The water tremors, turning opaque and a mushroom cloud rises, as if a wand, finishing a sequence of twists and turns has fired its spell onto the sea bed below. As the cloud of disturbed sand melts away, a stingray emerges, wriggling itself free from its hiding place it glides into the sandbanks, hugging the surfs edge. Hungry orca loom further out in the bay. He’d do well to stay in the shallows.
I’m in Abel Tasman, New Zealand. The sunniest part of the country, on one of the sunniest days of the year. A perfect day for some sea kayaking. A perfect day to be on honeymoon.
The sun has already danced her way high into the sky and is busy beaming down onto the golden sands of the outstretched beach. We head off along the coast enthused by our early wildlife find.
Our guide for the day, Amy, points towards shore and a pile of boulders.
“That’s a common sunbathing spot for seals. Keep your eyes peeled.”
I pause my dolphin search and scan the rocks, but there doesn’t seem to be anything there.
I scan the rocks again and this time find her, lazily snoozing on a granite outcrop. She opens an eye, musters a half-hearted phlegmatic ‘wafture’ of a flipper and immediately flops back to sleep. It’s clearly much too hot to take interest in us, so we leave her snoozing and paddle on. We arrive in Tower’s Bay, home of Spilt Apple Rock, the area’s iconic post card shot, a giant granite boulder cleanly sliced down the middle. We pause for the obligatory camera snaps and Amy shares the story of the rock, or at least the Maori version.
Maori tell of a sea serpent, known as a taniwha who having laid her egg on some rocks in the bay, leaves it to hatch. Tane Mahuta, lord of the forest claims the egg, as it has been laid on land. But by high tide the egg lies in the water and the sea god Tangaroa therefore refutes Tane’s claim.
Unable to come to agreement an acrimonious tussle ensues. Tane heading off to create a spear and Tangaroa diving to the ocean floor and crafting an axe from greenstone. As Tangaroa dives, Tane attempts to take the egg but is spotted. Bringing his axe down, Tangaroa misses, cracking open the egg. The magic seeping out into the sea, turns the water the characteristic green the area is known for. Magic gone, the egg is abandoned and slowly it turns to rock.
Today there are no gods, just a lone cormorant, who quickly disappears as we pass and make our way to Frenchman’s Bay.
High tide offers a fleeting window to explore the lagoon beyond by kayak. Surrounded by thick forest, branches from the lush, virid vegetation hang over the aquamarine lagoon’s edge, tickling the water’s surface, sending giggly ripples out and into the smiles of the kayakers. It’s magical. A skin tingling secluded paradise hidden from the outside world by the Beech, ferns and the winding arms of the Rata trees. Paddling stops. A moment to soak up this surreal corner of New Zealand. A landscape for fairy-tales, the sort of place Peter Jackson might go hunting for elvish talent amongst the surrounding canopy.
Shaking arms back into action we press on winding around the bay and towards our landing place for a lunch. The ominously named Sand Fly Bay.
As we edge round the headland, Amy is clearly pleased her plan has come together and we can have the place to ourselves. Having heard horror stories of the biting critters, I’m relieved not to see clouds of sand flies. Then relief turns to delight.
Before us is a spit of perfect eburnean sand juts out across the bay trapping sun warmed waters in the lagoon, an ideal place to discard our kayaks and dive in for a swim.
As we wade in a small shoal of fish darts into deeper water. Its tranquil. Gentle. A chance to relax. It’s also short lived.
I didn’t notice them slip into the bay, but another group of paddlers had joined us, pulling their kayaks onto the sand further down the spit.
Clearly mostly reluctant swimmers, they were content to settle down for some sunbathing. But a lone figure had split from the group. Bounding bombastically across the hot sand in Amy’s direction and heroically launching herself skyward.
She hit the water like a handful of Mentos thrown into a glass of Coke. An explosive stream of water shooting into the air and showering down in all directions. We wince. She emerges. Beaming with pride at her belly flopping prowess. A clear announcement, it was time for some fun.
Not to be outdone Amy follows her colleague’s lead and soon there are bodies flying in all directions. An escalating crescendo of insane leaps, dives and seismic belly flops. The childish frivolities continue until we collapse on the beach exhausted.
It’s time to head home. We jump back into our kayaks.