Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bad publicity

So, a surfer had an encounter with a shark in the Catlins yesterday, getting chewed on the leg and having to punch its nose to get free. He's ok, just a bit punctured and in need of a new wetsuit - and so is the shark, presumably, apart from the nose thing. It's rare that the Catlins get into the news, and even rarer that they have shark encounters there. In fact, it's a first, according to the locals. Typically, it was a low-profile shark, a seven-gilled - nothing as flashy as a great white.

When I was down in Southland a bit less than a year ago, my focus in Porpoise Bay was well, just that: Hector's dolphins in fact, the smallest and rarest in the world, they say. Three pods live there through the summer, about 50 individuals, hoovering up mullet and crabs. It's easy living, and they have plenty of spare time to just cruise, so there were almost 20 surfing on the wake of the boat I went out on, diving underneath it and perfectly visible in the clear water. The guy who took me out, Brian, was very fond of them: "Nosy buggers," he said. "I never get tired of seeing them." I wrote all about it in a story for the Herald, but it has yet to appear, sigh.
There were people swimming with them too, just hanging in the water clearly delighted to see the dolphins swooping around them. They were no doubt thinking that the worst thing about the whole experience was having to brave the 16 degree chill of the Southern Ocean. Little did they know!

I hope no-one's put off going to explore the Catlins. It's off the beaten track, but it really is worth a bit of effort to go there and explore. According to the ranger at Cathedral Cave, most of those who do are foreigners: not many Kiwis go there at all. That's a great shame and they're really missing out on a treasure. That's a point I made in the story, too. Sigh.

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