Posted by & filed under Travel Country: New Zealand.


On Wednesday I took the trip out to Akaroa. I had tried before, on previous trips to NZ, to get to Akaroa but for different reasons didn’t manage it. So I was looking forward to the trip. I decided to do the Black Cat Harbour Cruise, which takes you out on a catamaran into Akaroa Bay to see Hector Dolphins, (an endangered species) and paid for that trip at the i-site in Christchurch that morning. At 9.30am I was picked up outside the i-site and brought to Riccarton Mall where the shuttle bus was waiting for me. There were three other people on the bus: two girls and a guy. There is a direct shuttle service out to Akaroa, which costs 50 NZD return but for 60 NZD, the Scenic Coach Trip takes you to Akaroa and back, stops at various vantage points on the way and gives you a commentary on the history and background of the area.

Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula was formed by a volcano which erupted about twelve million years ago. It was inhabited by Maoris of the Ngai Tahu tribe in 1831. In 1838 Jean Langlois, captain of the French whaling ship, the Cachalot, negotiated with the local Maori chief to buy Banks Peninsula. On his return to France, he organised for fifty emigrants to sail back to NZ, accompanied by Charles Lavaud, on the warship L’Aube. By the time they got there, the Treaty of Waitangi was already signed in 1840 and became a British colony. Although New Zealand had already been claimed by Britain, Akaroa was the only French colony in the country.

We stopped at Birdlings Flat, a beautiful beach on the Pacific Ocean, then Little River and we steadily climbed the 480 metre hilltop in the bus, on the rim of the extinct volcano, to see what would have been a stunning view of Akaroa on a sunny day, but it was foggy with a lot of low lying cloud, so it wasn’t great for taking photos. It was lovely though driving through the hills of the Banks Peninsula.

We got to Akaroa itself at 12.30pm. I had an hour before the Harbour Cruise was to begin. So I headed off to get something to eat. I found a restaurant which did battered tempura prawns, on a bed of noodles, with salad and a dipping sauce for 19 NZD. It was lovely but I was in a rush though, as I had to get to the wharf by 1.30pm.

On the boat, I got talking to this Vietnamese couple who were on a cruise around New Zealand. A lot of cruise ships used to dock at Lyttleton harbour, 29 km away from Akaroa but because the wharf was damaged in the February earthquake, the cruise ships are now docking in Akaroa. Our captain was a Scottish guy called Hamish. He had a good sense of humour and gave us a well informed and funny commentary.

We headed out towards the bay and slowed down a bit to see some seals lying on the rocks and some shag cormorants. Then we really hit the waves when we got back into the bay and the swell was quite bad. I could feel my tummy going up and down, like a cycle in a washing machine and I wasn’t feeling the best at all. I get bad motion sickness when there’s a bad swell. About fifteen minutes later, we stopped because there was a pod of hector dolphins around the boat. There were about fourteen of them. They’re tiny and an endangered species now. We only saw their fins and backs as they didn’t come above the water much. In comparison to the dusky dolphins I saw in Kaikoura, the dusky dolphins were much more playful, jumping out of the water. Still it was great to see them.

The whole harbour cruise took two hours. It was lovely seeing the dolphins but I was glad to get back to shore. I had an hour before the last shuttle bus was going back to Christchurch. It wasn’t really enough time to see what I wanted to see in the village, such as the craft market but I did my best. Most of the street names are in French and I liked the feel of the place. I went into one of the art galleries, had a quick look around the village, took a few photos. I should have taken the earlier shuttle bus in the morning but the next time I’ll go back, I’ll know what to do.