Whale Watching in September 2017

September is a beautiful time of the year to visit Kaikōura. With the Spring blossoms, long days (courtesy of daylight savings) and the warm weather rolling in for Summer, it’s the perfect time to stop by before all the tourists turn up over the New Year. If you’re visiting Kaikōura with whale watching in mind, then we’ve also had some great sightings!

Kaikoura in September

Throughout September we saw semi-resident Sperm Whales Aoraki and Holy Moly. We’ve been seeing these guys for 20+ years on our tours off the Kaikōura Coast so our experience Sea Crew are able to recognise them as soon as we see them on the surface due to their distinct markings. Many transient Sperm Whales, who we were unable to identify, also were sighted on this month’s tours and were welcome visitors to our region.

Sperm Whale diving in New Zealand

Sperm Whale in Kaikoura

September is the time of the year that the Sperm Whales move further off-shore to seek food in the Kaikōura Canyon. This means longer boat rides for us but more scenery for our passengers! There’s something so calming about being out in the ocean, and the anticipation of a Sperm Whale popping up at any moment is truly exhilarating!

Sperm Whale diving in New Zealand

Kaikōura is a feeding ground for whales with a thriving eco-system with plentiful nutrients on offer. So it’s no wonder we had quite a few other visitors during September, making for some extra special tours:

5th September          2X Humpback Whale

10th September        Beaked Whales

13th September        1X Beaked Whale

13th September        2X Humpback Whale

24th September        1X Humpback Whale

26th September        1X Humpback Whale

September tends to be the last month that we see the Humpback Whales on our tours, as their Great Annual Migration draws to an end. One of our most exciting encounters this month included the Humpback Whales, as two of them made their way extremely close to shore on the Northern side of Kaikōura’s Peninsula right next to Point Kean Seal Colony! Our whale watching tours usually find whales on the Southern side of the Peninsula in the Hikurangi Trench, so our venture North was a welcome change for our Sea Crew and provided some great photo opportunities for our passengers with the Peninsula making for a stunning background. These Humpbacks were very friendly and playful whilst around us, providing some great viewing opportunities.

Humpback Whale in Kaikoura, New Zealand

As with all our tours, when time allows we take time to view other species of marine life that live off the Kaikōura Coast such as Dusky Dolphins, Hectors Dolphins, NZ Fur Seals and the many marine bird species. The Duskies, whose pod sizes can be as large as a thousand dolphins in Kaikōura, breeding season is coming up! We’re excited to see the calves in tow with their mother’s this Summer.

Mother and Calf Dusky Dolphin in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Bird species sighted during September included; Wandering Albatross, Royal Albatross, Shy Mollymawk,Grey Headed Mollymawk, Black Browed Mollymawk, Cape Petrel, Giant Northern Petrel, Westland Petrel, Grey Faced Petrel,White Chinned Petrel, Hutton Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Blue Penguin, Fairy Prion, White Fronted Tern, Black Back Gull, Black Shag and the Spotted Shag.

We know that we’ve noted the Hutton Shearwater/Kaikōura tītī (Puffinus huttoni) in our sightings, but we haven’t mentioned just how many we have seen! We’ve seen rafts of Hutton’s feeding in the bay as Spring marks the return of our Titi from overwintering in Australian waters.

Hutton Shearwater in Kaikoura

An endangered species, the Hutton Shearwater is the only seabird globally to breed in an alpine environment, with the only breeding colonies remaining in the Seaward Kaikōura Ranges. Help support the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust by purchasing some merchandise and making a donation.

Donate to the Hutton's Shearwater Charitable Trust

We’ll check in with you at the end of October for another marine mammal update.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura

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