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

Monthly Archives: December 2015

This Must Be Underwater Love

Black Cat Cruises is the only company in the world that I have taken a day off as holiday to spend….at work!

Well I mean when your company is an eco-toursim operator that offers world class dolphin cruise’s and swimming in the wild with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin’s set in an extinct volcainc crater…wouldn’t you?

I’ve told friends and colleagues this before much to their amusement and understanding…and it seems it’s not just me at Black Cat that does this.

Last week our dolphin swim skipper Julian arrived at work extra early to join our early morning Swimming WIth Dolphins trip as a guest.

He bought along his GoPro to snap some pictures as he knows first hand how many awesome pictures our photographers and guests can get when out on the water with us.

Julian managed to snap a lot of his pictures underwater and they are pretty darn good…so good we thought we’d give you a little sneak peak at them…..we hope you enjoy them and if you do leave Julian a little comment below 🙂

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The Hector’s dolphins are one of the most playful and enquisitive oceanic species of dolphin

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Here’s looking at you…

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Bathing in sunlight just below the surface as a swimmer looks on from the right hand corner.

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Typically Hector’s swim in pods of between 2 – 12 however can come together to group in 100 at any one time

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The have distinct white bellies (similar to that of an orca)….

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and black rounded dorsal fins that remind us of a Mickey Mouse ear. Can you spot the second dolphin in this image?

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Julian making the most of his day before heading to work…on the boat in the background 🙂

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You can see just how close a Hector’s Dolphin can swim up to you in this picture as it cruises past a swimmer who is treading water. As one of New Zealand’s first ever eco-tourism operators and a certified SMART and DOC approved operator we ensure that our staff educate our guests on how to behave when encountering the dolphins in the wild. We do not track, feed, chase and touch them. We allow them to come to us on their terms and in their time. Its part of the magic of being allowed into their world and experiencing something extremeley special and unique.

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Dolphins, just like us humans, need air to breathe, The biggest threat to their species population is getting caught in fishing nets. We donate a portion from every dolphin swim and nature cruise towards the education and research of Hector’s dolphins to help save them from extinction.

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The image below is possibly one of our favourite shots. Taken just below the surface of the ocean you can see by the bend in the Hector’s dolphins tail that it’s about to take a dive…

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Eruptive Akaroa – Our Volcanic past

Banks Peninsula Volcanoes – Hot or Not?

To many in the area, Banks Peninsula is a beautiful place to relax, soak up a bit of local culture, or spend the day exploring and adventuring around the bays. But there’s more to this iconic part of the country than meets the eye.Akaroa hills

For those into geology, geography, or just good ol’ volcanic eruptions, Banks Peninsula’s Lyttelton Harbour proves to be a point of interest.

Between six and eleven million years ago, volcanic activity formed two volcanic cones that overlapped. After being subject to erosion and rising sea levels, which flooded the valleys of these cones, the harbours of Akaroa and Lyttelton were created. These two harbours are fairly new in the grand scheme of things – having only come to life about 7000 years ago.

The excitement of having a couple of volcanoes in our backyard has often led to many bouts of speculation. With the relative youth of these landmarks and the erratic nature of our fault lines below, there have been many“predictions” about what the future of the peninsula has in store for us. And with the worries surrounding the recent earthquakes in the area, there have been no shortage of such rumours in recent years.

Christchurch’s bout of seismic activity led many to believe that they could have something to do with the volcanoes we have sitting in our backyard. Some had concern

scenery nook akaroa

s that liquefaction was of volcanic origins, while others theorised that the seismic activity was concentrated around the old Lyttelton volcano. There were even several rumours that claimed the water in the harbour was climbing in temperature, reaching points that were too hot to touch anymore.

Although speculation about the status of Canterbury’s volcanic peninsula is nothing new, scientists were pretty quick to settle rumours about the volcanoes once and for all when it came to the quakes.

Scientists pointed out that the volcano has been extinct for many, many years. There are no written records of it erupting, and although it can be difficult to tell the difference between a dormant and an active volcano, the fact that it no longer has a magma supply is a pretty good indicator that it’s going to stay quiet for a while. The closest source of magma is in the North Island, and the likelihood of that managing to travel down south is very slim. In addition to that, the liquefaction and shifting water found during the quakes have been seen in many earthquakes completely unrelated to volcanic activity. And as for the hot springs cropping up around the harbour? Those were just plain, unfounded rumours.

up close in cathedral cave

Lyttelton’s volcanic past does play a huge part in the make up of the place though – erosion over time has revealed beautiful volcanic rock faces, some of which were once climbing hotspots in the area. With these and other landmarks as the only reminders of Lyttelton’s volcanic past, the residents of Banks Peninsula can be rest assured that their cherished bays will stay safe from volcanic harm.

Our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise is a wonderful way to cruise through the extinct volcanic crater of Akaroa Harbour. Your skipper provides full commentry on the native wildlife, fascinating history and volcanic origins of the area.

Surviving the Summer Family Camp

What better way to spend your summer nights with the family than pitching a tent and sleeping under the stars?

