to impress me, and I know we can be guilty of taking it all for granted at times.
The road south along the Summit Road has a number of short power climbs and descents before the first fast long downhill through to Gebbies Pass before turning right and heading towards Motukarara.
The downhill towards Gebbies Pass has several cattle stops, so taking it carefully is important, and after the recent heavy rain there is the odd section of debris on the road, but nothing too bad and you can be sure by race day on the 29th it will all be well tidied up.
Once on the flat you take the first left and head long Millers Road that takes you out to the main Christchurch to Akaroa Road. From here the road heads toward Little River and Cooptown, hugging first Lake Ellesmere and then the smaller Lake Forsyth. Little River is a great place to stop for a coffee and fuel up before tackling the six kilometre Hill Top climb. There are a couple of nice cafes and an art gallery well worth a visit.
The climb up to Hill Top gives you a sense of the ‘Tour de France’ hence the Le Race being referred to as a ‘slice of the Tour de France.’
Although the uphill efforts are much shorter than the famous European climbs, there is a sense of real alpine efforts and once at the top of Hill Top there are magnificent views across the peninsula including spotting Akaroa in the distance.
The main road dips to the right but most cyclists follow the route for Le Race, turning to the left to follow the Summit Road as it loops high above Akaroa Harbour off to the right and Pigeon, Okains and Le Bons Bays to the left.
This section is where the business is really done on race day, but on a nice day on a ‘training’ ride its one of the most spectacular sections of road to ride anywhere, and well worth taking a moment to ‘small the roses’ and appreciate what a magnificent part of the world it is.
Eventually the road drops down into Long Bay Road and into Akaroa itself, where a well earned coffee and lunch with the family await.
After lunch there’s the opportunity to explore the town or head out on the harbour to get up close and personal with the marine life, including the playful Hector’s dolphins, and then stay the night, like the Tui adverts, ‘well earned.’
The recent 60 minute feature on Maui's and Hector’s dolphins was a really interesting watch, so if you haven't yet seen it please do take the time to watch the video. We have shared it on our Black Cat Cruises You Tube channel and placed a direct link for you here....New Zealand's native dolphins in the press.
The feature highlights the plight and dangers of our native dolphins. There is no question about it – they need protecting. The NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust’s 100m Campaign is one of the latest initiatives that’s setting out to do just that.
Run by marine wildlife advocates Dr. Liz Slooten, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and Prof. Steve Dawson, with the help and support of many other marine mammal enthusiasts, the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust has been working to figure out how to make the ocean a safer place for our cetaceans for many years. Their latest venture sees them collaborating with the interesting and relatively new sport of free diving.
Free diving is an extreme sport where divers go as deep down into the ocean as they dare without any help from a breathing apparatus – so by simply holding their breath. In December 2010, Kiwi freediver William Trubridge was the first person to freedive to 100 metres – no small feat by any means.
But what does this have to do with the little ol’ Hectors Dolphins? At the moment, we have legislation in New Zealand that protects dolphins around our coast – but the sanctuaries only extend to a limited area, and a limited depth. After three summers of observing dolphins’ distributions off our shores, the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust came to the conclusion that the current scope of our protected areas are nowhere near good enough to keep these creatures out of harm’s way.
Over their research, the trust found that dolphins are regularly sighted far from the protected waters – often in waters that go 100 metres deep. Because these areas are still open to gillnets, it puts dolphins at risk of being swept up in the bycatch of some fishing boat.
So when William Trubridge was training to go 100 metres below the surface, he called his mission “Project Hector”, so that he could bring about awareness around the issue. He, in conjunction with NZ Whale and Dolphin, are raising money for the cause. So far they have reached $2,300 out of a $10,000 target. NZ Whale and Dolphin thinks that if Trubridge can get to the bottom of a 100 metre deep part of ocean, gillnets should not be allowed there.
If we can extend marine wildlife sanctuaries to include all areas of sea that are 100 metres deep, then we could protect all of the foraging space where the dolphins source their food. This would be a huge help to restoring the still declining population of this rare animal.
For more information on this campaign, including maps of the area around Akaroa and Banks Peninsula that are affected, check out the link below: http://www.whaledolphintrust.org.nz/campaigns-100m.php
You can also donate to the cause by visiting this page http://www.williamtrubridge.com/trublue/
''Overlooking Dailey's wharf and the Akaroa Harbour, Ma Maison is one of Akaroa's hidden gems. The view speaks for itself!'' Set right by the waters edge with its panoramic views and complete with a romantic open fire and terrace perfect for sipping champagne Ma Maison ticks all the right boxes.
2 Rue Jolie, Akaroa Tel: 03 304 7668
The Little Bistro
The Little Bistro serves hearty, locally sourced, seasonal meals in a fantastic atmosphere.
A Canterbury focused wine list completes the picture to wash down what we've termed 'rustic european' inspired cuisine. If wine is not your thing, there are many craft beers, artisan sodas or even peninsula roasted coffee. With service that goes the extra mile, the best bentwood chair collection in town and an outlook over the green to the sea and volcanic hills of Akaroa, join them for an unforgettable evening.
