On The Look Out for Whales in Kaikoura

Whale Diving Stock Image

The small seaside town of Kaikoura, north of Christchurch, along with the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, is a marine lovers paradise, with encounters available all year round. On a typical Whale Watch tour, you may encounter Giant Sperm Whales, New Zealand Fur Seals, Dusky Dolphins and the Wandering Albatross.

Sperm Whales

Kaikoura is one of the few places to see Sperm Whales. These deep-diving whales can head to depths of hundreds or even thousands of metres for their food. The dives can last up to two hours as they head into the depths. Male Sperm Whales are found along the Kaikoura Canyon due to the unique system of sea currents that serve up an incredible ecosystem of marine life, where Sperm Whales are at the top of the food chain.

The iconic photograph of the tail of a whale diving along the coastline is the perfect memory of your fantastic trip.

Giant Sperm Whale Diving

Dusky Dolphins

Another delight of heading out on the Whale Watch is the highly sociable dusky dolphins, ranging in 100 to 800 in each pod. Kaikoura is recognised as one of the best places in the world to regularly encounter wild dolphins in their natural environment. These acrobatic dolphins love to jump and leap and is a magical experience to see purely wild animals enjoying the sea.

In 1964 the last sperm whale was hunted in Kaikoura, and since then, the Kaikoura Marine Management Area has developed to conserve Kaikoura’s whales, dolphins, seals, albatrosses, rock lobster, shellfish and finfish.

Dusky Dolphin Leaping Out The Water

Tour Advice

Prebooking your tour is essential as the demand is very high for trips. Each tour lasts roughly two hours, but you should allow about 3-4 hours for the safety briefing and bus transfers. If the tour is cancelled, the company will do its utmost to accommodate on another trip. It is a long time out at sea, so if you do get motion sick, be prepared and take anti-sickness. Alternatively, you can purchase aqua straps at Kaikoura. Whale Watch Kaikoura has a 95% success rate of seeing a whale, and if you don’t, there is an 80% refund on your booking.

My experience

On the day I visited Kaikoura the weather was rough. Lots of whitecaps could be seen across the bay before we made it onto the boat. We didn’t even think that we would be able to go but reassured we started our safety brief and away we were. I have never seen my mother so unwell with motion sickness, the boat was hitting the waves at a rate of knots and quite a few of the passengers were looking rather green. The boat slowed whilst we waited for news of the next sighting. This is when a pod of Dusky Dolphins entertained us with their acrobatic skills, not caring how rough the sea was. We then heard the news, a sperm whale had been spotted and we raced (quite literally) to make it in time. Luckily we did catch the whale diving into the deep unknown. My mother said that seeing this made the rather queasy trip (and she doesn’t suffer with seasickness normally) worthwhile.

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