A Look Back Over January 2016

Kia Ora – Welcome to the first update of 2016. January was a very busy month whale watching. We were blessed with wonderful sightings of not only sperm whales but also other species of marine mammals who visited the area. We had many amazing summer’s days which made for great times out at sea and beautiful evenings to enjoy.

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January beauty in Kaikoura

We had six of our semi-resident sperm whales feeding in the canyon throughout the month: Tiaki, Tutu, Manu, Saddleback, Aotearoa and Aoraki. Each sperm whale has markings or scaring that set them apart from the other for example Tutu (short for Tutumairekurai which translates to Special Ocean Dweller which is the Maori name given to the Hectors Dolphin. Tutu's dorsal fin is shaped a bit like that of a Hectors Dolphin - hence the name Tutu).


Tail time

What makes whale watching so incredibly special is that we never really know what we are going to see from one day to the next. When we head out on our tours our aim is to view sperm whales which reside off our coastline all year round, however we can also have many other species that pass through these waters and at times be sighted on our tours – for example:

2 Jan – Humpback Whale x1

3 Jan – Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

4 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

5 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

6 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

8 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

11 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

12 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

14 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

15 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

15 Jan – Orca x4

16 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

17 Jan – Orca x2

17 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

19 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

20 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

20 Jan – Beaked Whales x3

21 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

21 Jan – Orca x6

29 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

30 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

30 Jan – Leatherback Turtle x1 (very rare sighting in these parts)

31 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50


Bottlenose Dolphins

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Pilot Whales on one of our tours during January

When time allows we do our best to view any other species of marine life that are in the area such as dusky dolphins, hectors dolphins, NZ fur seals, penguins, sharks, krill etc… Kaikoura is really such a marine mecca!

Due to the warmer temperatures in the water at this time of the year we also had some regular sightings of sunfish, blue sharks and blue penguins also which is always an added bonus.

Kaikoura is all renowned for the many different species of marine birds that we can see out at sea such as: wandering & royal albatross, mollymawks, northern giant petrels, Hutton shearwaters, bullers shearwaters, westland petrels and many others, they are fantastic to view especially on a windy day!

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Wandering albatross - largest bird in flight

Looking back over January you can see that it was a busy month with some great tours taking place. It is always a good idea to book in advance at this time of the year as our tours can fill up very quickly and to save from disappointment.

Hei konā mai


We had some stunning weather over the weekend along with some great sightings on our tours. Not only were we able to see sperm whales but also the rare opportunity of seeing a pod of beaked whales pass by the Kaikōura coastline. Not a common sight at all and one that is very treasured by all when we do.

Over the weekend we also had a visit from a couple of the crew from Emirates Team New Zealand with the America’s Cup. It was great to have the opportunity to see the cup up close. Check out this video to see how the afternoon went.

The Huttons Shearwater (Tītī) are special to us in Kaikōura. Their habitat sustained considerable loss during the Nov 2016 earthquake. Please take the time to vote for them as Bird of the Year and this status will help secure the much needed funding for more research so we can plan for their future.


The highway will be open during daylight hours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (perfect for a long weekend getaway) from 7AM to 7PM.

The highway will be closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for repairs to take place. 

The closure schedule is expected to remain in place until December 2017.

There is a possibility of short delays and it will be 30km/hour through parts of the route. Check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling. Inland Route 70 remains open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Please be aware that this week is a full closure week - Monday 16 to Friday 20 October. The road will reopen to the public midday on Friday 20 October for Labour weekend travellers. Another full week closure is scheduled for Monday 6 to Friday 10 November. 

Something worth celebrating...

Restoration work on the Kaikoura marina begun 10 months ago, and over the weekend we celebrated being able to now use berth 3 & 4. We have been using our trailer unit & the public jetty for some time now so to be able to pull up into our berths is quite an exciting feat. We still have a wee way to go but this is a HUGE step closer to being fully operational. We are very thankful for the amazing work the harbour repair crew are doing in what are at times trying conditions. We are excited to see our new and improved marina once it is completed! We cannot thank the tireless effort that the workers have put in to get us to this stage especially in what has been trying conditions at times.

More great news…

We thank you all for your patience over the last 11 months with the changing tour times with having work in line with the tides but with being able to now use berth 3 & 4 it means that we are now back running on our original fixed tour timetable. 0715, 1000, 1245 & 1530 (Nov-Mar)


Kaikōura is open for business. For latest updates on accommodation, restaurant and retail information please contact the team at the Kaikōura I-Site who will be able to help you find what suits your needs during your stay in Kaikōura. 


Hasslefree ToursCanterbury Leisure Tours & Kaikoura Express have daily services from Christchurch to Kaikōura with a return service from Christchurch, as well as Kiwi Experience now having the option of a day tour out of Christchurch for their travellers.

Progress on the work being done on roads (along with harbour repairs) can be found on this dedicated KAIKOURA EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE page provided by the team at NZTA. This page is updated weekly on Friday. Work is also starting to take place on the railway network, please be aware and take care when using rail crossings.

11 months on and we are starting to see some real progress – the teams out on the road, rail and the marina are all doing such an amazing job for which we are so thankful. And, we cannot thank you all enough for your continual support.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura