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

THE BREEZE 57

The shortest day is nearly upon us and whilst many are hoping it’s about to snow the fine weather has been great for cruising. We’ve had some special sightings of whales recently and hosted some VIPs including the former mayor of San Francisco and a NZ sports legend. We’re also looking forward to next summer already with many cruise ships confirming Akaroa as their Canterbury stop and also plans for a huge French Fest. In the meantime thanks for your continued support. We are operating right through the winter season every day.

Cheers Paul

11 THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN AKAROA

I grew up in Akaroa so I’m really surprised when I hear people say there is not much for children to do in the town, and that the hot pools of Hamner are a better bet. Sure the pools are a must do but you can’t go there every weekend and Akaroa offers something different for families.

Now I have my own family, I can show them the hours of fun that can be had in and around Akaroa. Here are my top tips for entertaining the kids with Akaroa activities, many of these are free.

1. Cruise

Akaroa Harbour is just a fantastic place to explore, and on the daily Black Cat cruise around the harbour you will see dolphins, seals and penguins which are sure to delight kids of all ages; what kid doesn’t like dolphins?!

If you don’t own a boat, it’s the best way to explore the volcanic outer harbour. Black Cat has kid’s activity books and with kids under 5 free and 5-15 year olds at $25, its great value for money.

Children swimming with dolphins

Children swimming with dolphins

2. Walks

 

Walking

Walks to do with kids

There are lots of great places to walk and my favourite is a trek through the Garden of Tane. The ‘domain’ as it used to be known faces the harbour and you can find it easily by looking for Akaroa’s historic lighthouse on the waterfront and walking in land from there. The forest is teeming with native birds and trees and you will also discover the old cemeteries with some of the early settler’s graves. Bird spotting here is quite rewarding with fantails, tui, bellbirds and lots of others. There’s a huge birdsong each morning that’s sadly missing from many parts of New Zealand.

Garden of Tane

Garden of Tane, Akaroa

3. Go crabbing

About 800 people live in Akaroa but the beachfront is home to maybe millions of tiny crabs. All you need to do is go down onto the beaches at a mid to low tide and look under the rocks. Sure there is nothing much you can do with the crabs but its fun to look at the many sizes and shapes and the bravest will be able to pick them up by the tops of their shells.

Children crabbing

Crabbing with Children

4. Fishing

 

Fishing in Akaroa

Fishing in Akaroa

The days of pulling up ten cod off the end of the wharf are long gone but going fishing at the end of the wharf is still popular and you never know if you get the tide and conditions right you can still catch some fish.

Or for the older kids forget the fishing rods and try jumping off the wharf instead!

Jumping off the Akaroa Wharf

Jumping off the Akaroa Wharf

5. Take a rugby or soccer ball

..and have a kick about on the school grounds; they are about 2 minutes walk from the main wharf.

Akaroa Playground

Akaroa Playground

6. Adventure playground

OK it might not be the scale of the big playgrounds in Christchurch but there’s a neat little playground near Dalies wharf in town or try Le Mini golf. Again not the scale of the big city but a great way to burn up an hour and compete against each other.

7. Biking

The best place to go is probably from Akaroa out to the Onuku Marae which is somewhat flat compared to the rest of the peninsula. There is also a great walk from there through rolling farmland to Nikau Palm Gulley which as the world’s southernmost growing palm trees and a great little waterfall.

8. Beachcombing

You’ll have to go a little further afield to what is known as the outer bays. Jump in the car and go to Okains Bay or LeBons Bay. They boast enormous sand beaches. You may find you’ll be the only people there!

9. Hire a canoe or paddleboat

Don a lifejacket and get into one of the self propelled vessels. The boat hire jetty is just beside the main wharf.

10. Go to the Giants House

It’s a wacky playground of wild ideas all made from thousands of mosaics. Probably more akin to the sights of Vegas than Akaroa it shows what can be done with a little imagination and a dose of creativity. It’s a short walk from the Museum up Rue Balgarie.

Giants House

Giants House

11. Eat fish n chips!

Or dine at one of the many seaside cafes or restaurants. After all that exploring kids will be sure to have worked up an appetite and Akaroa is lucky to have lots of kids’ friendly menus and options.

Light house

Light house

SNOOZE AND CRUISE OPTION FOR AKAROA

Despite Akaroa’s close proximity to Christchurch, and our location on the other side of Banks Peninsula from Lyttelton, the resort township is unaffected by the Christchurch earthquake. All the cafes, restaurants, shops and accommodation businesses are operating as usual, with all the charm and atmosphere visitors have come to expect.

At Black Cat we are keen to see visitors who may have originally planned to spend time in the Garden City come directly to Akaroa to relax and enjoy what our beautiful location has to offer. Browse some reviews and comments about our lovely town.

Anyone arriving into Christchurch International Airport can find their way directly to Akaroa without going via the damaged central city – the routes for a one and a half hour drive can be found here:

Christchurch to Akaroa

Akaroa Harbour

Akaroa Harbour

We have put together an awesome deal for visitors or Christchurch locals who want to make the most of Akaroa. Our Snooze and Cruise deal is just $109 per person, providing accommodation at Tresori Motor Lodge or the Akaroa Criterion Motel and the Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise with Black Cat.

Simply book directly at either of these accommodation venues, and you will be issued with a voucher for your cruise.

As we head into Autumn, Akaroa is looking its most beautiful, so don’t hesitate to join us!

