Kaikōura - Marine Mecca

Only 5-7mins off our coastline the water depth drops away drastically going from anywhere between 50-100 metres to over 600 metres deep just like that.  This is due to what is known as the continental shelf which runs along the Kaikōura Canyon.  This canyon is 5kms wide at its widest point and 1600mts deep.  There are 2 major currents that funnel into the canyon, one coming up from the cold nutrient rich Antarctic waters and a warm current coming down from the tropics.  These collide against one another which in turns creates an up welling which brings all of the rich nutrients up to the surface which begins the food chain.  This is a continual process therefore never really going short of food in the area.

Kaikoura Canyon

Having this continual upwelling and deep water off our coastline enables Kaikōura to play host too many different species of marine life that reside here all year round – whales, dolphins, seals and marine birds.

 

Dolphins

The waters of Kaikōura are alive with dolphins - sometimes gathering in pods of a few hundred up to a thousand or more depending on the time of the year. The world’s largest and the world's smallest dolphin can be seen in Kaikōura. Some species of dolphins you might see are Common Dolphin, Southern Right Dolphin, Hectors Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and the Dusky Dolphin. You might even spot an Orca (Killer Whale) - they are the largest species of dolphin.

 

Hectors Dolphins

Hector's dolphins

You can swim with the dusky dolphins in Kaikōura; these dusky dolphins can get very close and can be very playful as you snorkel around with the pod. A truly amazing experience whether in the water swimming with them or observing them from on board the boat, both guaranteed to make you smile!

 

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Dolphin Encounter

Seals

New Zealand Fur seals can be observed from various points along the road that hugs the Kaikōura Coast. Hunted to near extinction last century for their skins, they have since become a protected species.

 

Sleeping Fur Seal

Sleeping Fur Seal

You can either view these inquisitive creatures from viewing areas around Kaikōura or for the more adventurous folk you can swim with the seals. This tour is run by a local family who have been taking people out to swim with seals for many years now and love what they do! Or you can go kayaking with the seals – a warmer & drier option but also a great experience not to be missed.

 

Seal Swim

Kayaking with the NZ Fur Seals

Marine Birds

Kaikōura hosts the largest concentration and variety of pelagic birds on mainland New Zealand. Seabirds are attracted in their thousands by the abundance of fish concentrated in Kaikōura's unique combination of deep and shallow waters. Around Kaikōura it is possible to see 13 species of Albatross, 14 species of Petrel, 4 types of Prion and 7 varieties of Shearwater. There are also 4 Cormorant species, 3 types of Gulls and 2 varieties of Penguin

 

Wandering wing span

Marine birds off the Kaikoura coastline

For marine bird enthusiasts a trip out with Albatross Encounter is something not to be missed, this tour is incredible and a great opportunity to experience closely the beauty of the many birds that can be seen off the Kaikōura coastline.

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Albatross Encounter

Whales 

Kaikōura is New Zealand's world famous whale watching destination. Sperm Whales can be seen here year-round and are the stars of the show while 7 other whale species visit regularly. Being the champion breath holders (2hrs 17mins being the longest recorded dive but average 40-60mins here) and the deepest diving cetacean (deepest recorded dive was 3195mts) it really is a privilege to be able to see these magnificent creature so up close and personal and so close to land at times only 800 metres off the beach. Some other whale species you might see are the Humpback Whale, Blue Whale, Minke Whale, Pygmy Sperm Whale, Southern Right Whale and Beaked Whale.

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Variety of whales & dolphins we can see throughout the year off the Kaikōura coastline

***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.