Heading up the coast from Kaikoura there is a road sign that is unique, a ‘Seal Crossing’ sign! If the sea is rough, the seals have been known to take refuge on the road. One stock truck driver told me that he had to use his electric cattle prod to get one to move that was blocking traffic on SH1. I am not too sure what the Department of Conservation (DOC) would say about his method!
We stop for a photo at Ohau Point to check out the 100’s of NZ Fur Seals doing their rock impersonations. They have been fishing all night to eat enough to feed their growing pups rich milk so we’ll forgive them for lazing about.
We then head around the corner to the Ohau Waterfall. Now my busload must think I am mean or crazy as I insist they have to do this walk, even if it’s raining. I tell them that although they have seen or are going to see hundreds of waterfalls down the West Coast, Fiordlands or The Catlins, this one is unique and my favorite little walk in NZ.
First we cross under the railway bridge and start following the stream up a windy path. Along the way my crew start to spot the drawcard and stop to take photos. “You aint seen nothing yet! Wait till you see what’s at the top!”. We get to the bottom of the waterfall and there frolicking in the pool, are countless Fur Seal pups!
It is the Seal Colony crèche! Pups will make their way up the stream bed and stay up there for a few days before heading back to find mum (that must be a mission) for some food. They start coming up here at around 5 months of age, and continue to do so until they are weaned at 10 months, just in time to give mum a month or two break, before the next pup arrives. All their playing helps them develop skills and muscles for their life as marine hunters. DOC say that up to 200 can come up here each winter.
The Maori name for the Fur Seal is Kekeno, which means ‘Looks about’. It is so appropriate as they climb on rocks or poke their head out of the water to check out their brightly coloured visitors.
As we head back to the bus, everyone forgives me for making them walk in the rain and agree that it is a waterfall like no other.