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Hector’s Dolphin Killed By Set Net in Akaroa Harbour

Yesterday, Monday, April 6th, a dead Hector’s dolphin was discovered in Akaroa harbour. The cause of death was drowning by set net. This happened just days after the legal set netting summer ban had been lifted.

A local man found the dead dolphin and alerted Black Cat Cruises, who in turn alerted both DOC and local researchers, and sent out a boat to locate the dead mammal.

Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest and rarest marine mammal and are endemic to New Zealand. As a company and a community we are extremely disappointed to see this happen.   The region has taken great steps in the creation and opening of the marine mammal sanctuary and newly opened marine reserve.

 

University of Otago marine biologist Professor Elisabeth Slooten happened to be in Akaroa for Easter and we able to examine the dead dolphin. Together they have studied Hector’s dolphins for more than thirty years and have dissected more than 130.

 

examining dolphin 2 webThe young male Hector’s dolphin, which was 123 centimetres long was likely to be only four or five years old. “A firm estimate of age can only be gained from looking at growth layers in the teeth” Prof Dawson said.

“Going from its size and lack of tooth wear, this dolphin was probably 4-5 years old. They can live to well over 20 years. The dolphin was in good condition, apparently healthy, and would have reached maturity within the next couple of years”

It is extremely sad that at one end of the harbour we now have this wonderful marine reserve yet at the other end it is legal for 6 months of the year to set nets which are proven to be deadly to this endangered species.

Setting nets for flatfish in the inner parts of Akaroa Harbour is legal from April 1 to 30 September. ‘’The problem is that dolphins use this area surprisingly often, even in the depths of winter’’, Prof Dawson said.

Biologists estimate only 7000 Hector’s dolphins remain in South Island waters.

There is currently a petition started by marine experts to ban nets and trawling in the areas that Hector’s dolphins inhabit. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/818/564/528/ban-gillnets-and-trawling-in-mauis-and-hectors-dolphin-habitat/#next_action

dolphin profile webBlack Cat Cruises, who are recognised as New Zealand first ever eco-tourism operator, employs over 50 members of staff alone and have been cruising the waters of Akaroa for 30 years.   Whilst tourism is the backbone of business in Akaroa, which the dolphins single handily spearhead, this isn’t an argument about commercial loss or gain. The fact is that the set netting that is occurring in Akaroa harbour is for recreational purposes.

To call for a complete ban on year round set netting would not have an impact to anyone’s livelihood. ‘’To wipe out the world’s most endangered species of dolphin would be a huge loss commercially but an incomprehensible loss environmentally’’ said Natasha Lombart, Black Cat Cruises Sales and Marketing Manager.

 

In over 30 years of operation it was this summer that Black Cat Cruises captured their most magnificent footage of the Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa harbour on both their dolphin swim, and Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. They are the reason that visitor’s come to Akaroa from New Zealand and all over the world. We look forward to the day that we can post on this blog that there has been a complete set net ban. If you agree please comment below…

 

Of Demons and Dolphins

At the age of 71 Richard Jacobs wasn’t just worried about his age when he took the plunge and joined us on a dolphin swim. This inspiring story wraps both his fears and life-long dream all into one, and demonstrates the reward that awaits when you take on a challenge…..

By Richard Jacobs

Is it possible to experience an adrenaline rush, a huge privilege and achieve an almost life-time longing all at the same time?  I really wasn’t sure.  The opportunity was right there, staring at me, teasing me, challenging me.  I just didn’t know if I had the confidence, the ability or the nerve.

It was about 4pm on a windy afternoon, about as far from home as I could be, when I asked for more information.  Would I be safe?  Did I need special insurance?  How long would it take?  In truth, I think I knew all the answers but perhaps I was looking for an easy way out – “Sorry, sir, we can’t take people of your age”.  I heard the opposite!  “No problem”.  It’s probably the most often heard expression in this far off land and that’s what I was told, “No problem at all.” richard jacobs

Well, there was still a problem for me.  In plain language, I suppose I was scared of letting myself down, of looking in some way inept or even of a genuine health risk.

