My sister has a dolphin display for her birthday. Just off the Mahurangi headland, one after another, dolphins flip into the sky and then dive into the frothing sea. We gather it’s feeding time out there, from what we can see through Ingrid’s SLR zoom lens.
Dolphin watching and camping grounds at Wenderholm
The six of us who have gathered for the mid-week day birthday celebration at Wenderholm bach are on the beach soaking up the autumn sun.
Wenderholm was Auckland’s first regional park and its camping grounds are in close proximity to Auckland city, so it’s a popular place for swimming, picnics, walks and, as we’ve discovered, dolphin watching.
One of the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rangers makes his way over to us to give an update on the bach’s hot water situation which ran out earlier than expected; apparently there isn’t a leak in the tank, I have just used it all. The ranger is surprised to see the dolphin aerobatics.
“I’ve seen Orca whales close to shore,” he says “But not dolphins jumping around like that”.
Maori history of Mahurangi District
The feeding frenzy reminds me of what I have read about the area and the infamous Mahurangi shark fishing grounds ‘tauranga ika’, which were sorely fought over by various Maori tribal groups in the late 1770’s. The muri shark gathered in their thousands in the summer season and were caught and dried for the winter months. Many Maori died defending this valuable food source.
Queen Elizabeth II’s royal visit to Wenderholm
Perhaps the Queen and Prince Philip saw dolphins too when they picnicked at Wenderholm in 1953.
I try to imagine them staying in our three bedroom bach but can’t quite picture the Queen snuggling down under a mustard yellow bedspread or doing the dishes with Prince Philip in the cute pink kitchen. They actually stayed further up the park in a specially built ‘Queens Cottage’ next to the property known then as Wenderholm or ‘Winter Home’.
That night after a birthday meal fit for a king and queen, we walk one of my sister’s friends to her car with our bobbing torches lighting the boughs of the giant pohutakawas.
On the way back we switch off our torches and look up into the pitch darkness. The milky way cuts a shimmering swathe across the night sky.
I half expect the ARC ranger to pop out from behind a tree and state firmly that he has seen stars at Wenderholm, but never like this.