03 December 2008

Swimming with Wild Dolphins

The day finally dawned........ 2 and a half months after my birthday and the weekend trip to swim with wild dolphins had finally arrived. We'd both taken the Friday off to make it a long weekend. We were up at about 4am and were pretty much ready to go by the time the sun started to rise....


Sunrise on Friday, 21 November 2008


We'd unpacked my surfboard and Scott wanted a pic - at this stage it still needed to have the dings fixed (done now - just waiting to be sanded smooth again) but it is nice and colourful so I decided to include it.

Wooohooooo! Another road trip!

According to Google Maps, the 281km trip should've taken us 3 hours, 51 minutes. We didn't time it at all - it was a beautiful drive. Yip, in Saffer, this trip would've taken about 2 hours!!! Not here - the speed limit fluctuated between 40, 50, 60, 80, 90, 100 and 110km/hour. 40, 50 & 60 when going through villages/towns and 80 - 110 on the highways. Where there is construction on a road, the enforceable speed limit went down to 80. And they do enforce it! For the most part, people stick to the speed limits. You get the odd P-plater racing past and then of course you have the a-hole shiny 4x4 brigade who think the road rules don't apply to them. But other than them, it's an absolute pleasure driving long(-ish) distance - especially when you have cruise control! And people seem to stick to the "drive in the left lane unless passing" ($220 fine!) rule so you don't have anyone trying to climb into your boot while flashing their lights.


We hit the road...



We stopped at the big Caltex rest-stop somewhere on the Pacific Highway where we found The Coolabah Tree Cafe. Dinkum Aussie Tucker!!!! We had a slap-up brekkie - bacon, egg, hash brown (that was made from real potato & tasted like real potato not the over-processed rubbish that Micky D's next door was serving up!), sausage, baked beans, mushroom, tomato & toast. Absolutely delicious!!! But way too much food and neither of us could actually finish.


Back on the road again....


Miss Daisy driving....


And we reach the famous Hunter Valley area....


Last exit, heading towards Newcastle....


These were brilliant. To stop the little animals getting killed on the highways, they've put up fences stopping them from getting onto the road. But they've constructed these animal crossings above the road - "fauna crossings". So the possums and other furry creatures can cross without getting squished!

The Ayers Rock Roadhouse..... It was on the opposite side of the road to us otherwise we'd have stopped.

Off the highway now into the lakes district.... a little village called Bulandeluh


A first sighting of Smiths Lake


And we arrived at the Coastal Treehouse on Headland Road at Boomerang Beach (Boomers) - right next to Bluey's Beach (Bluey's). We hired the house from a local surfer, Luke.


We headed straight out again for some exploring. We found Elizabeth Beach just around the corner from Boomers. That's a little slipway behind me - only to be used at high tide I guess.


The sand was so white - and extremely fine. When you walked on the sand, it made a squeeking noise - Scott was fascinated by this! Here he is making squeeking noises....


Still making queeky noises in the sand.....


Elizabeth Beach


Back at the Treehouse with a beer...


On the deck at the Treehouse - that's Boomerang Beach in the background


We went for a walk on Bluey's beach that evening....... Scott still squeeking his feet in the sand!


These little white crabs were all over the beach - almost camoflached against the sand but they leave these little foot/claw/leg prints in the sand - look for where the prints stop and you find a crab.

Saturday dawned windless and perfect! There were clouds in the sky but not threatening rain and it was warm.


View Larger Map
It was a half hour trip from the Treehouse to the Boatshed in Forster where we were due to launch from.


Me on the quay with the boat in the background.


Scott outside the boatshed


Looking out onto Wallis Lake from the boatshed

We head out to sea with a whole bunch of other people on the boat. We'd taken our own wetsuits, goggles & snorkels. Good call as I can't think of anything worse than putting on a communal wetsuit...... (hint.... how do you warm up a wetsuit??? think about it!) Also, our wetsuits fitted perfectly - no struggling in a baggy wetsuit like when I went shark cage diving!


And then we spotted dolphins!!! We were after the smaller common dolphins who are way more playful and curious than the bottlenose dolphins. We actually saw a bottlenose as we were leaving Wallis Lake to head out to sea. It didn't seem very interested in us at all.