The Trading Rooms
With beautiful architecture and interior design inspired by the Kaikoura store from which it gets its name, the Trading Rooms Restaurant and Pantry is dedicated to providing a wonderful eating experience. Locally sourced and hand-picked ingredients comprise much of what you’ll find in the Trading Rooms’ pantry, much of which is turned into quaint jars of jams and preserves for you to take home. And as for the menu, the impressive array of local and international chefs have created a list of items to suit the season. Catering to the catch of the day from the harbour and coming up with exquisite dishes from seasonal fruits and vegetables, the Trading Rooms is definitely one to try for an authentic local dining adventure.
Easy going during the day and romantic at night, this fantastic seaside restaurant and bar gives you good reason to come back for breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the week. With several indoor and outdoor dining areas to choose from, as well as a play area for the kids, you can pick your setting to enjoy the range of delicious meals while knowing that the little ones are having a good time too.
Highlights from the breakfast menu include the Breakfast Omelette, with several variations to suit your taste, or if you’re feeling ravenous there’s Bully’s Fatty Boomba Breakfast, which could keep you going for days with its bacon, eggs, black pudding, hash browns and grilled tomatoes on toasted grain bread. Lunch and dinner offer an array of pasta, bread, salad, and soup dishes along with mains crafted from locally sourced ingredients and cooked to perfection.
Akaroa Fish & Chips
It doesn’t get much more Kiwi than Fish & Chips, and Akaroa is famous for theirs. Akaroa Fish & Chips serves up good ol’ Kiwi tucker to Cantabrians and tourists who are after a taste of classic New Zealand cuisine. Fish of the day comes from the harbour itself, and a good giant burger will give you plenty of energy for exploring the bay. Although it may not be the healthiest or most fine dining-esque option along the water front, it’s definitely one that allows you to do your own thing and choose your own waterfront setting.
The Morning After...
If you are spending the night in Akaroa L'escargot Rouge Deli is the perfect place to start the day, the following morning! L’escargot Rouge Deli serves delicious French Style breakfasts. ‘Le Parisien’ breakfast is a popular choice, including a baguette, croissant, pain au chocolat and a side of fresh fruit for a classic sampling of a French morning’s cuisine. Other quintessentially French dishes on offer are the Croque Monsieur, which is Brioche served with Dijon, ham, Swiss cheese and Mornay sauce, and can be upgraded to a Croque Madame with the addition of a poached egg on top. L’escargot Rouge also offers an extensive range of sweet and savoury bakery items to snack on throughout the day. You'll be ready for a day of exploring Akaroa.
67 Beach Road, Akaroa
We'd love to hear what your favourite romantic Akaroa spots are...leave us a comment below :)
1.) Sea Shanties – On the 31st the Hilltop Tavern welcomes in the New Year by bringing lovers of oceanic folk not only the Wellington Sea Shanty Society, but also the much-loved French sea shanty band, Croche Dedans. Bust out the peg legs and eye patches for a night full of some of the finest seaside songs the world has to offer, and see in 2014 overlooking the best views of the bays with a cold beer in hand.
2.) Dinner and Bubbles – The French Farm on Winery Road in Akaroa is putting on quite the spread to send off the year. With your ticket you’ll receive a four-course meal, live music from XFilesDuo, and the obligatory glass of bubbly against this gorgeous backdrop.
3.) Golfing – Once you’ve recovered from the New Years night festivities, why not get out and about at Akaroa Golf Club? On the 2nd of January they hold their annual Men’s New Year Tournament, and on the 3rd it’s a ladies affair with the ‘Wine and Roses’ tournament out on the green.
4.) Back to the Future – Just over the hill from Lyttelton, you can celebrate the New Year by pretending it’s an old one. The Watershed, situated next to the estuary, is putting on a 70s and 80s Retro Themed party. Grab a ticket, dig out that pantsuit or those bellbottoms, and party it up by the water.
5.) Camping at Corsair – If you’re after a little getaway with some mates, book a spot and pitch a tent at Corsair bay. Perhaps the best place to watch the sunrise on a new year’s morning, the beautiful beach and gorgeous scenery are sure to make it a very happy new year indeed.
Quail Island Beach – After a walk around the former farm and leper colony, head down to the beach to set up your banquet. A great place to have a pre-lunch swim, or just rest your feet with a good book in the sand.
Akaroa Domain –
If you’re out and about in the French seaside town, there’s plenty of room down at the Akaroa Domain to throw down a blanket and enjoy those sammies. Bring a ball or the cricket set and while away the afternoon with games on the grass.
Le Bons Bay Beach –
Another great location for a summer dip, Le Bons Bay Beach is a beautiful piece of kiwi paradise. Secluded from the hustle and bustle of the busier Banks Peninsula hangouts, a picnic here is perfect for those who are after a quiet getaway.
Cass Bay –
With walks, sand, and playgrounds galore, you’ll be sure to work up an appetite with a day at Cass. There are three beaches to choose from for splashing about for a bit, or get active and bring along the kayak for a scenic tour of the bay.
Orton Bradley Park –
For a taste of Banks Peninsula’s history and quintessential Kiwi greenery, take the family over to Orton Bradley in Charteris bay for the day. Known for its beautiful tracks that lead to stunning views over the harbour, packing a picnic basket and heading for this destination is a winner for any summer afternoon.
