Welcome to Banks Peninsula, home of The Hector’s dolphins and eco-tourism pioneers Black Cat Cruises

Monthly Archives: February 2011

TOP 10 PLACES: WHERE TO SWIM WITH DOLPHINS

New Zealand is home to 11 types of dolphins, and there are a handful of places in the country where you can swim with the playful creatures.  Have you ever wondered where else in the world you can swim with dolphins?  We have!  We did a little research and came up with this round-up of our top 10 picks for swimming with dolphins around the world.

10. California, USA

 

Seaworld in San Diego, California

Sunny California is home to any number of theme parks, and a few of these offer guests the opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins.  Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo and Seaworld in San Diego are the most popular.

9. Jamaica

 

Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

There are two places to swim with dolphins in the tropical paradise of Jamaica: Dolphin Cove in Ocho Rios and at the Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay, however the latter is only available to guests of the resort.

8.  Cancun, Mexico

 

Delphinus Xcaret, Mexico

You’re be spoiled for choice looking for a dolphin experience in Cancun.  Shop around online for discounted rates: with so many locations there’s usually a special deal on somewhere.  Look into the Wet’n’Wild theme park, Swim with Dolphins Cancun, and Dolphin Discovery.  The nearby Riviera Maya offers even more choices: Delphinus Xcaret, Delphinus Xel-Ha and Delphinus Riviera Maya.

7.  Egypt

 

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Off the east coast of Egypt, the Red Sea is home to a population of wild Spinner dolphins.  These acrobatic animals are known for entertaining observers by spinning in the air when they jump.  Sharm El Sheikh, a large resort city offers possibilities for swimming with these dolphins both in the wild and in a marine park.

6.  Florida, USA

 

Dolphin Research Centre in the Florida Keys, USA

With about 1,926 kilometres of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida is a great place to see and swim with dolphins.  The Dolphin Research Centre in the Florida Keys is a popular location for dolphin swimming.  This is also quite possibly the only place in the world where you can have a dolphin paint you a t-shirt.

5.  Dubai

 

Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Considered the Las Vegas of the Middle East, Dubai has every attraction you can imagine: from indoor ski slopes to an underwater hotel.  Naturally, Dubai has opportunities for dolphin swimming too!  There are two options: the Dubai Dolphinarium and the Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah.  Definitely the most extravagant swimming with dolphins experience in the world!

4. Bali, Indonesia

 

Melka Excelsior Hotel in Bali, Indonesia

The island of Bali is home to several organisations that offer encounters with tame dolphins.  The Dolphin Pool at the Melka Excelsior Hotel in Lovina is a peaceful rehabilitation centre for dolphins that have been injured in the wild or mistreated in captivity.  Playing with humans is part of their exercise and healing, so you can be sure it will be a great experience for both you and the dolphins.

3.  Hawaii, USA

 

Kahala Resort on Oahu, Hawaii, USA

Hawaii is chock full of opportunities for dolphin swimming.  Bottlenose and spinner dolphins live around the island chain, and a number of boat companies offer charter cruises that will take you to where they tend to congregate.  If you’re looking for a guaranteed encounter, there are also several parks and resorts…  Try Dolphin Quest at Kahala Resort and Sea Life Park on Oahu.

2.  The Bahamas

 

Swim Wth Dolphins Bahamas, the Bahamas

Swim With Dolphins Bahamas and Dolphin Encounters both offer dolphin swimming at a dolphin sanctuary on Blue Lagoon Island.  The dolphins are friendly and trained to play and interact with people.  If you have a full week to devote to dolphins, WildQuest on Bimini does groups retreats where dolphin swimming is combined with yoga and meditation classes.

1. Akaroa, New Zealand

 

Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa Harbour, New Zealand

New Zealand’s South Island is the only home to the small and playful Hector’s dolphin. Black Cat is the only dolphin swim operator on Banks Peninsula, where many Hector’s dolphins live.  Set in beautiful Akaroa Harbour, swimming with these dolphins in their natural habit is an experience unlike any other!

QUEEN MARY 2 CRUISE SHIP : ESCORTING OUT OF LYTTELTON HARBOUR

Have you ever seen a cruise ship up close?  We see about 50 cruise ships a year docking in Lyttleton Harbour, and the sheer size of these ships never stops impressing us!  When we witness just how large these ships can be, we have to take a moment to consider what a feat of human ingenuity they are.