Dinner outside that evening, overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful bays, really did provide food for thought.  At some point during the evening it all seemed straight forward.  I would probably never have such a unique opportunity.  I would be highly unlikely to be at this particular location again and, most important of all, I was at risk of letting myself down for no good or logical reason.  I’ll do it!

It all sounds a bit dramatic but here are some of the considerations that I had decided would not deter me.  I’m 71 years old with a load of metal in my back from recent spinal surgery.  I have moderate heart failure and I suffer from occasional bouts of angina.  It was 15 years, to the day, since two paramedics saved my life in an ambulance after a heart attack and, oh yes, as well as having a pathological fear of sharks, I don’t like cold water!

The challenge?  It doesn’t sound much as I write it here.  I was going to swim with dolphins where the Southern Ocean meets the South Pacific.  Not just any old dolphins, however, these were Hector’s dolphins; one of the rarest, smallest and most endangered dolphins in the world.  It is estimated that there are only some 7,000 left and they can be found around much of the eastern coast of New Zealand.  The largest concentration is believed to be off Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular, south of Christchurch – and that is just where I was on that November day.

These pods or groups of dolphins are normally made up of eight or ten individuals.  Because of their relatively small size – they grow to only about 1.2 metres long and are about as big as a five year old child – they do not have the lung capacity of the larger dolphins and, therefore, cannot dive to great depths for their food.  Hence their love for the relatively shallow waters off this coast, where the water shelves down to only about 200 feet and, as the song goes, “the fishing is easy”.  Of course if they are fishing for food, they are not going to come and frolic with us swimmers who presume to invade their watery world.  Equally, like us, they may sometimes just not want to socialise and our skipper on the dive boat tells us we may not even see any at all.

Back to the plot.  I had been told to report at 8.30 in the morning but I was waiting on the wharf from nearly an hour before that time.  The night had been good but waking to a howling wind did nothing for my confidence and made me wonder if the trip might be cancelled.  Then at least I would have an excuse.  “Well, I signed up but the weather was too bad.”  “No problem”, came the familiar reply as skipper and crew arrived for the day’s work.

An initial shore briefing was followed by a ludicrous struggle to force my 18 stone bulk into an enormous wetsuit and boots, together with the morale boosting comment that, with the sea temperature at just 12 degrees C, the neoprene suit would keep me warm – ish!

More briefing as we sped up Akaroa harbour, with explanations about the necessary hand signals to use once we were in the water.  One for help and one for, “I’m fine”.

Ten minutes later, Hector’s dolphins were spotted and the powerful catamaran idled in the choppy water as eight of us climbed over the stern and into that very cold sea.  Not being used to swimming wearing a wetsuit brought its own problems.  My legs persistently wanted to be where my head should be!  The net result included several mouthfuls of salt water and a pretty ludicrous sight, I suspect, until I was told to bicycle with my legs.  Having attained more or less the correct posture, I hear a shout of, “Richard, behind you!”  Spinning in the water, I was just in time to see two sleek and beautiful shapes swim past me about three feet away.  I know I screamed with excitement but, thankfully, so did the rest of the party.

The water was rough and facing into the wind meant a face full of spray.  We swam for about five minutes and I came out early as my first efforts to stay head up had been a bit strenuous.  We then motored our way outside the confines of the bay and into the ocean.  Here it was not so choppy but there was a good swell running.  About a mile or so off shore, we suddenly had eight or ten dolphins swimming behind the boat and we all climbed down into the water.  It was this second swim which brought home the enormous privilege of being with these wild animals in their habitat.  jacob and hectorsTo add yet more wonder to the moment, a huge albatross flew over us.

I have never before experienced the euphoria that this swim generated.” 