We would love to hear where your favourite picnic spots in Banks Peninsula are....leave and comment and share it with us......
Deservedly hailed as a hero of NZ conservation for being the first minister of fisheries to take dolphin conservation seriously, Pete gave a funny and inspiring account of how he put into place the protected area for Maui’s dolphin. His account of what science made the difference, and how science and politics often collide, but need more to co-operate, made everyone think hard.
This year we celebrated as after years of campaigning the proposed marine reserve for Akaroa was finally approved.
The next four days of the conference were held on Otago University’s campus. With over 348 talks in four concurrent sessions, it was impossible to go to all the ones you wanted to. And there were some really fabulous presentations. So many that it’s hard to single out one or even just a few that were especially good. Terrific, innovative science presented really well by dedicated researchers. Hearing these, and talking to the presenters afterwards, asking questions and sharing ideas – perhaps over a glass of wine, is what conferences offer that is so different to reading each other’s scientific papers.
Two poster evenings, on Tuesday and Thursday, allowed conference goers to view 400 posters summarising research, mostly by students, from all over the globe. Many were excellent, showing that the future of marine mammal science is in good hands. The space available was too tight on the first evening, but a nimble reshuffle by the poster organisers made the second poster evening much more effective and enjoyable. Poster evenings are not passive – the poster author stays with their poster, so they can explain what they did and answer questions. It’s a great way to communicate science.
The last day’s presentations finished at 3pm, and everyone put on their glad rags for the conference dinner and dance. We’d hired Mojo, a band from Queenstown, to get everyone dancing. They did a great job. When the advertised end-time arrived, they were not allowed to stop. It’s great to see very well-known scientists letting down their hair (those that still have hair) prancing around among the students - without too much fear of embarrassment.
All in all, it was a great occasion. Many said it was the best conference they’d ever been to. Also, for many conference goers it put New Zealand on the map. Most were first time visitors. Many said they would be back.
For our team, it was a lot of work to organise, but deeply satisfying. We’re looking forward to some decompression, however!
Marine Science Department
NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust
Steve Dawson PhD
Dept of Marine Science
University of Otago
310 Castle Street
(P.O. Box 56)
Trustee, NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust
This past Saturday was not quite the big day, but it was the first of the big days. Several hundred marine mammal scientists, from all over world, assembled on Otago University’s campus in Dunedin for a set of pre-conference workshops.
The workshops cover a wide range of topics, some predictable – gatherings of scientists who work on particular species (e.g. right whales) or in a particular region (e.g. Hawaii), and others not. Firmly in the “not” category is “What can the Cloud do to save whales”. This was a group concerned about vessel collisions with whales, hoping to develop ways that real-time monitoring and internet technology can be applied to reduce the likelihood of collisions. One development is to have folks in the shipping industry log their sightings with a mobile app called “spotter” which uploads those to a constantly changing map of where whales are - so that area can be avoided by ship captains.
Other workshops focussed on impacts of tourism, bycatch in fishing, and assessing effects of coastal development. And that’s just Saturday, a further set of workshops run tomorrow.
The really big day is today, Monday. About 1200 people will be gathering in the Dunedin Town Hall to listen to a set of “Keynote” addresses by world experts. Today sets the theme of the conference “Marine Mammal Conservation, Science making a difference” by having talks on conservation successes, frustrations and failures, with local and international case studies presented by scientists who are true conservation heroes. The idea is to map out ways to more effectively turn science findings into conservation action – to bridge the gap between science and politics.
It’s an exciting time. The biggest scientific conference ever held in Dunedin. Many, very smart people, working on the most interesting animals on the planet, together in one place. Very cool!
For us on the organising team, there's some relief. First hurdle cleared. So far, no problems.
Steve Dawson PhD
Dept of Marine Science
Marine Science Department
NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust
We hereby extend to you, by way of our blog, an invitation to come along to this major international conference. Knowledge is power and what better way to be inspired and educated than by the world's leading professionals. Over the next three weeks the Black Cat blog will be publishing guest blog posts from the conference so watch this space.
Dr Liz Slooten, Chair of the Conference Organising Committee, Otago University has kindly written us an overview of what's in store and how you can get involved.....
Organising an international conference for more than 1200 Marine Mammal scientists is an intimidating thing. But, what an opportunity to show off our marvelous dolphins, whales, seals and sealions!
The conference theme is Marine Mammal Conservation: Science making a difference.
The conference is five days long, from 9-13 December. It starts with a Plenary Day, with everyone together in the Dunedin Town Hall (one of the few places in Dunedin that will hold 1200 people).
Here, nine international experts will give talks about science-based solutions to global marine mammal conservation problems. The speakers will be emphasising local examples, including Hector’s dolphins,
New Zealand sealions and Australian sealions. To help us do a better job of getting science translated into conservation action, we have ex-Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson to give us the low-down on the interactions between scientists and politicians.
For the next four days, there will be four conference talks on at any one time, with the audience split over four large lecture theatres on Otago University’s Campus. About 1200 people will be giving and attending talks on almost every aspect of marine mammal science, from almost every corner of the globe.
