Marine Mammal Spotlight - Orca

Orca can be found around the coast of New Zealand (including estuaries and harbours) being seen off the Kaikoura Coastline generally between the months of November – March usually at least 2-3 times a month. These majestic creatures can be found travelling in tight knit pods of between 6 – 20 individuals. Pods are usually formed for life and can result in the development of unique dialects.

Male & Female Orca – An adult male orca can measure between 5-9metres with a dorsal fin that reach a height of up to 2metres high whereas the adult female orca can reach a length of between 5-8metres and has a dorsal fin that is curved.

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Example of a male orca (foreground) with his large dorsal alongside a female orca

NZ Orca – New Zealand Orca are unique in that they specialise in hunting for sting rays and sharks (of which NZ orca have been seen taking 6 different species) but can also be seen hunting down dolphins and fish. We have experienced first-hand a pods of orca in hunting mode, hunting the likes of dolphins, to sharks, to penguins and even trying to take on a sperm whale. Orcas hunt co-operatively and are even known to intentionally strand themselves on beaches temporarily, in order to catch seals.

Orca behaviour – Often referred to as wolves of the sea, orcas live and hunt together in cooperative pods, or family groups, much like a pack of wolves. They work together as they hunt. Groups of orcas cooperate to herd fish into a compact area so that they're easier to eat.

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Pod of orca

Orca / Killer Whale – Some people call these animals Killer Whale, the name is thought to be because back in the whaling days they noticed some Orca hunt down and kill whales so they were called either killer of whales of whale killer which over time has become Killer Whale. The scientific name for the orca, or killer whale, is Orcinus orca. 

Orca – whale or a dolphin? – They are in fact the largest of the dolphin family and not a ‘true’ whale (which is determined by size, shape and structure of their skull and their teeth).

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Orca breaching off the Kaikoura coastline

Orca ID – Every Orca looks different just like ourselves, with the Orca we can ID them by the different markings and scars they have on their bodies along with the different shaped dorsal fins they have. We can identify quite a few Orca that pass through Kaikoura’s waters during summer, some examples being A1 who was the first Orca catalogued in New Zealand. Other examples being Ragged Top, Prop, Koru, Corkscrew, and Jigsaw.

Fun facts

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Mother with her calf

Orca Tail Slapping

Orca tail slapping

 

***WHALE WATCH KAIKOURA UPDATE***

Over the last week we have had around 3 to 4 sperm whales feeding close inshore which has made for some fantastic sightings. There has also been a humpback whale visiting Kaikōura over the last couple of weeks which has been making itself known on our tours also much to our crew and customers delight. Dolphins, NZ fur seals and marine birds have also regular viewings on our tours.

For guests who are planning on joining us over the next week please note NZTA have issued a notice to all travellers that State Highway 1 Coastal Route south from Kaikōura to Christchurch is closed to all traffic from 8pm on Sunday 26 March to 7am on Tuesday 4 April. This is to allow remedial work to take place and to make the coastal route more resilient during times of unfavourable weather. Please use Inland Route 70 which is open 24/7 during this time, please also allow extra time in your travel plans when using this alternative route.

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 a first for us but when presented with challenges we have embraced them post-earthquake and used our ingenuity) 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 operational by the middle of this year.

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 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.