I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t out of breath; I wasn’t even cold!  More importantly, I wasn’t going to miss out on such a special moment.  I freely admit to being a little proud of myself for having committed to this adventure.  I had talked of wanting to swim with dolphins for so many years and here I was, doing just that.

The pod swam in and around us for about 15 minutes, maybe more.  To be honest, I lost all sense of time.  This was a truly wonderful experience and I know I had a huge smile on my face and I have the pictures to prove it.

So, that adrenaline rush was matched by a huge sense of achievement and a long held ambition was realised.  It is matched by the knowledge that, whilst many other people have swum with dolphins, this was an intensely personal moment for me, when I defeated my demons.  At the time, it moved me to a tear or two but the sea water hid that from those around me.

”To be accepted into the world of this unique animal was one of life’s special moments and a huge privilege.  The effects of those few minutes will last a life time.”

Survival of the species – Rare dolphin calves sighted in Akaroa Harbour

tv1 screen shot 2

This morning we made TV1 Breakfast News with our rare sighting of dolphin calves in Akaroa Harbour. Each year we eagerly wait to spot the first calf of the season. To see a mother and it’s calf is always great news for the endangered species.

Hectors dolphin calves

Early summer has seen Hector’s dolphin calves spotted swimming with their mothers in the harbour, which is always exciting, Black Cat Cruises Sales & Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart said.

“Hector’s Dolphins are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Because of their coastal habitat and slow reproductive rate they are particularly vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear, especially gill nets, so we never fail to get enthusiastic when calves are spotted.”

Black Cat Cruises skipper Julian Yates said two Hector dolphin mothers and their calves were seen between Bush Bay and the salmon farm, half way across the bay in Akaroa Harbour.

“That there were two babies’ with two mums was just fantastic,” he said. “They were just cruising and the guest reactions on board were great – they were so excited to see such a rare species of new born babies, it was wonder, a real treat and so delightful.”

Yates said guests on the harbour cruise could clearly see the calves’ stripes from being folded up inside mother’s tummy as they able to swim as soon as they are born.hectors dolphin calf folded skin

Females usually have one calf every two to three years. The calves are 50 to 60 centimetres long at birth and stay close to their mothers who provide them with milk and protection for about a year until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Hector’s dolphins are among the most endangered in the world.

It has been an eventful week for Black Cat Cruises as a female Orca and her two claves were seen playing with a pod of Hector’s dolphins near the entrance to Akaroa Harbour last week.

Yates said it was extremely rare to see Orca’s interacting with Hector’s as Orcas are known for preying on dolphins.

To watch the TV1 breakfast news clip follow this link http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast/2014-12-18-video-6208476 and scroll to 1.08:25

tv1 akaroa harbour news

AKAROA AND HECTOR’S DOLPHINS IN THE PRESS

Akaroa has had a number of great features on TV this summer. From Campbell Live covering the cruise ships to 60 minutes covering the Maui and Hector’s dolphins, it’s been all go!

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/

THE BENEFITS OF SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS

Getting up close and personal with the Hector’s dolphins of Banks Peninsula has been an unforgettable experience for hundreds of people every year. For many, having the chance to swim with these endangered creatures is simply an amazing opportunity in itself. However, there is more to swimming with the dolphins than just the thrill of getting into the water with such a rare, friendly, and playful animal.

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.

Hector’s Dolphins Jumping in Akaroa

Hector's Dolphins Jumping in Akaroa

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!

Sustainability

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.

Dolphin Swimming in Akaroa

Swimming with dolphins Akaroa

Experience It

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.

First dolphin swim boat of the season in Akaroa

Black Cat Dolphin Swimming Akaroa

You can find more information and make bookings here

http://www.blackcat.co.nz/swimming-with-dolphins.html

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!