There will also be two poster evenings, on Tuesday and Thursday night. We have 400 posters in total, with half displayed on the Tuesday and half on Thurday night. This also provides an excellent opportunity for wine and cheese, a bit of mingling, talking and brainstorming about all sorts of issues. This sort of social event is where the real business of the conference is conducted.
''You are warmly invited to come to the conference.''
It is open to the public. All you have to do is come to the Registration Desk in the Link Building at Otago University and sign up. The Link Building is on the corner of Cumberland and Albany Streets.
See: www.marinemammalscience.org For more information about the conference (including registration fees)
Of course that’s not the story for everyone. The winners of our recent photography competitions know a thing or two about taking a pretty picture, and you can see the artworks their lenses have captured further down our blog. But for those of you who are aspiring to have a shot at next year’s prizes, here are a few tips on how to capture that perfect photo of Banks Peninsula’s breathtaking scenery.
Now, how complicated this gets depends on what kind of camera you’re using. If you've got the simple, good ol’ point and shoot, and it’s been bought in the past few years, chances are you’ll have a setting on there specifically designed to make taking a landscape shot a breeze. In this case, all you've got to do is make sure you have a steady hand – or even better yet, a tripod – make sure the shot is in focus, and then take the snap.
These days the cameras on mobile phones are producing some fantastic images, and with so many high quality filter apps everyone can be the next budding National Geographic photographer! Check out some awesome shots on Instagram by Jim Richardson. A National Geographic photographer who has been shooting around the globe with his i-phone.
But if you've mastered that aspect of the basics, going a little further with fairly inexpensive equipment isn't as hard as it seems. If your camera has a manual or custom settings option, there are several things you want to think about before making that shutter click.
Firstly, arrange your frame. It’s important to scope out the composition and of what you want to capture before you start clicking. Use the rule of thirds as a general guideline for finding ways to balance out your shot, and play with the zoom to focus in on the best parts of the scene in front of you.
Next, you’ll want to consider the lighting of the shot. How does it look to your eye? How does it look through the camera? Depending on the feel you want to give to an image, adjust the brightness and contrast using your camera’s settings to subdue colours or make them pop. Although these can be adjusted in post-production software, getting the shot as close to how you want it to look as possible at the scene makes life a lot easier in the editing phase. Try playing with the different tones and pick your favourite later on.
Also because of the high contrast and brightness while the sun is high in the sky, many photographers recommend picking your times for landscape shots carefully. If the sun is in danger of overexposing your pics, go for an early morning or late afternoon expedition – you’ll get some amazing hues at these times of the day too. Sometimes it’s worth the 5am wake up call for a beautiful sunrise.
When it comes to action shots, especially on the water, you’ll want to have your camera’s shutter up to speed. If you have a sports mode setting, or the ability to set the shutter speed really high, this will assist in getting clearer, crisper shots of moving subjects. It’s best to go for these when there is ample natural lighting, or a scene where your flash will work, as because the shutter is so fast, there isn’t much time to let a lot of light into the lens. If you get your timing and lighting right, capturing that mid-air dolphin shot shouldn't be too strenuous.
It’s also important that you try your best to ensure the shot is in focus before you press that button. There’s nothing worse than going back through a batch of what would be beautiful shots just to find that something’s out of focus. Using the auto-focus setting is a great way to see that the focal point of your image is in fact just that, but if you’re more confident with your eye, play with the manual focus to blur out the background or foreground, and get a little more creative with your camera.
But finally, what matters most of all is that you get out there and give it a go. The more shots you take, the more comfortable you’ll become behind the lens, and the easier it’ll be to figure out what works, and what doesn't. There’s plenty to see out there, and even more to capture.
Send us your photo's...
Black Cat love to see and share your pictures from Banks Peninsula. If you have ever been on or are going on a Black Cat cruise within the next few weeks be sure to upload your favourite photo and share it. We will send an A4 print to you at your home address and your photo will go into a competition to win an Ipad mini! Check out the competition here.
Do you have any great photography tips? Share them with us below and we'll give away a pair of Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise tickets to the one we think is best!
Tickets will be awarded by Dec 31st 2013.
Situated in the middle of a volcanic crater flooded with the water that makes up Lyttelton Harbour, Quail Island is a great destination for a day trip with the whole family and a fantastic Christchurch attraction. Teeming with walks, beaches safe for swimming, and a rich and interesting history, the shores of Quail Island are a superb place to while away a summer’s day. Only 15 minutes from Lyttelton Harbour it's possibly the shortest, but one of the finest New Zealand cruise trips you can do.
And just in-case that hasn’t already got you packing a picnic and digging out the togs, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about the island that should entice you to go exploring:
1. Although a summer’s picnic is a perfect way to spend the day at Quail Island, there are several activities that the Department of Conservation, NZ Seaweek, and Black Cat Cruises plan throughout the year. Take part in the Kiwi Ranger experience with DoC, take a guided walk during Seaweek, or take part in Black Cat’s fantastic Easter Egg Hunt. All are great and popular ways of getting to know the island.