Cruise ships in Lyttelton

 

The Queen Mary 2

In January, the massive Diamond Princess Cruise Ship docked in Lyttelton and Black Cat was given the privilege of escorting the ship out of the harbour.  We gave our guests a very special two-hour ride alongside the Diamond Princess as she left Lyttelton for open sea.  A unique and memorable experience for everyone!

We had such a great time with the Diamond Princess that when we heard about the iconic Queen Mary 2 (QM2) docking in Lyttelton on the 26th of February, we jumped at the chance to escort this impressive ocean liner.

Once again, Black Cat will be offering cruise escort tours to our guests.  Join us for a two-hour tour on the 26th Feb 2011 (5:30pm to 7:30pm) as we accompany the Queen Mary 2 out of Lyttelton Harbour.

QM2’s classic design

We can’t wait for the chance to see this impressive liner up close and personal.  Unlike typical cruise ships, the QM2 was designed in the style of vintage ocean liners like the Queen Elizabeth 2 (built in 1967) and the original Queen Mary (built in 1936).

Her classic style lends her a very distinct look.  The design of the ship is so iconic that she’s even been the inspiration for cruise ships in movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Poseidon and 2012.

Facts and figures

Be sure to head down to Lyttelton on February 26 to glimpse the ship from the public jetty.  Here are a few things to know about Lyttelton Harbour’s honoured guest for the day:

 

    • The QM2 was built in 2003 and was, at the time, the largest passenger ship ever built.  She has since been surpassed by a few cruise ships, but remains the largest ocean liner in the world.

 

    • To get a feel for the size of the ship, imagine Westminster Tower (Big Ben) in London.  Now imagine 3 and a half Big Bens stacked on top of each other…  That’s about the length of the QM 2.

 

    • The QM 2 has a passenger capacity of 2,620.

 

    • How do you keep 2,620 people entertained?  Well, the QM2 has an on-board cinema, shopping arcade, planetarium (the first planetarium at sea!), ten restaurants, spa, 8,000 volume library, five swimming pools, gym, basketball court, kennels and childcare facilities.  Not to mention the 300+ works of museum-quality art on display throughout the ship.

 

    • The QM2’s whistle is audible for 16 km.

 

Our captain is well-versed on the liner and will be entertaining guests of our tour with facts and anecdotes about the QM2.  And, of course, nothing beats an evening cruise of beautiful Lyttelton Harbour.  Keep your fingers crossed for the possibility of dolphin sightings!  Contact us for more information on our cruise ship escort tour.

THINGS TO DO IN CHRISTCHURCH ON A LONG WEEKEND

Check out our most recent blog post about what is open in Christchurch since the earthquakes.

New Zealand is known for its outdoor adventures: for glaciers and fjords, volcanoes and pristine beaches. And while New Zealanders do love to be outside, the fact is that most of us live in developed urban areas.

Living in cities doesn’t mean we spend all our time in air-conditioned shopping malls and enjoy your time in Christchurch, like a true Cantabrian.

Friday 5-laaaaate

 

Botanic Gardens

For most of us, the weekend starts on Friday afternoons. Pick up some sandwich fillings, fresh bread and snacks in town and wander around the Botanic Gardens until you find the perfect picnic spot (there are some nice ones by the river, just be prepared to share with the ducks).

SOL Square

After dinner, head east, into the heart of town for some live music. SOL Square (which stands for South of Litchfield – conveniently describing the address) is a mainstay of the nightclub scene. The square features trendy bars and restaurants set hidden behind industrial brick buildings. You can definitely spend an evening bar-hopping here.

Saturday

 

Arts Centre Craft Market

Walk off the remnants of last night at the Arts Centre craft market. Wander past the handmade jewellery, crafts, delicious ice creams and don’t miss out the fudge cottage. If the smell of the fried food is too much for you, catch a bus or drive to Lyttelton for the crisp, fresh aroma of the weekly farmer’s market.

Lyttelton Farmer’s Market

Once you’ve stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies (you know you’ll want a snack later in the afternoon), wander around Lyttelton’s hip main street. Pop into one of the many cafes for a latte and a sandwich. Lyttelton Coffee Company offers a great view from the back porch.

Hiking in the Port Hills

If you took a bus, strap your hiking boots on and get trekking over the Port Hills to Sumner Beach. The paths are well marked, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a map. The hike should take about 4 hours.

