We have arrived in Kaikoura (pronounced Kaicoda) under sunny blue skies after two days of rain. Kaikoura is a stunning setting. Tourquoise blue sea backed by snow capped mountains and black sand. It would be possible to ski here in the morning before joining the surfer dudes in the fully macking double overhead corduroy to the horizon.
But most people don't come here to ski or surf. They come to take part in various cetacean related activities - whale watching and swimming with dolphins to you and me. Kaikoura is one of the best whale watching places in the world and one of the few where you are almost guaranteed to see sperm whales at any time of the year.
Sperm whales, as Cameron our expert guide told us several times, are the largest predators in the world. 20 metres long and 80 tons in weight. They are not just a whole hunk of whalemeat - they have the largest brain of any living (or dead) animal. Their favourite weapon is to use echo-location to stun or kill their prey. Swimming with sperm whales is not a good idea. If they decide to echo-locate you - just to check you out you understand - it will turn your body to mush apparently. They like nothing better than to dive to 400 metres to feed on giant squid and other delicacies. Which is why you find them here so close to shore as there is a deep undersea canyon just off the coast which creates the ideal conditions not just for sperm whales but for other whales and dolphins as well as seabirds such as albatrosses.
And today provided ideal conditions for seeing them. It was sunny and the sea was running a gentle swell of just a couple of metres. We were incredibly lucky to get close up views of four Sperm Whales - watching them dive, oh so gracefully, a large pod of several hundred amazingly acrobatic Dusky Dolphins which leap out of the water supposedly as part of their hunting technique but I think just to show off to the tourists, as well as Wandering and Royal Albatrosses, Shy Mollyhawks, Great Northern and Cape Petrels and the rare Hutton's Shearwaters.
It added up to 3 hours of the best wildlife expereince either of us have ever had and worth every cent. Should you ever find yourself in Kaikoura leave your skis and surf board at home. Just bring a pair of binoculars and a camera.