Any visitor to the Bay of Islands will have heard of a little thing called the hole in the rock and in order to see it you really need to get yourself on a boat and explore the bay complete with its 144 islands. Like all other visitors, our trip to the Bay of Islands was no different. We were staying in Paihia and we wanted to check out this hole in the rock which we did with Explore NZ on their Discover The Bay boat trip.
This half day trip combines the famous hole in the rock and the opportunity to swim with bottlenose dolphins. This particular cruise only happens during the winter season and combines some of their other trips into one. If we'd headed out in the morning we'd also have had an island stop and morning tea!
An awesome thing about Explore NZ's boat trips is that they guarantee you'll see Whales or Dolphins, so they're pretty confident you will see them! You may wonder how this is possible... what it means is that if you don't see whales or dolphins they'll let you go out on the boat the next day and the next day until you do see them! But to be fair, even if you don't see them what better way to spend an afternoon than chilling out on a boat - a bright yellow one for that matter.
Stepping onto the boat the crew are all smiles, you would be though if your job involved sailing round the Bay of Islands everyday. Having found our seat out in the sun we set off and listened to the informative, and funny, commentary and safety info from the Captain. Sailing past the township of Russell, famous for being the first capital of New Zealand, as well as a drink and women fuelled party stop for sailormen, it wasn't long before something or a few things were spotted in the blue waters.
Roughly twelve bottlenose dolphins were playing chase the boat with us. It was a game of "stare" between us on the boat looking down and the dolphins in the water looking up. It's hard to say who was more curious.
It's moments like these that on certain days you can jump in and swim alongside the dolphins but on this day a juvenile dolphin was out so we couldn't spend time in the water with them, but we were all still mesmerised from our position on the boat. They tired of us long before we could ever tire of them so it was off to head towards the ocean for us and back into the bay for them.
It is an immense amount of fun to sit at the front of the boat as you cruise past islands and towards the open ocean. It is even more fun to mock those who choose to sit at the front of the boat as they get annihilated by ocean spray. It's the only place in the world where the drowned rat look can be pulled off.
As the land on your right hand side comes to end the famous rock with a hole in it comes in to view. The water around the rock changes from that deep royal blue to a bright light blue and the fish are random. There were masses of fish and they all clung together, possibly because it seemed to be a struggle facing the waves but they seemed ok. On some days the boat heads through the hole but this all depends on the waves. No two trips are the same when it comes to what you get at the hole in the rock.
The best part about heading through the bay towards the ocean is that you get to go back again. This is a proper afternoon out on a boat. Heading back it's the optimum time for spotting whales, more dolphins and drying out. With 144 islands in the bay there is plenty to see without you getting bored.
On your return to Paihia Wharf you will feel exhausted from all that fresh air but you will be contently shattered having hung out with dolphins and visited the famous hole in the rock with Explore NZ Discover The Bay Cruise.
Explore NZ have several trips out of Paihia and there are slight differences between Winter and Summer Season boat trips.