2. Quail Island is named after the now extinct native Quail, or korere, that lived on the island when Captain William Mein Smith first discovered it in 1842.
3. In the late early 1900s, the island was used as a place to exile those with diseases thought to be contagious. Early European settlers created a small leprosy colony in 1907, before the lepers were sent to Fiji in 1925. It was also used as a place of quarantine during the influenza epidemic of 1917.
4. Before they left for their fateful journey to the Antarctic, Scott and Shackleton used the island to prepare for the expedition. They would train their ponies and sled dogs on the slopes of Quail Island, hoping it would prepare them for the icy trip to follow.
5. The Māori name for the island is Ōtamahua, which means the place where children collect sea eggs. Although the island was never inhabited, it seems that it was visited often because it was a good resource for shellfish, flax, bird’s eggs and other foods.
6. There are two brief periods of farming history on the island. In 1851, the Ward brothers farmed the island, until two of the brothers drowned in the harbour. Later on, from 1934 – 1975, Quail Island was also leased out for farming, before being converted into the recreational reserve we know it as today.
7. Māori settlers in the area used a rocky outcrop off Quail Island, called King Billy Island, to shape and refine tools made from pounamu.
8. The introduction of European mammalian pests such as rabbits, mice, rats, stoats, and ferrets created problems for the native species originally inhabiting the island. However, in recent years they have been removed to ensure that the place is a safe haven for native birds such as tui and tomtit.
9. Iconic New Zealand children’s author, Margaret Mahy, got a lot of her inspiration from Quail Island. She lived in the surrounding Governor’s Bay, and television adaptations of her books, such as Kaitangata Twitch, were filmed in the area.
10. In recent years, conservation has become a big part of the island. The Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust, in conjunction with Christchurch’s Catholic Cathedral College, have worked to provide the rare white flippered little blue penguins in the area with breeding boxes in an effort to grow the population. The trust, and its supporters and volunteers are also focused on restoring the native vegetation on the island, trying to provide and preserve a safe home for the native birds and sea birds that inhabit it.
So if you are looking for things to do in Christchurch, look no further. If you are visiting New Zealand for the first time or a kiwi local looking for a fun day out in Christchurch Quail Island won't disappoint.To find out more about Quail Island, visit the Department of Conservation website, or better yet, take the Black Cat Ferry over and explore it first-hand. For prices and the schedule click here.
Piper and Heidsieck French Fest 2013 is happening from the 11th to the 13th of October in Akaroa. Just in case the quaint seaside village itself wasn’t enough to entice you over for the weekend, here are five reasons you should head over the hill for this fantastic celebration of everything French.
Fête de Rue (Street Party)
The festival kicks off on Friday evening along Beach Road with a fantastic night of food and entertainment. Enjoy open air dining overlooking the sea at one of the main road’s many excellent restaurants, each offering a menu full of French cuisine. And to add to the excitement, roving performers and musicians will amuse and entertain diners, while the evening is topped off by a fireworks display.
The Landing & Parade
Theatrics and drama galore are ready to be found on Saturday morning. If you head over early to the shores French Bay you’ll get the chance to hear the story of Akaroa’s colonial history retold by the descendants of those who arrived on the Comte de Paris back in 1840. Educational and entertaining, this part of French Fest gives you some background to what the celebrations are really all about.
Festivale dans La Verte (Festival on the Green)
If you’d prefer a bit of a sleep on Saturday, come over the hill a little later for the Festivale dans La Verte. An official opening ceremony kicks the day off at 11.30, with a brass band parade and buskers to get the festivities going. Music and markets go throughout the day, and the local toy library’s puppet shows, face painting, and bouncy castle are bound to keep the kids busy too. And for the more competitive, there’s the chance to take out the title of the French Waiters Race, or try your hand at the classically French game of Péntanque.
French Fest Mardi Gras
When the sun starts to set the show really gets going on Saturday night. The parade leading into the Carnival Party at Jubilee Park will leave you dazzled and delighted. Bands, roving street performers, and even colourful can-can dancers will fill the streets and bring the night to life. And once darkness sets in at around 9pm, the Carnival Show gets going – something a little more risqué for a more mature audience.
Finish of a fabulously French weekend with a day of fun and games at the French Cricket tournament on the Village Green. A mix of 20/20 and backyard cricket makes this light-hearted sport great for a day of sitting back and picnicking in the sun with the whole family. But don’t be fooled by the jovial nature of the game – once it gets down to the Grand Finals the teams get a little more than a little competitive in pursuit of the prestigious title and the trophy that comes with it.
Whether you’re there for a day, a night, or the whole festival, the Piper and Heidsieck French Fest has something fun and French for everyone to experience. See the full schedule below.
1. Getting in the Water
With the harbour on its doorstep, the fact that you can get in the water in Akaroa may not be all that surprising - but the array of exciting activities available is. During the warmer months of the year, going out into the harbour for a refreshing swim, hiring a kayak or pedal boat, or jumping off the wharf is the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon with the kids. For those who are a little more adventurous, book an Akaroa Sea Kayaking trip - and get you up close and personal with what the water has to offer. Or if you want to up the ante, clip on a life-jacket and take a spin around the bay with Akaroa Jet Adventures. And of course there is always the wonderful staff at Black Cat cruises to tour you around the harbour on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise and introduce you to the fascinating history, geography and wildlife of the region.
