Monday, September 14, 2009

The Mangawhai dolphins

Mangawhai Beach

Talking about Moko yesterday reminded me about the dolphins at Mangawhai during the winter of 2006.

From April to Christmas of that year I ran a backpackers hostel at Mangawhai. Most of the time during winter it was very quiet, many nights there was just Aidan and me, no other guests. Aidan was a delightful 21 year old who worked at a garden centre that was being developed and needed somewhere to live for a few months. And also someone to cook for him. Looking after the backpackers wasn’t a full time job and I had a few other part time jobs at the same time.

By Christmas, however, it was starting to get quite busy and I was happy enough to scurry back to the farm, acknowledging that making 23 beds a day was just a tad too much for me.

It was a wonderful time, though. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the travellers who passed through. I’d talk to a post at the best of times, so I was pretty much in my element having new people to talk to all the time. We can forget all too easily that there are so many fabulous young people in this world!!

But the most wondrous thing that happened that winter was the dolphins that visited at the beach. I first heard about them from a surfer. This guy could hardly explain to me what had happened he was so excited. He’d been riding a wave and saw a dark shape in the water beside him, on the side closest to the rocks. At first he was worried, thinking he was closer to the rocks than was safe, then he fell off his board as “the rock” shot out the front of the wave, flipped in the air back over the crest of the wave. He got back on his board and sat there, stunned, looking around and sure enough, the dolphin came back but there were at least 6 of them, not just one. He said they were obviously showing him how to really ride a wave.

I started to take my regular walks along the surf beach rather than along the estuary. I saw them a number of times playing in the waves, sometimes only one or two, sometimes quite a gathering of them. They were small, were they children?

One day when I had with me 5 Finnish backpackers we all rolled up our trousers and waded into the surf with them. It was September, the water was freezing but we got quite carried away with the excitement of being there in the water with the dolphins. The taller guys could spread their legs wide enough for these darling little creatures to swim through. Obviously they were enjoying the fun as much as we were.

It was a remarkable, unforgettable experience. Just to see the delight in the eyes of the tourists would have been enough but I know that delight was also reflected in mine.

The cold got the better of me after a while, I was wet up to the waist by then and had just enough control of my senses to realize that the walk back home was going to be extremely cold and uncomfortable. I left the young people there in the water and got back to the house to a warm shower as quickly as I could - and luckily without being seen by too many people.

That was the last time I saw the dolphins. I figured that as the water warmed up they moved on.

But I will never forget the excitement and sheer joy of that day.


  1. WOW! what an experience. You are so lucky to have been able to do that. I think everyone loves dolphins and would love the have an opportunity like that.

  2. "Talk to a post". What a great expression.

    Yes there are lots of really fabulous youngsters around. It's a shame we hear too much about the one's that aren't.

    Being in the water with dolphins rates amongst the real highs doesn't it?


I love to know who's visiting. Leave me a sign!