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

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.

REGULAR, SCHEDULED CLOSURES OF STATE HIGHWAY 1 SOUTH OF KAIKOURA

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.

KAIKOURA 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

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.