Just Keep Paddling
Our first adventure on the South Island was a good one: sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park. For those of you who don't know, and I'm sure few do, Abel Tasman National Park looks more like a tropical Caribbean island than the top of New Zealand. It is only accessible for the most part by boat or by foot and it is apparently what the foliage of the islands may have originally looked like before it was settled and New Zealand was turned mostly into farmland. I chose a day long kayak tour with Abel Tasman Kayaks as a way to see the majority of the park in one quick go. It started painfully early and as someone who is not a morning person, it was more than a bit of a struggle. First off, yes I've gone kayaking before, but secondly, no I have never kayaked for an entire day on open sea. Yes, it was super difficult; yes, I was exhausted; yes, I got severely sunburned on my arms despite copious amounts of sunscreen. Here's a fun fact about New Zealand: that infamous hole in the ozone layer that covers part of the Earth's southern hemisphere is actually at its thinnest over New Zealand, so the sun is super severe and the UV rays will burn you much more quickly and more disastrously than they would elsewhere. If you plan to spend extensive time in the sun in New Zealand I cannot stress enough the importance of sunscreen, reapplied vigorously. So I was pretty awful at the whole kayaking thing and I was always lagging behind the rest of the group, but hey, at least I tried.
Okay, other than the exhaustion and the sunburn, it was an incredibly beautiful experience. We paddled past endangered species of birds like the blue penguin, past sea lions sunbathing and twirling about in the water near us, past a huge pod of dolphins playing in the surf, and even onto a gorgeous deserted beach to stop for lunch (that's where I took most of these photos). The water was a stunning turquoise and clear as tap water in many spots near shore. The mountains rose up around us, small boats dotted the horizons, birds called to each other from tree to tree, and the splash of the paddles in the water was oddly mesmerizing. We ended up at a waterfall in Bark Bay and then water taxied back to our meeting point in Marahau, the final town before entering the park. Once in Marahau, we used the showers at the Abel Tasman Kayaks facility to rinse off then looked for a bite to eat. It was easy to stumble upon a place considering there could not have been more than 3 options in town, if that. We chose the closest and it was actually an adorable cafe called Hooked on Marahau, which featured beachy decor, overlooked the water, had good food prepared quickly, and was clearly a popular local place for happy hour if the crowd was any indication. We couldn't even find a table and wound up taking fish and chips to go. All in all I'd say it was a very successful day and we headed back to Nelson to get some much-needed rest.