The instructions were to sit in the little opening at the side of the boat, feet dangling in the water and holding the rope attached to the side of the boat with your left hand. Goggles on face, snorkel in mouth & ready to go. When given the signal, get in, pull yourself along the rope towards the front of the boat. Along the rope is a loop which you hook your left foot into. Then grab hold of the rope with your left hand as far forward as you can reach. You are now one with the side of the boat which is still moving forward. The last instruction was to make high pitched squeeky noises through your snorkle. Apparently the common dolphins are very curious and will come up close to check you out...... I have my suspicions that this was a quiet little joke for the crew to enjoy - and the dolphins of course - I could swear they were laughing at our silly attempts to communicate! :-) We sounded rediculous! But it worked a charm as an ice-breaker amoungst the passengers and it didn't seem to scare the dolphins away.

They warn you beforehand that if you don't follow the instructions, the dolphins won't come. And they were right. Also, if you're slow to get into the water, the dolphins lose interest and swim away. The boat continues to move while you're hanging onto the rope which is a little scarey - okay, ALOT scarey! Especially when the dolphins start to move off and the skipper tried to follow them..... with me still attached to the rope.... coughing and spluttering, trying to make squeeky noises while water filled my goggles and snorkel. LOL!!! If we lost the dolphins completely while someone was in the water, they'd get them out, find the dolphins again and drop 'em back in again.


Me squeeking like made - I think this was my third & last time in. I felt like an old pro by this stage!


PAYDIRT!!!! There's only one in the picture, but that was really just the tip of the iceberg! They were swimming all around me. I'd been so focused on looking ahead and to the side of me that when I looked down, they literally took my breath away! They were all under me! Visability was between 5 and 10 meters and there were just dolphins as far as the viz allowed. WOW!!!!







The smile says it all!!!


Scott waiting to take his turn....


Scott in the water. He completely forgot to make squeeky noises but after much shouting from everyone onboard, he started up.


And the dolphins came. Scott's just out of picture in the bottom right.


Hope you can see this clearly - Scott's head in bottom right and you can see the dolphin's just ahead of him under the water. You can click on the pic to enlarge it. He says he was so close at times, that he could've reached out and touched them. He didn't 'cos he didn't want to chase them away!



Scott after his dip with the dolphins



Dolphins, dolphins & more dolphins


The most wonderful man in the world who gave me the bestest EVER birthday present!!!!























There must've been thousands of dolphins all around us. It's a pity the camera can only pick up a few at a time. We were out on the water for just over 2 hours and everyone had a turn (or 2 or 3!) to swim with the dolphins. It's unbelievable how quick these creatures are! On our way back to the boatshed, we were running at full tilt and these dolphins were playing in the bow wake. I heard (many moons ago & I have no idea if it's true but it sounds cool!) that they swim along the bow wake because it tickles their backs. :-) I don't know, they just looked like they were having a blast! I want to be a dolphin in my next life!!!!


Pelicans on the roof of the boat shed


Us outside the boatshed


We did some shopping in Forster and Scott peruaded me to buy a dress - hey! Who was I to deny the man who'd just taken me swimming with dolphins! :-)))



And back to the very unglamorous Mandy making fruit salad for breakfast on Sunday morning. The apple thing in my hand is wierd - comes from China. It's shaped like an apple, has the skin of a pear - and tastes like a combination of the two. Very strange indeed!


And we start the tip home...


And decide that the adventure's not over yet! So we took the turn......


Through the most beautiful forest on a dirt road.... I had to try and convince Scott that the Astra wasn't a 4x4 and needed to be driven sloooowly over the really bumpy parts!


Through a tunnel....


Arriving at a little parking lot with a BIG sign...


And an even BIGGER tree!!!


Scott in the woods.....


Scott with a gigantic woodie......


Hrmmm....... Can't follow that last one up with anything funny!


Us with the 400 year old Eucalyptus Grandis (flooded gum) behind us.


Another old tree trunk with a smaller tree growing up in the centre of it.


5Km back to the main road....


We took a detour (the scenic route??) into Newcastle....


It reminded us of East London (Sefrica)...


Odd, funky architecture amongst the run down old buildings...


Very Obs.... just by the sea! This is Nobby's Beach in Newcastle






What an amazing weekend!!! Thanks Scott!!!!!!

4 comments:

Mamajoon said...

OH WOW! WHAT AN AMAZING BIRTHDAY PRESENT. I HAVE A WONDERFUL SON-IN-LAW. MY TWO ADVENTURERS - DON'T EVER STOP BEING ENTRANCED BY THE WORLD AROUND YOU

Carol Markusse said...

WOW WOW WOW!! Stunning you 2. I'm positively jealous.

Ness said...

Oh wow. what an awesome trip! I just love how the Aussies are so organised with everything - even fauna crossings. Try doing that here...ha ha ha.

Loved yourphotos!

Caroline said...

Oh wow what stunning photos, everything just looks so amazing! And you look sexy in that dress, good choice!