Moko arrived in Tauranga harbour yesterday morning (June 3rd) after following the Eskdale, a fishing trawler that had been sheltering at Whale island off the coast from Whakatane which was where Moko had decamped to after torrential rain and floods in Whakatane over the weekend. The Whakatane River, where Moko spent quite a bit of his time, was in full flood with a lot of logs and debris and thick with silt it was no place for an ocean loving dolphin.
The Eskdale ~
There was also a pod of orca (a dolphin's arch enemy) that had been in the vicinity for a few days. In fact sadly one of the orca, a teenage male, died and washed ashore on Piripai Spit just a few hundred meters from the Whakatane River entrance.
By sheer coincidence the Eskdale was the trawler that Moko had followed from Gisborne, around the East Cape to Whakatane back in January. The skipper of the Eskdale believes Moko likes his loud music (AC/DC.....I'm sure Moko has better taste than that) but those that know Moko believe it's the stabilizer bar and large orange buoys that float along beside the trawler.
Moko spent a lot of his down time in Whakatane snuggled up with the Evelyn J, a boat that dredges the Whakatane Bar, it has stabilizer bars too. Moko loves to rub his body on the bars and swim alongside them and the chains that hang in the water when the boat's motoring along. The Eskdale is due to leave the port this morning on a 5 day fishing trip, will Moko follow? That is the million dollar question. The skipper had turned down a $3000 bribe by a tourist operator in Gisborne to get Moko to return to Gisborne. A joke maybe, but I think it he is very serious, Moko generates a lot of visitors from out of town and overseas wherever he goes.
Pilot Bay, Mt Maunganui ~ from all angles
Mt Maunganui (Mauao) is an extinct volcano cone.
I heard around midday that Moko had arrived in town but had to wait until I got home later in the afternoon before I could check out his location. After a short time scanning the harbour with the telescope from our deck I zeroed in on a growing crowd in Pilot Bay. Usually this wouldn't indicate anything other than a lot of families and people walking and sunning themselves in the late afternoon sunshine on one of the most popular beaches in New Zealand. But it's June and it's winter and the sun was setting. There were quite a number of people in the water along with even more scattered along the shoreline. And they all seemed to walking one way in unison and then back the other and then back again. More slinky black shapes joined the group, wetsuits obviously. A sure indication that Moko was in their midst.
I grabbed my camera and jacket, shouted out departing goodbyes (I should have been bathing and feeding our granddaughter her dinner before she returned home, instead her father finished the job for me. I know Pete understands my passion for Moko) and headed to the Mount in 5pm rush hour traffic. MyMateMoko couldn't come to town, my town and have me miss him. The sun was sinking fast but I knew I had to see him tonight just in case it was a brief visit and he'd be gone in the morning. Eight minutes later and a silent thankyou to the powers that be for the new flyover and second harbour bridge and I was pulling into a parking spot in Pilot Bay.
Sure enough in knee deep water I caught sight of that familiar fin. Moko was playing to his audience and they were thoroughly enjoying it. Squeals and shouts, laughter and chatter filled the air. Up and down he swam, in and out. I could see he had a bottle balanced on his nose at one stage, playing his old games with his new fans. Fetch and chase. I also saw a couple of tail slaps, Moko letting someone know he doesn't appreciate some things like being cuddled or having his fin held onto. Oh they have a lot to learn. I smiled when a guy on a wave ski paddled into the middle, all bravo and "look at me, I’m cool", Moko soon tipped him off his board. Again. And again. "You won't win mate" I felt like shouting to him. The paddler finally lifted his board clear of Moko and made his way back to shore.
Oops, over you go! ~
I spotted the familar profile of a person outlined in the gloom of dusk, she was standing out the back of the group in the water, carefully watching, waiting and offering advice when needed. I breathed a sigh of relief, a Moko minder from Whakatane. Now that is dedication. Thankfully she will be able to impart some of her immense knowledge of Moko to new minders if Moko decides to stay.
The sun sets behind the Kaimais ~
Tauranga harbour is not actually a great place for a dolphin to take up residence. Too many fast pleasure boats, a lot of large fishing trawlers coming and going, huge international ships and powerful tug boats, a very narrow shipping lane with a 24/7 working log and container port, large expanses of tidal mudflats not to mention the extremely narrow entrance into the harbour through which all water traffic large, small and with fins must pass.
Tauranga Harbour entrance ~ Pilot Bay to the left around the corner, Tauranga city straight ahead and Matakana Island on right ~
The Mount base track ~
Tangaroa, Maori god of the sea stands guard at the Entrance ~
So in the fading light with the beautiful silhouette of our special Mauao as a backdrop and an extra special treasure in the water below I said a silent goodbye to Moko. I’m so please that Moko paid a visit but I hope Moko decides the Big Smoke isn't for him. And once again I say "stay safe Moko, my mate"