Orca Encounter

Orca Encounter Featured Image

I must admit that I was pretty uncertain for what I was signing up for as I submitted my application for the Sir Peter Blake Youth EnviroLeaders’ Forum (YELF) 2016. The forum sounded absolutely amazing to me; especially as an animal and environmental enthusiast. One of the best parts, besides the adventure and learning experiences would be getting to know around 50 like-minded individuals that share the same, if not similar passions as yourself.

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On the day of YELF I must admit I was rather nervous as I sat waiting for my flight. Everything about this week seemed so new. In fact, I had never visited the South Island before! But as soon as I started talking in a small group of fellow YELFers at the Wellington airport I knew straight away I had made a great decision to apply for the Forum. With little idea with what was to come, I struggled to hold back excitement for what the next 7 days’ worth of adventures would bring us!

On the first day of YELF 2016 a really unique bunch of individuals met at the Nelson College for Girls, which would be our home for the next week. After packing our lunch, there was no moment to stop and recover from the 5AM wake up that morning! The delegates were split into groups, which were each sent to different locations in the Nelson community. These locations were carefully-chosen volunteer groups that would genuinely appreciate the help given by a team of enthusiastic volunteers! My group was sent to the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, which is a 715 hectare fully-enclosed site, which is surrounded by a predator proof fence that is over 10 kilometres long!

Our team’s task was to help carry tunnel traps around the site, as this would be a difficult task to cover for a couple of people. These traps play a vital role in ensuring that predators are not present, as the ink-pads inside pick up any prints left by an animal, which can then be identified and recorded. After just under two hours, we had all managed to walk around the tracks, admiring the native flora and fauna on the way. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking!And the feeling you got from knowing that you helped out the community was the best part. I would highly recommend taking the time to visit – it is such a truly beautiful place!

After all the traps had been dropped off down the trails there was no time to slow down! Immediately we were bussed away to a mystery location. We waited around, before Tim – the MasterChef winner from last year – emerged from the building. I guess that answered the question as to what was for dinner – whatever we ended up cooking, of course! Within two hours all the groups had managed to prepare varied versions of chicken meatballs with ramen noodles. It tasted pretty good, especially for a first attempt at that sort of food! It was also a really great team bonding exercise that everyone seemed to really enjoy.

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The next day was even more action packed. My team of 3 YELFers (and two awesome chaperones) were up first for orienteering, which was super full-on and a great way to view Nelson as we raced around to find the 24 check-in points scattered around the city.

Next up was sailing, which I had never have even thought about attempting before. When we arrived we were greeted by boats…but they were missing most of the parts! The scavenger hunt that soon followed left us with all the remaining parts, including the sails and ropes. About 10 minutes later a team of very uncertain “sailors” were off on the water. It was an amazing experience, especially getting to work together as a team, and accomplish the ever-so important goal of not flipping the boat!

The third activity far outweighed the others. Cable Bay greeted us with beautiful clear, calm waters. Kayaks were laying along the shore, waiting for us. Rumours spread that there were orca sighted in the bay earlier that morning, but they were nowhere to be seen. 45 minutes of paddling had gone by, and in that time we had seen seals, beautiful landscapes and fishermen on their boats. On the way back we took a few moments to really take in the beautiful landscapes of the bay. The beauty then turned to amazement as a mother orca and her calf surfaced just meters away from my kayak. The pair swam underneath us, and for that moment it seemed like it could not be real! Moments later a very large male orca swam right past our kayak. The kayak instructor said these sort of events were not common which made the whole experience just so much more special. This moment has to be my favourite of my whole YELF experience (so far!) and one that I’m sure I will never forget.

During a 5km kayak from Cable Bay our YELFers had an up close encounter with a pod of orca's, and caught it on video. Day 2 of YELF had us rigging & racing yachts, hi-tech & hi-speed orienteering around town, doing an app-driven Goosechase, and a 5km kayak out at Cable Bay. Thanks TeamD for pulling together an amazing programme of activities for us.