Banks Peninsula is full of spots that are perfect for such an endeavour, and many people take advantage of that fact during our warmer months.

If you’re thinking of roughing it for a few nights in Canterbury’s great outdoors, here are ten things you could bring to ensure your New Zealand camping trip is a great success:

  1. Camp fire entertainment – Marshmallows, a pack of cards or any other board game really. Stock up on the kids’ favourites to wind down at the end of a day of running around in the sun, or for that unexpected stormy summer weather.toasting marsmallows
  2. teepee sheetWet Weather Gear – Even if the forecast is telling you there will be nothing but sun, with New Zealand weather’s notoriously unpredictable reputation, it pays to be prepared. If you’re in a tent, make sure the rain cover is packed away, along with the parkas and some extra blankets.
  3. Sun Stuff – On the other hand, the ever so bright (and burning) Kiwi sun can be almost as much trouble as an unexpected storm. Like they say, be sure to slip, slop, slap, and wrap when enjoying the great outdoors. It’s also a good idea to pack something that the kids can use as a sun sunshade. A simple piece of string and a sheet can make an awesome temporary DIY teepee tent. A great shade and a great den to play in.
  4. First Aid Kit – Bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers; all essentials for the travelling family. Every kid is bound to graze a knee or get a splinter, and being able to fix up an ailment in a jiffy reduces the worry and hassle of having to ask around for a hand. Sand fly repellent is a great idea too. No-one wants to be up woken up in the night with itchy ankles!
  5. Map – GPS, Google Maps, or whatever fancy technological equivalent you may have can do the job just fine, until it can’t. Have a back up old school hard copy of the way to your destination to avoid getting lost or stuck in the middle of nowhere.
  6. Lights – Nobody likes having to get up in the middle of the night to find the loo, only to realise the lights are out and there’s nowhere to find them. Bring a torch or lamp, and some spare batteries, to avoid stumbling through the dark. Head torches work really well as you can be handsfree. They’re also great for a game of spotlight. Solar powered fairylights can also add a magic touch to any camping spot.fairy lights in akaroa
  7. Sleeping gear – Although sleeping bags and pillows are a given, it might pay to pack a few extra blankets for those colder nights. Don’t forget the air mattress or cot either – especially if you’re after a comfortable night’s sleep. There’s no reason you can’t ‘glamp’ up your own tent 🙂Camping in akaroa
  8. Food glorious food – A local Four Square or dairy is usually pretty helpful for anything you’ve forgotten, but for those more remote locations, prepping meal plans before you go can make a load of difference. Snacks are an essential for the little ones too as all that running around is bound to work up an appetite long before dinner. Don’t forget the utensils either – those beans aren’t much good if you can’t get into them!food natasha lombart Akaroa camp fire
  9.  Toilet Paper – One can only truly appreciate the wonders of toiletries when one has accidently left them at home before a camping trip. Be sure to double check for loo paper, wet wipes, soap, and hand sanitizer in your bathroom bag before you head off into the wilderness.If you have a family member like our Marketing Manager’s dog Darcy she’ll be sure to get the loo roll out for you….according to her you can never have enough 😉 Loo roll Darcy Doodle
  10. A sense of adventure – Not everything will go to plan, and there will no doubt be a bit of stress in the atmosphere, but try your best to go with the flow and make the most of it. There’s nothing quite like a Kiwi summer in the great outdoors!

To find our more about some of the local areas on Banks Peninsula check out our destination guide on our website.

For information on where to camp in and around Akaroa check out the guide on Akaroa.com here

Island paradise (Just 20 mins from Christchurch!)

Have you heard about this little Island close to Lyttelton? No?! It is such an interesting place, rich in history and scenic landscapes all easily explored in one day. Perfect for a day out in Christchurch!camping on quail island

Let me show you where it is and what you can do there…..

Location:

Quail Island Ferry

Quail Island is a small island but Canterbury’s largest one, located within Lyttelton Harbour in the South Island of New Zealand.(Retrieved from: DOC, http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/canterbury/places/otamahua-quail-island-recreation-reserve/things-to-do/otamahua-quail-island-tracks/).

It is only 20 minutes from Christchurch city centre (by car) and easily accessible by the Quail Island Ferry from Lyttelton. Black Cat Cruises operate a regular 7 day ferry service to the island from October to April. In winter, from May to October, there is no regular ferry service as the island is looked after by the Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust.

History

Uninhabited by the New Zealand native peoples, it was often visited to collect shellfish, flax, bird’s eggs as well as stone for tools which explain better its Maori name “Otamahua”  which means “place where children collect sea eggs”.

Regarding its English Name, it was Captain Mein Smith who named the island ‘Quail’ after seeing native quail here in 1842; they were extinct by 1875. The island is 81 hectares in area, with a high point of 86 metres. It lies in the flooded crater of an extinct volcano so promises wonderful views of the surrounding Banks Peninsula.

