East Ballina residents Eric and Christine Walker have a new ‘most treasured memory’ — interacting with a dolphin called Moko while on holidays in New Zealand’s North Island.
For four hours Eric and Chris played with Moko in the water.
The experience came about unexpectedly.
Eric and Chris pulled up at a van park to stay the night and were told about Moko.
The next day they headed to the beach, with Eric, a long-time surfer, hoping for a good wave.
What they then experienced has left them with an indelible memory — what they both say is the most-treasured memory of their lives.
“Moko hadn’t been seen for six to eight weeks,” Eric said.
“The next morning we were going for a surf.
“We were walking along the beach and Chris saw a dolphin.
“We put our wetsuits on and got in the water.
“Moko came over, and we spent four hours in the water with him.
“He would come and touch us.
“He seemed to enjoy it.
“If we got underwater and clicked, he would click back.
“He was just so gentle.”
Eric said Moko, a male adult 2m long, had suddenly appeared at the area about 12 months before.
Eric and Chris met one couple who were returning for the sixth time to play with Moko.
But Moko seemed to take a special liking to Eric and Chris, with the lady who first told them about him saying that she had never seen him interact with anyone like he did with Eric and Chris.
“Chris would float on her back and Moko would swim underneath and push her along,” Eric said, adding that they also played ball games with him.
Eric is well-known Australia-wide as a highly-skilled longboard surfer.
He had his first surf at The Pass at Byron Bay on Christmas Day in 1956, but says that in all his surfing life, he has never experienced such a close sealife interaction that he had with Moko.
“I’ve had dolphins surf the waves with me at Flat Rock and Wategos, but it was never like it was with Moko,” he said.
Peter and Margaret Bryant, local surfing buddies of Eric and Chris, were in New Zealand at the same time, and Eric and Chris contacted them to let them know of their experience with Moko.
Peter and Marg arrived soon after, but they missed out — Moko was nowhere to be seen.
Eric is at a loss to explain why Moko interacts so well with humans.
“He’s on his own; he’s not part of a pod,” Eric said.
Eric said he didn’t know of any performing dolphins (such as those at Seaworld on the Gold Coast) in New Zealand, and couldn’t say if Moko had been in such a situation.
Ironically, Eric spent a month surfing in New Zealand and got some great waves. But in that time, he never saw another dolphin!
FOOTNOTE: Eric and Chris do not want to target the exact location of where they swam with Moko.