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT NEW ZEALAND’S ONLY NATIVE DOLPHIN

Hector’s Dolphins, (or Cephalorhynchus Hectori , for those of you with an affinity for Latin) are the friendly creatures that grace the waters near New Zealand shores. Native to Aotearoa, and commonly found along the coast of Banks Peninsula, these dolphins have sparked excitement in local scientists for the past 30 or so years, and now we know more about them than ever. Here are ten things about Hector’s Dolphins you may not have known:

10. Under the Radar

The way Hector’s Dolphins communicate is often inaudible to the human ear. Except for the occasional squeal or cry, their sounds just don’t register to us. They communicate through short, high frequency clicks which last about 1/7000th of a second and are usually at about 120 kHz – 6 times higher than the human ear can hear. These are emitted as pulses in the water, and they become more frequent when they get closer to a target.

9. Lone Wolves Making Packs

From research, it seems that although Hector’s Dolphins are inclined to stick together in groups, they don’t really have strong family ties or set packs that they are always associated with. Although mothers stick with their children to show them the ropes as they grow up, and the occasional dolphin has a ‘best friend’ or two, relationships between males and females are far from monogamous and researchers usually find that the same dolphins are not often seen together.


8. Age-Telling Teeth

We now know that Hector’s Dolphins on average live into their early twenties. How? Their teeth. When they are born, they start out with hollow cone-like teeth and every year, two more layers will grow up into them to fill out the cone – one in summer, and one in winter. Scientists count the layers, like rings on a tree, to find the age of a dolphin.

7. Massive brains

Hector’s Dolphins have one of the largest brain-to-body weight ratios in the animal kingdom, and the largest amongst dolphins. With 1.7% of their body weight residing in their brain, it’s really no wonder they have a reputation for being intelligent. The average human ratio is 1.9%, which doesn’t seem to be particularly far ahead. And not only are they catching up to us in size, but in the way we value our smarts too; the areas of the dolphin brain associated with reason and creativity are surprisingly well developed.

6. Dolphins just play for fun

Unlike many creatures in the animal kingdom that learn to fight or hunt through play amongst their group, Hector’s Dolphins just play for the fun of it. They’re really friendly around humans, and you’ll often see them surfing in the wake of a passing boat, or tossing around a twig, some seaweed, or leaves near the surface of the water. When they’re enjoying themselves, they blow bubbles under the water to show their excitement. Many scientists believe that the fact that they seem to play just for the pleasure of it is a sign of their intelligence.

5. Punks and Sharkbait

Since New Zealand scientists started studying Hector’s Dolphins in the ‘80s, they’ve gotten to know quite a few characters. Identifying features and repeat visits mean that they’re quite familiar with dolphins like Biggus Nickus, whose name was inspired by the nick in his dorsal fin (and the Monty Python film, Life of Brian). Others include Punk, who had a calf every two years from 2000-2008, and Sharkbait, who researchers met when he had a fresh wound on his back from an attack.

4. No Tagging

In 2004, the Department of Conservation tagged three Hector’s Dolphins in the Banks Peninsula area. This was met with much outrage from scientists, conservationalists, and dolphin enthusiasts alike. As Hector’s Dolphins are so friendly and so willing to come up to researchers time and time again, key scientists, Professors Slooten and Dawson want to keep them free from tags. They believe that it is unethical to tag animals if it means putting them through stress for research that can be done through other means. Tagging can also change the behaviour of an animal due to human intervention, which would skew observational findings. And of course, scientists have the ability to monitor the dolphins through the photographic records they keep, so they can learn about Hector’s Dolphins without causing them unnecessary harm. Therefore the scientists like to keep a tag-free policy when it comes to Hector’s Dolphins.

3. A Different Dorsal

It’s easy to tell the difference between your standard dolphins from other waters and New Zealand’s own Hector’s Dolphin. Aside from the fact that Hector’s Dolphins are predominantly grey and quite small in comparison to their international counterparts, they have a very rounded dorsal fin. Other species you may spot in New Zealand waters that aren’t natives will have a sickle or triangular shaped fin, meaning it’s pretty easy for a Hector’s Dolphin to stand out from the crowd. In fact, they are sometimes known as the ‘Mickey Mouse Dolphin’ – it’s easy to see why.