While today, New-Zealanders and travelers enjoy Quail Island for its beaches, walks and peaceful environment. In the past, it had complete different purposes. Used as a Farm base from Europeans in 1851, it then became a quarantine station in 1875 and a small leper colony from 1907–1925. It was also a place to train dogs used in Antarctic expeditions of the early 20th century. To this day you can still see the remains of the kennels of where Scott and Shackleton kept their dogs. The island was declared a recreation reserve in 1975.

Things to do

quail island shipwreckIt is a small Island but you have got plenty of things to do: walking, swimming, picnics as well as a bird-watching barricade. It is a great spot to spend some time with family and friends and have a great barbecue. You can also see and explore the incredible ships’ graveyard along the Quail Island track.

Tracks that you can do on Quail Island:

–          Whakamaru Beach (Swimmers beach) – 10 min

–          Discovery trail – 1 hr

–          Ōtamahua/Quail Island Walkway (full island circuit)- 2 hr 30 min

Quail Island mapMap of Ōtamahau / Quail Island (Retrieved from: http://www.quailisland.org.nz/)

Kiwi Ranger programme- how does it work?

Really easy! You just need to pick up your free booklet from the Quail Island ferry, or the Lyttelton i-SITE (65 London Street, Lyttelton).

Then, enjoy your day discovering this amazing island through the activities in your KIWI RANGER booklet.

“You’ll be challenged to imagine living a lonely island life with no TV or Xbox, and competing in a race to the Pole. Explore the traditional values and uses of plants, and become a ‘word witch’ in a place that inspired Margaret Mahy to write. Bring to life a derelict vessel at the ship’s graveyard, and imagine the dangerous journey to collect bird’s eggs from high cliffs.”

At the end of your experience, do not forget to return your completed booklet either on the ferry or Lyttelton i-SITE and earn your Kiwi Ranger badge!

Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust

The Ōtamahua/Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust and the Department of Conservation are currently working to remove pests and re-vegetate the island, with the aim of eventually re-introducing native wildlife. Banks Peninsula tree weta have recently been transferred to the island – you may see custom-built weta homes attached to the trunks of manuka trees.

“Since 1997 dedicated volunteers have worked to restore the native ecology of Otamahua or Quail Island. Volunteer groups contribute more than 5,600 hours annually, weeding, planting and monitoring mice traps. As the plantings mature, the island is slowly being transformed. Native bird numbers have increased as trees mature and provide more nesting sites and a more varied food source” (Retrieved from http://www.quailisland.org.nz).

If you are planning on coming over to Quail Island we ask that you read our Environmental Checklist to help us maintain a pest free environment and protect our native plants and animals.Quail Island Pest Control

Trust Aims

  1. To facilitate the restoration of indigenous vegetation and fauna on Otamahua / Quail Island and provide refuge for locally extinct, or rare and endangered species of the Banks Peninsula region;
  2. to recognise, protect and enhance the natural values and the landscape character of the island;
  3. to recognise historical sites and respect historic values of relevance both to the tangata whenua of Whakaraupo and to non-Maori;
  4. to encourage public understanding, awareness and care of the island and its historic, cultural and natural values, and to foster interest in the restoration project through publicity and education;
  5. to recognise and accommodate public use of the island;
  6. to encourage relevant research on the natural features and cultural history of the island;
  7. through a partnership between the tangata whenua, Department of Conservation and the Trust to achieve each of the above and assist in the management of the island.

who help to maintain, re-store and preserve the natural habitat.

The Black Cat team recently visited Quail Island with the trust to spend the day planting trees. You can watch the video here….

Click http://www.quailisland.org.nz/index.php/support to find out how you can support the Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust.

For more details, please see the link: http://blackcat.co.nz/quail-island-adventures

60 sec with Capitano Juliano

He’s our most raved about skipper on Tripadvisor, knows the history and wildlife of Akaroa harbour like no other….and is generally an all round amazing guy!

We took 60 seconds to find out a little more about Akaroa’s top skipper to find out what really floats his boat…….

Julian

(and if 60 seconds just isn’t enough you can watch Julian’s 114 second video here)

 

What is your name and what is your role at Black Cat Cruises…

Capitano Juliano – Black Cat skipper

Where is your role based?

Akaroa Harbour

Akaroa Wharf and Harbour

What three words would you use to sum up Akaroa/Lyttleton…

Picturesque, charming, unique

What three words would your friends use to sum you up…

Funny, Optimistic, Positive…

Tell us a secret or something unique about you…

I fly glidersglider

What did your dream you would do when you grew up and why…

Fly aeroplanes because I love flying

Why did you want to work for Black Cat Cruises…

I love boating and nature

What do you love the most about your job…

The scenery and the wildlifeBLCT BCAK 2007 02 18 C1966 7076

What is different about Black Cat to any other place you’ve worked…

Spectacular scenery and amazing wildlife

New Zealand fur seal nature cruise

What do you most value, and most enjoy, about working here…

Good team and a beautiful place

Julian and team

Describe one of your best days here…

Today, having two young orca playing with a group of Hectors DolphinsKiller whales Hectors Dolphins