Best of TAURANGA

Dolphin Watching

Dolphin Watching

So you want to watch dolphins, or swim with them? Tauranga now has four licensed operators, with different boats and approaches.

South Sea Vagabond: Departs Merrilees Road, Sulphur Point, tel 579-6376 or 027-224-2266, http://www.southseasailing.com/ The 18-metre comfy sailing catamaran can carry up to 50 day passengers, and sleeps 14. Skipper (and the boat’s builder) Simon has a vast amount of local marine knowledge (including good snorkelling spots) and offers all-day dolphin trips billed as ‘total marine encounters’. Swim or kayak with dolphins. Cost: (lunch extra on request) adult $120, children under 12, $85, group concessions available.

Butler’s Swim With Dolphins: Departs Pier C, Tauranga Bridge Marina, or Salisbury Wharf, Mount Maunganui, tel toll free 0508-288537 or 578-3197, http://www.swimwithdolphins.co.nz/ Maritime identity Graeme Butler (‘good natured sea dog’) offers a ‘magic and un-intrusive’ insight into the world of the marine mammals. His 60-foot yacht Gemini Galaxsea has plenty of deck space for relaxing. It is equipped with a ‘swim bar’ at the stern Cost: adult $135, child & seniors $110 (under 5’s free). Butler’s offer a second trip free, if you don’t see dolphins or whales.


Dolphin Seafaris: Pier D5, Tauranga Bridge Marina, Harbour Bridge Causeway, Mount Maunganui, tel 575-4620 or 0800-326 8747, http://www.nzdolphin.com/.This long-established eco-tour operator boasts an excellent ‘find rate’ and is Qualmark endorsed. The 50-foot catamaran Guardian (Ex America’s Cup), is a fast, modern boat with a high top deck that offers a great vantage point. Wetsuits, masks and other gear is provided, along with continental breakfast, juices and hot drinks. Trips take 4 hours, and depart Tauranga at 8am. Advance bookings essential. Cost: adult $120, child (5-12) $80. Includes continental breakfast, fruit juice and hot drinks on the voyage.

Dolphin Blue: Departs Tauranga Bridge Marina, Harbour Bridge Causeway, Mount Maunganui. Paul and Alison Aitken, tel 576 4303, http://www.dolphinblue.co.nz/ .A family-run operation providing a ‘sit-back, more relaxed type experience.’ Passenger numbers are limited to 12 on board 54-foot Commander I, an elegant vessel built in the 60's. Skipper Paul Aitken is a seagoing veteran who has skippered private and large commercial vessels. Cost: adult $165, child $120 (3 and under free). The six hour trip includes morning tea, lunch and ‘going home’ refreshments, wetsuits and snorkelling gear, as part of the package.

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