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


Even though we’re still in the last month of Winter, it’s starting to feel more and more like Spring! It was a cracker weekend here in Kaikōura with amazing sea conditions and picture perfect days to go along with it.

This week we saw semi-residential whales Tiaki, Matimati, Tutu and Aoraki as well as some visiting Sperm Whales to our region. It’s so encouraging to see these whales returning to our region time and time again as they are always our favourites to see out on the water.

Four Humpback Whales were seen on our tours this week. September marks the end of their annual migration, so it’s not too long until we stop seeing the most acrobatic whales on the planet on our tours completely until next year’s journey takes them back through Kaikōura waters again.

Wednesday’s tour got to see a pod of 300 Dusky Dolphins playing with a Giant Warty Squid, also known as the Longarm Octopus Squid. These squid grow up to two meters in length and are a staple part of the Sperm Whale’s diet. A truly spectacular sight to see!

We currently have an end of winter sale on at our Retail Store at the moment, a whopping 25% off all hoodies, jackets and merino items! We need to make room for new summer stock, so head over to our online store to get your hands on some winter goodies.


There is a possibility of short delays and it will be 30km/hour through parts of the route. Inland Route 70 remains open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

As we enter into the cooler winter months it is a good reminder to take extra care on the roads and to check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling.

Progress is continuing to be made on the repair of the Kaikōura Marina, with the modified trailer and public jetty now being used for launching our vessel Tohora. This is due to tidal restrictions and repair work as a result of the coastline lifting by +1.0m. All our berths have now been removed. This is an end of an era but we are excited to see our new and improved marina once it is completed! The use of the modified trailer and public jetty will continue until further notice. It is anticipated that the Kaikōura Marina will be fully restored in October 2017. Below is a graphic (indicative only) of what is being restored at the marina.

Currently our available tour times are based around the tide times on the day and may differ from the tour times originally advertised, please bear with us as we continue to work toward being fully operational again. For an update on the tour times available, please contact our Customer Service team directly either by email on res@whalewatch.co.nz, phone +64 3 319 6767 or free phone 0800 655 121 (within NZ) and they will be able to help you with your inquiry.  Please note we are operating at a reduced capacity in the interim with up to 3 tours available per day. Please contact our team prior to arriving in Kaikōura to secure a space on one of our tours and to save disappointment.


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. 


IntercityHasslefree Tours & Canterbury Leisure Tours 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.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.