If you drove yourself to the harbour, you’re in for a treat. Take Sumner Road out of Lyttelton and then detour to the left when it intersects with Summit Road. Park at one of the lots off the main road for a scenic walk to burn off your lunch. Mountain bike trails are also plentiful, so definitely bring your bike. Once you’ve fully exhausted yourself, drive down into Sumner.

Fish & Chips on Sumner Beach

There should still be a few hours of sunlight left for you to enjoy this charming little beach town. Cool off in the temperate ocean, lie out on the sand and climb up Cave Rock (if you still have the energy!). When hunger strikes, pick up a package of fish and chips to enjoy by the beach. An ice cream cone while the sun sets is the perfect dessert.

If it’s not quite bedtime, catch a film at Sumner’s 70 year-old cinema—the only one of its kind still standing in Christchurch.

Sunday

 

Beautiful Akaroa the French Colony

The last day of the weekend is popular for a day trip as we try to cram in a vacation before we have to head back to work. Akaroa is a good choice, since it is close enough for a day trip but worlds away from what we’re used to in Christchurch.

Known as New Zealand’s French colony, Akaroa isn’t exactly what most people would consider ‘French’, but it’s still awfully charming. Take a relaxing stroll down the Rue Lavaudor park yourself on a scenic bench with a book. Akaroa is a relaxing town you won’t realise you are only an hour drive from Christchurch.

Akaroa Cafes and Restaurants

There are plenty of boutique cafes and restaurants for lunch. Check out a few menus and choose whatever looks good. With an abundance of restaurants serving French cuisine, this may be the only taste of France you get in New Zealand.

Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa Harbour

Enjoy an incredible experience swimming with the worlds smallest and rarest dolphins. Hector’s dolphins are protected in the Akaroa harbour by a marine mammal sanctuary and this cruise gives you the chance to see them up close.

Monday

 

Akaroa – Relax, Shop and Enjoy

The morning will be spent in lovely Akaroa. Take time out to read a book on a bench overlooking the harbour. Treat yourself to an ice cream and take a walk up the jetty at the gorgeous shops including the famous pearls from Akaroa.

 

Cruise on Akaroa Harbour

In the afternoon, hope on board a Black Cat cruise for a stunning tour of Akaroa Harbour. You’ll get a great look at the marine wildlife that makes its home in the area including fur seals, penguins and the tiny Hector’s dolphin.

Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory

Drive back to Christchurch on the shuttle or your rental car and make sure you stop in to pick up some award winning cheese from Barry’s Bay Cheese factory. These are produced with some of the finest milk from the pastures of the Banks Peninsula.

We hope you enjoy your stay in Christchurch and have seen many of the wonderful Christchurch attractions.

CHRISTCHURCH SIGHTSEEING TOURS & WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS

Welcome to Christchurch!  We live in a diverse and scenic city, and while many visitors are attracted to the South Island for Alps and fjords, don’t discount the

Sumner Beach Christchurch. Photo credit: Flickr

sumner-beach-christchurch

city of Christchurch for some excellent sightseeing options.  New Zealand’s second largest city and the biggest on the South Island, Christchurch has plenty for you to do and see during your stay.

A charming coastal city surrounded by scenic hills…  It doesn’t get much better.

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Here are a few of our top picks for sightseeing in  the Christchurch area:

Downtown Christchurch Sightseeing

 

Hagley Park Christchurch. Photo credit Flickr

hagley-park-christchurch

Even after the damage caused by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September 2010, downtown Christchurch is a showcase for beautiful gothic architecture.  You could hop on board the red and gold tram that snakes through the city, or simply design your own walking tour, but definitely take some time to explore downtown.  Highlights include the elaborate Arts Centre complex and, of course, the postcard perfect Christchurch Cathedral.

And while you’re in the area, swing into the Botanic Gardens at Hagley Park.  The Botanic Gardens take up 21 hectares (75 acres) of the massive Hagley Park just west of the city centre.  The Gardens were founded in 1863 and features collections of plants from all over the world, as well as a large selection of New Zealand natives.  You can take a guided tour of the Botanic Gardens on a quirky green ‘caterpillar’ shuttle.

The Best View in Town

 

Cathedral Square Christchurch. Photo Credit Flickr

christchurch-cathedral-square

For a unique view of the busy city centre, you can’t beat the scenery from the Cathedral tower.  A $7 admission gives you the chance to climb the tower’s steep 133 steps to the alcoves at the top.  You’ll have a fantastic panoramic view of downtown Christchurch!

While the Cathedral offers a great view from the middle of the city, the Port Hills offer another worthwhile vantage.  To get to the top in a memorable way, take the gondola that transports you through the air to the top of the hills: 500m above sea level.  From the top, you’ll have a stunning view every way you turn: admire the spread of the Canterbury Plains to the foot of the Southern Alps on one side and the photogenic hills and blue-green harbours of Banks Peninsula on another.

Heritage and Cultural Tours

 

Maori cultural tours at Willowbank

If you’re looking to add ‘time travel’ to your Christchurch sightseeing to-do list, pay a visit to Ferrymead Heritage Park.  This park is located on the site of New Zealand’s first public railway and celebrates life in the early 1900s with a recreated township and functioning train as well as an informative museum.

For a cultural tour that introduces you to pre-European life in New Zealand, Ko Tane Living Maori Village at Willowbank is the perfect spot.  An evening at Ko Tane includes a guided tour of the village, demonstrations of traditional lifestyle and hunting techniques of the Maori people, and a presentation showcasing the traditional dances performed by Maori men and women.

Wildlife Encounters

 

Black Cat Wildlife Cruises

christchurch-sightseeing-cruises

Even though it’s an urban area, there are several Christchurch sightseeing options for wildlife lovers!  Willowbank Wildlife Reserve boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of New Zealand native animals in the country.  The kiwi house is especially popular—a great opportunity to see New Zealand’s most famous birds up close and personal!

And don’t forget the marine life!  Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours are home to some of New Zealand’s most interesting and unique animals, like the friendly Hector’s dolphin, tiny White-Flippered penguin and the graceful albatross.  You definitely don’t want to miss a chance to see these animals—many of them are only found in Banks Peninsula. Blackcat wildlife cruises are the best way to catch a glimpse of these cool creatures in their natural habitat.

Seaside Sightseeing

 

Quail Island

Christchurch is a coastal city, with several great options for beach activities.  Sumner beach, home to the iconic cave rock, is fairly sheltered from wind, making it a favourite among families and sunbathers.  New Brighton beach has its own charms and boasts along pier extending into the ocean.  The surf at New Brighton is better than at Sumner, and the shores are filled with people taking advantage of the waves.

And for a more remote coastal adventure, Black Cat runs a ferry from Lyttelton to uninhabited Quail Island in the middle of the harbour. It takes about 2.5 hours to walk to circumference of the island, and along the way you’ll be treated to views of pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs and even a few shipwrecks along the way!

Ripapa Island testimonial

“Thanks for organising our trip to Ripapa Island with our holiday programme.  We wish to give positive feedback on the whole experience.  We were greeted on time and by your friendly staff.  Our group of young people aged 9-12 really enjoyed seeing the tunnels, guns and going to a place only 2 of them had ever been too before.  The information given in the museum was well received, not too long, but long enough!  We were very impressed with the young lady who took charge on the day, who took us through the formal programme and then allowing us the flexibility and freedom for the kids to do their own exploring, while also making boundaries clear.  This free time was definitely a good part of the day.”

Banking on the Banks Peninsula

A great blog post about Akaroa:

“Two extinct volcanoes. Two harbours. One drop dead gorgeous peninsula just over the hill from Christchurch.

When I finally score the real ‘Bank Error in Your Favour’ card instead of Monopoly’s version, I’m going to buy a ‘bach’ in Akaroa, the faux-French heart of the Banks Peninsula. Once a French colonial outpost from the era when the French and English were competing for dominion in the Antipodes, it has tenaciously held on to its short-lived French-ified past.”

Read the full blog post.

BANKING ON THE BANKS PENINSULA

A great blog post about Akaroa:

“Two extinct volcanoes. Two harbours. One drop dead gorgeous peninsula just over the hill from Christchurch.

When I finally score the real ‘Bank Error in Your Favour’ card instead of Monopoly’s version, I’m going to buy a ‘bach’ in Akaroa, the faux-French heart of the Banks Peninsula. Once a French colonial outpost from the era when the French and English were competing for dominion in the Antipodes, it has tenaciously held on to its short-lived French-ified past.”

Read the full blog post.