SWIMMING WITH WILD DOLPHINS

By Deneice Athurston

I admit it – I’m a dolphin swim junkie and probably nowhere on the planet can I indulge this passion as much as in New Zealand. What makes New Zealand so special with regards to swimming with wild dolphins is that there are so many companies to choose from and each offer something a little different depending on where they are located and the species of dolphin that hang around that area.

Luckily for me I discovered Black Cat Cruises fairly early on in my continuous quest and have since returned to them three times. Swimming with wild dolphins is always going to be magical but this company so enhance every experience with their fun attitude, knowledge and high ethics that in my mind no others come even close.

Black Cat Cruises, who operate from the wharf in Akaroa Harbour, are pretty special for lots of reasons and not least of all because here you get to swim with Hector’s dolphins – the smallest and rarest marine dolphin on the whole planet. What’s more Hector’s dolphins are 100% Kiwi as they are only found in the coastal waters of New Zealand.

In Akaroa the dolphins are never far away and in the past I’ve stood on the Akaroa shore itself and seen dolphins just metres away checking out a kayaker. Sometimes the swims take place in the calm waters of the harbour and at other times the dolphins will be hanging around outside the harbour mouth.

On the day of your swim you are asked to arrive in good time so you can be kitted out with thick wetsuits, boots, snorkels and masks and briefed on your swim. In winter, dry suits are provided as an extra defence against these chilly waters. Boats are only allowed a maximum of 10 people who want to swim with the dolphins and Black Cat observe this to the letter as much to protect the dolphins as to ensure a great experience for you. Often there will be less than 10 swimmers because the rest of the people on the boat have come to watch without getting wet.

The trip is about 2 hours and as you head out on the boat your guide will talk a bit about the dolphins and everyone gets involved in being on the look-out for the distinctive ‘Mickey Mouse ear’ shaped fin of the Hector’s dolphin. If you get lucky, half of the 2 hour tip will actually be spent in the water with the dolphins. If an hour seems like an infeasibly long time to be bobbing about in the chilly ocean then let me tell you that time takes on a whole different meaning when you are surrounded by dolphins. On one dolphin swim with this company I climbed back into the boat, having become an unfetching shade of blue and with arms and legs which had turned to jelly. As I lie panting on the boat’s deck and grinning an inane grin I discovered that an hour had passed. It had felt like minutes.

Black Cat really care about their customers; you are made to feel well looked after and valued but more importantly they care about the dolphins most of all and again and again this is borne out. A proportion of every single customer’s fee is donated to the conservation of the Hector’s dolphins and the research which ensures maximum protection is afforded. Black Cat Cruises are also holders of the Green Globe 21 Award, a prestigious international recognition given to companies who promote and deliver the highest environmental practices. Black Cat were the first ever cruise company worldwide who earned themselves this award.

And the merits of Black Cat Cruises don’t end there. They have a really excellent refund policy with regards to their dolphin swims. Although more than 80% of their cruises result in successful dolphin swims nothing is guaranteed. These creatures are wild and on rare occasions they just don’t want to play or even show themselves and at other times the weather and sea conditions are real spoil sports. ‘Successful’ swim is something which Black Cat interpret very differently to many other companies, some of whom just dump you in the ocean amidst the dolphins passing through and then haul you out again once they have passed. On one occasion with Black Cat Cruises, dolphins were present and twice we were put into the water. The dolphins had a quick look and disappeared. This is not deemed a successful swim in the eyes of Black Cat and the refund policy was implemented.

 

 

SHAKEN BUT NOT DISTIRBED

There are two things that struck me most when the devasting earthquake in Christchurch

The peaceful seaside village of Akaroa

struck on the 22nd of February.  The first was how powerful it is and how powerless you feel.  There is nothing to do but sit (or hide) and wait until it is over.  Then there’s the reality that hits almost immediately that you are still alive and panic sets in as you fumble with your cell phone and try to get hold of loved ones.  It took me what seemed like forever to get the presence of mind to remember how to work the phone, my fingers were trembling so much and I temporarily forgot how to send a txt!!

The second thing is the randomness of it.  There is no warning, and how bazaar is it that one building is completely destroyed while another standing right next to it is completely untouched.

While Akaroa’s neighbour Lyttelton was devastated with many buildings collapsing, Akaroa remains undisturbed, all roads open, businesses operating and motels ready for guests, a little oasis in the sea of chaos that is Central Christchurch.  Akaroa is just 90 minutes drive from Christchurch airport so an ideal place to retreat to on arrival or departure from the South Island.

CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE UPDATE

One of the many damaged buildings after the devastating Christchurch earthquake

We extend our thoughts and condolences to everyone affected by the Christchurch earthquake on Feb 22nd.

For the benefit of our passengers and those looking to get away from the city, we want to let you know that everything is fully operational in Akaroa. Businesses and homes were not affected by the earthquake.

Akaroa Cruises and Dolphin Swimming:
Our cruises and dolphin swims are still going ahead as usual. If you are looking for accommodation, Akaroa currently has plenty of availability.

Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise Cancelled:
We regret The Christchurch Wildlife Cruise in Lyttelton has been cancelled for at least 6 months and possibly up to 1 year.

Canterbury Cat in Lyttelton:
We be operating the Canterbury Cat boat in Lyttelton for groups only and charters. Groups in excess of 20+ pax.

Diamond Harbour Ferry Operating:
Ferry services to Diamond Harbour are now back operating, departures from Lyttelton are every 10 minutes to the hour and from Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton on the hour. These ferry services are free until further notice.

Quail Island Ferry:
Quail Island Ferries commence again from the 14th of March.

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.