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 it all over the weekend – sunshine, wild wind, sleet, warmth, cold and beautiful new snow on the Kaikoura ranges. Despite the conditions over the weekend in the days leading up we had some great tours with sightings of semi-resident sperm whales Manu and Tiaki and hen time allowed we also saw dusky dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, NZ fur seals and marine birds.

The most recent update on State Highway 1 South from Kaikoura is that it is expected to remain closed till the end of May to allow the construction of a temporary road and rail alignment around the base of the large landslide that came down during April’s heavy rain at Easter. Please allow extra time as you travel through Inland Route 70 which 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 being made on the repair of the Kaikōura Marina and we continue to switch between using a berth and our modified trailer unit for launching our vessel Tohorā, when and where possible we are also making use of the public jetty that we have modified, this is due to tidal restrictions and repair work as a result of the coastline lifting by +1.0m. It is anticipated that the Kaikōura Marina will be fully restored by October 2017.

Dredging of the outer channel of the Kaikōura marina is well advanced.

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 or 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 Business Update:

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.

Transport Update:

All subject to weather conditions, slips, repair work and seismic activity. Updates available from the NZTA WEBSITE.

Intercity, Hasslefree 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.

Please consider taking the time to visit Kaikōura, your support is most welcome.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.