2. Perfect Your Culinary Skills
Situated by the waterfront with a gorgeous view of the bay, The Akaroa Cooking School is a great place to spend a day picking up a recipe or two. Named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten places to learn to cook local cuisine in the world, you can be sure that you'll be learning how to make something exciting with great produce. Using fresh, local ingredients - much of which is grown in their own garden - and keeping class sizes small so that everyone gets one on one time with the chef, The Akaroa Cooking School ensures quality for your day of cooking. And of course, a fantastic meal you can replicate at home.
3. Under the Stars
Away from the light pollution of the inner city, Akaroa provides the perfect backdrop for aspiring astronomy aficionados. On Friday and Saturday nights you can head over to Astronomic Delights at the nearby Heritage Park to gaze up at the stars through a 10 inch Newtonian telescope. With spectacular views, especially on a really clear night, it’s well worth the 10 minute drive out of the township – just remember to wrap up warm.
4. En Français
Every second year Akaroa celebrates its French cultural heritage with the Piper Heidsieck French Fest. As New Zealand’s only French settlement, this event gives you the unique chance to experience what that those who started out in this place had to offer. Market stalls, a parade, and a re-enactment of the French landing at the beach are just some of the famous and fun activities on offer. Add fabulous French cuisine and the streets lined with entertainment and music to the mix and you’ll see why this Akaroa event is a must-do. This year the French Fest will be held on October 11th – 13th and the Christchurch City Council will also be helping locals get into the spirit of things with a special Christchurch to Akaroa shuttle service running on the 12th. Check out our next blog post for more details...
5. Go For a Walk
Seeing the beauty of Akaroa’s natural landscape on foot, or walking up and over the surrounding hills is a great way to spend some time in Banks Peninsula. Go for a wander yourself on one of the marked tracks around the harbour, soaking up the beautiful views before lunch by the seaside. Or if you’re up for more of a challenge, check out the Banks Peninsula Track – a private track that includes volcanic coastline, native bush, waterfalls and sandy beaches. You can book a two day walk for a more fast-paced and high fitness adventure, or a four day trek for a more relaxed and leisurely pace through the hills. The spectacular views make trekking through the hills one of the most stunning experiences in the South Island.
For more information on Akaroa visit www.akaroa.com
We'd love to know what your favourite Akaroa activity is? Tell us below and share your experiences of time spent here...
Dolphin Assisted Therapy
Over recent years, research into the benefits of swimming with dolphins has resulted in some interesting discoveries. Dolphin Assisted Therapy, as it is sometimes called, is where people with mental or physical disabilities undergo sessions where they swim and interact with dolphins in the hope that it will improve their ailments. This has become a fairly popular treatment for those with disabilities, as its benefits are said to include improving the immune system, self-control, awareness, and feelings of compassion and self-confidence. However, although successes have been achieved, there are mixed opinions about taking the animal out of its natural habitat.
The benefits of swimming with dolphins in the wild, with minimal interference in their natural day-to-day lives, can have a great outcome for both humans and the animals.
The Science Bit
Firstly, for us humans, swimming in general is beneficial for our health. Getting active out in the open water is not only great exercise, but also a wonderfully refreshing experience. The salt water you are swimming in contains many magnificent minerals which are great for your health and you skin. Sodium keeps the immune system in check. Bromide relieves muscle pain and soreness. Magnesium helps with a healthy nervous system. Not to mention the fact that an improvement in circulation and the state and elasticity of your skin are also benefits that have been attributed to swimming in seawater. And if this isn’t enough to convince you salt water also helps to detoxify the body and promote cellular regeneration.
With the summer approaching it’s simply great fun to get out there and cool off!
And then, of course, there are the dolphins. We get the thrill of seeing what it’s like for these fascinating creatures in their environment, and they reap the benefits that come with our interest in them. Aspects of keeping the species alive and well protected, such as community education, conservation initiatives and legislation, and encouraging an interest in nature and sustainability, are all bi-products of marine ecotourism and have wonderful outcomes for the dolphins.
If one looks at what people like Liz Slooten, Ron Bingham, and others associated with wildlife conservation in Banks Peninsula have done, it’s easy to see how this fun tourist activity can have a long-lasting, positive effect for our endangered species.
Swimming with the Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa really is a once in a lifetime experience as not only are the world’s rarest and smallest, they are also native to New Zealand and Akaroa is the only place you can book this experience.
If you’re keen to see the benefits of swimming with the dolphins for yourself, get out there with Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa. Last Sunday our boats hit the water again for the summer 2013/14 season.
You can find more information and make bookings here
Have you had an experience with dolphins you'd like to share? Tell us your story by commenting below. We'd love to hear them!
1. Little Blue Penguin: The blue penguin is the smallest penguin in the world, standing at only 25cm tall and weighing in at under a kilogram.
2. Yellow-eyed Penguin: Another rare New Zealand penguin, the Māori name for this bird is ‘hoiho,’ which means ‘noise shouter.’