2. Hungry Dolphins

Being warm-blooded creatures in a very cool environment, it’s important that dolphins eat as much as they can to keep their energy levels up with the activity they do. A typical male Hector’s Dolphin will eat about 11% of his body weight in fish each day as long as he can get hold of it. That’s the equivalent of an average adult male eating 37 Big Macs in one day!

1. Hector’s Dolphins are tiny

Relative to the size of other sea dwelling mammals, the native New Zealand dolphin is quite small. Going by length, Hector’s Dolphins are the smallest in the world – the average Hector’s Dolphin is the size of a five year old child, whereas the average Bottlenose is the length of a small family car! However, there’s a little competition for the title, because by weight, the Franciscana dolphin of South America is ten kilograms lighter than a fully grown Hector’s Dolphin.

TOURISM OPERATOR TALKS TO DOLPHINS

Dolphi Chat BCC2 April 12 Amazing technology previously only available in the scientific community that allows humans to talk to dolphins is being launched by leading New Zealand tourism operator Black Cat Cruises.

New analysis of results from a 1970s experiment found that Dolphins ‘talk’ to each other using the same process to make their high-pitched sounds as humans. After more than a decade of experimentation and testing by marine scientists in the United States the technology is being launched commercially for the first time anywhere in the world by Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa.  watch the video

Black Cat Cruises Managing Director Paul Bingham said the findings in the 1970’s showed that dolphins don’t actually whistle as has been long thought, but instead rely on vibrations of tissues in their nasal cavities that are the same as our vocal cords.

“Once we got wind of the technology and looked at it in more detail we realised how exciting it was and how much it would add to our cruises,” he said.

“It took quite some time to get it to a stage where it was a viable tourism product for us, and now can’t wait to share it with our dolphin swimming and cruise passengers. It really is incredible and will set our cruises apart from any marine experience anywhere in the world.”

The technology is being called Dolphi Chat and will be available as part of Black Cat Cruise’s normal trips in Akaroa. Cruise prices remain the same and Bingham said Black Cat Cruises had strong expressions of interest from several overseas marine tourism operators to purchase Dolphi Chat.

“We will see how well it goes here first but there is the potential to sell the technology to other tourism operators overseas,” he said.

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.

 

 

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!

Help Protect our Friendliest Dolphin

Hector’s dolphins are the highlight of many Black Cat cruises, and rightfully so.  Known to be the smallest and friendliest dolphin species, Hector’s are found only in New Zealand.  Aside from their playful dispositions, the dolphins are notable for their rounded dorsal fins and short snouts.

Our mission

When Black Cat was established in 1985, we were determined to showcase these unique animals in their natural habitat and we’ve been proud to play a role in conserving the dolphins and their habitat for over twenty-five years.  To help save the dolphins, Black Cat donates a portion of every passenger’s fare towards projects that support dolphin research and education.

The dolphin sanctuary

In 1989, a marine mammal sanctuary was put in place around Banks Peninsula.  To protect the wildlife, the sanctuary placed restrictions on set netting (a commonly used fishing method), banning it for commercial use and restricting its recreational use.  Set netting can be threat to marine wildlife, as seabirds or marine mammals are often accidentally entangled in the nets.  During this time, Black Cat worked closely with renowned marine biologists Dr. Steve Dawson and Dr. Liz Slooten and continues to contribute to the preservation of this rare species.

More work to be done…

Sadly, even with established sanctuaries the Hector’s dolphin is an endangered species, with only between 5,000 and 7,000 left in the world.  Threatened by fishing by-catch (such as by set nets), pollution and habitat destruction, it is crucial that we take care to preserve these animals.  Here at Black Cat, we’ve taken measures to reduce waste in order to protect the dolphin’s habitat.  We hope that these measures will help to ensure the future of the Hector’s dolphins.