3. Black Shag: The Black Shag can often be seen feeding on fish in the harbour. This used to cause a stir amongst fishing enthusiasts who thought they were eating sport fish. However, the Black Shag does not have a significant impact on the fishing population, despite still being persecuted by some.
4. Mollymawk: Part of the Albatross family and only found in the southern hempisphere these large birds are very vocal and can often be seen swooping around at the heads of Akaroa bay.
5. Spotted Shag: Ledges of cliffs, overhanging the water of the sea below, are popular breeding and nesting areas for Spotted Shags. This makes Banks Peninsula an ideal area to spot one.
6.White-faced Heron: The White-faced Heron is originally an Australian species, but introduced itself here in the 1940s and as a result is classified as a native bird of New Zealand.
7. Pukeko: Known for running out in front of oncoming vehicles, although the Pukeko may appear to have mild suicidal tendencies, they are often seen there because the habitat is ideal for hunting and gathering food.
8. Australasian Bittern: Shy and secretive birds during the day, the Australasian Bittern usually come out at night to mate and hunt for food.
9.New Zealand Falcon: Fearless, the New Zealand Falcon has a reputation for swooping down, finding its prey, and not letting go until it gets what it wants. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of these beautiful creatures.
10. South Island Pied Oystercatcher: There are many species of Oystercatchers, so many that experts find it difficult to agree on a number. The South Island Pied species is a wary and restless creature with a shrill cry.
11. Caspian Tern: Another international bird, the Caspian Tern is also known as the ‘King of Sea-Swallows’ on account of it’s very large size.
12. Shining Cuckoo: This pretty little bird is about the size of a sparrow and gets its name from having an iridescent coat that shines greenish blue in the light.
13. Morepork: You wouldn’t expect it, but these small owls that lurk in the trees are carnivorous creatures, sometimes feeding on animals larger than themselves.
14. Kingfisher: The collective noun for a group of Kingfisher birds is a “concentration,” perhaps referring to its broad and steady build, strong enough to take down small mammals.
15. New Zealand Pipit: The pipit has quite drab colouring, but this is to provide camouflage, allowing them to blend in against the forest floor.
16. Fantail: Although the Fantail can suffer greatly through a harsh winter, they’ve developed strategies to survive, like having more than one brood in the right conditions, sleeping in late to avoid the cold morning frosts, and tucking away in bushes and haystacks to keep themselves warm.
17. Song Thrush: You can distinguish the Song Thrush from other birds by listening out for its cheerful and uplifting tunes. Some say their musical ability in terms of rhythm, tone, harmony, and melody can compete with that of humans.
18. Bellbird: Another song bird, this little critter makes the sound of a single bell-like note, perfect to break a morning slumber.
19. Starling: The starling gets its name from the markings on its feathers that gleam like tiny white stars. However, this only happens in the summer months, glistening in the sun.
20.Silvereye: Like the Tui and the Bellbird, the Silvereye has a brush-tipped tongue for drinking nectar.
1. Dr. Liz Slooten
An Associate Professor in the Zoology Department at the University of Otago, Dr. Liz Slooten is the leading expert on Hector’s Dolphins. Having conducted many years of research on these marine mammals, Slooten has done a lot to provide a good base of information to encourage the conservation of these creatures. The research started out with her and her colleague, Steve Dawson’s PhD project in 1984 and has blossomed from there. Together, and with the help of their PhD and Masters students, they are finding out more and more about what it takes to conserve this beautiful species. Slooten and Dawson’s frequent research trips that monitor the population, location, and reproduction of the dolphins are vital to understanding what we need to do to save these creatures. In 2004, the pair were awarded the Sir Charles Fleming Award for outstanding contribution to conservation science.
2. Steve Dawson
Dawson is another Associate Professor who works with Slooten in Otago. For Dawson, the main concern for conservation of Hector’s Dolphins is making sure that those who can help get the word out there. On the WWF website, Dawson talks about his role in protecting the species: “Conservation action is about changing people’s behaviour. In my view, scientists need to take a greater role in translating the science into action. They understand the animals best, and are least affected by vested interests.” With this kind of attitude, and the dedication both Dawson and Slooten share to finding out how we can save this species, it is easy to see how the two of them have helped us get to where we are with the conservation of Hector’s dolphins today.
3. Ron Bingham
Ron Bingham, the founder of Black Cat Cruises, started the company in 1985. In doing so, his vision turned into New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator. The aim of the company was to show tourists what Akaroa harbour and Banks Peninsula have to offer in terms of scenery and wildlife. With the declining population of Hector’s Dolphins in the harbour, Black Cat began to work closely with marine biologists, Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson, to ensure that the research and campaigning needed to preserve this species was carried out. Now one of New Zealand’s leading tourism operations, Black Cat plays a big part in bringing about awareness of the plight of Hector’s Dolphins and encourages education about conservation for these creatures and other marine life in our waters.
4. Jim Anderton
Building on the work of previous politicians such as Helen Clark and Pete Hodgson, as Minister of Fisheries in 2008, Jim Anderton put together a package that ensured measures were taken to protect Hector’s and Maui Dolphins in New Zealand. The measures focussed on reducing the negative impact of in-shore fishing for New Zealand dolphins, and included regional bans, restrictions on set-netting, trawling and drift netting, and an increase in monitoring people’s interaction with dolphins where it may bring harm to the species. Although there is still a lot the government could be doing to ensure the species avoids extinction, the measures Anderton put in place, in combination with past efforts that created marine mammal sanctuaries, are undoubtedly a great step in the right direction for saving Hector’s Dolphins.
5. Will Rayment
Will Rayment is another Otago University lecturer who has taken an interest in our Hector’s Dolphins. He does research and lectures on marine ecology, conservation, and species-habitat relationships, amongst other things, using Hector’s Dolphins as the subject for these investigations. Rayment believes there is hope for the Hector’s Dolphin if we can ensure the small population we have is protected well enough: “I think they can recover if fishing impacts cease now. Survival of small populations is all about chance events. All we can do is control the direct human impacts. Even then it might be too late, but we have to have the attitude that there's a possibility.” In addition to fostering interest in the conservation of this species through his academic work, he’s also often found behind the lens on research trips with Slooten and Dawson, capturing some iconic photographs of these creatures.
If you would like to help save New Zealand's Hector's Dolphins check out our previous post here...
If you have feedback or advice please do share it with us by commenting below...we would love to hear from you.
Until next time...
The Black Cat Team
Hector’s Dolphins are officially listed as an endangered species, and although this status means that conservationists have been working to reduce the dangers for dolphins in New Zealand waters, there are still some imminent threats that could devastate the population if humans aren’t careful in the water.
Here are the top threats we should be aware of:
Fishing using gillnets has been around for centuries, but nowadays they run the risk of catching a lot more than just fish. When a dolphin gets entangled in a gill net, it cannot reach the surface to take a breath and then eventually suffocates. These nets are set in place out in the ocean, weighted down so that as fish try to swim through, their gills get caught in the net. Unfortunately, anything that is bigger than the holes of the net risks getting tangled in it. In addition to this, there is also a problem with the use of nylon nets, as if a net is lost, it remains in the ocean for a very long time, rather than falling apart as the old rope ones did. Combine these facts with the use of hydraulic motors to haul in these nets, and our native dolphins are more at risk of getting caught up in gillnets than ever.
Commercial trawlers are also a problem for our dolphins. Although independent observers have reported fewer dolphin deaths with trawlers, these observations don’t take into account the fact that there are a large number of trawling vessels in New Zealand waters, meaning that it could be happening more than we think.
There are several substances that can cause real damage to marine life if they are let to wreak havoc in our waters. In the past substances such as PCBs, which were used for things like coolant fluids in electrical equipment, and DDTs, which were found in insecticides, were commonplace in New Zealand. Although now banned, these chemicals were known to cause environmental damage. Chemicals such as these affect the health of Hector’s Dolphins, getting into their systems and causing disease. Dioxins, which have similar effects, are also released into the atmosphere through pollution from burning wood and metals, and can make their way into dolphin habitat. Scientists have also found the presence of organochlorines in Hector’s Dolphins, which are known to cause complications with breeding and reduce reproduction rates; however they are not in high enough levels to cause these problems yet. Keeping an eye on the levels of pollution in our waters, and what’s polluting them, is crucial in figuring out how we can avoid devastating Hector’s Dolphins in this way.
3. Boat Disturbance
Boats pose yet another hazard for dolphins related to human recreational activities. Hector’s Dolphins like to hang around close to shore, in bays and harbours, which is unfortunately the site of much boat activity. As dolphins prefer being near the surface of the water, if people aren’t careful they risk running them over with their propellers. This can be especially tragic, as the dolphins that the most likely to come close to a boat are newborn calves that swim near the surface of the water, and also swim relatively slowly. It pays to be wary of what’s in the water below you when in a dolphin habitat.
4. Habitat Loss
The development of coastal areas and growing aquaculture activity poses another threat to Hector’s Dolphins. With coastal areas being built up, there is the potential for dolphins to have their habitat invaded by the presence of people. In many places throughout the world we have seen the devastating consequences to marine life caused by the development of cities and infrastructure, bringing things like pollution and erosion, and destroying the natural way the environment supports these animals. On our own coasts, we have seen how the development of aquaculture, in which coastal space is used for farming, can have negative environmental effects when it is not managed correctly. Although there has been legislation put in place to slow down the development of aquaculture industries in New Zealand in order to conserve our marine habitat, the government is now encouraging more aquaculture activity. Aquaculture, combined with the urban development of our coastline, is something we have to look out for to ensure that it is not putting our marine life, and especially our Hector’s Dolphins, in more danger than they are already in. Less than 1% of New Zealand's mainland coastline is currently protected by marine reserves however we finally saw the introduction of the Akaroa marine reserve earlier this year which is a step in the right direction to protect the delicate marine biodiversity.
To find out about what you can do to help save our Hector’s Dolphins, check out our blogpost '5 Things You Can Do To Save Hector’s Dolphins' and be sure to look out for our next post in two weeks time 'Five people who have made a difference to Hector's dolphins' for some further inspiration.
If you would like to make a donation to the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust to help the conservation efforts simply click here