Humpback Whales Annual Migration

Humpback whales hunt and feed during the summer months in the colder waters like Antarctica and then migrate to warmer tropical waters during the winter months for mating. It is around this time of the year that we are able to start to see the annual migration take place with humpback whales passing by the Kaikoura Coastline between May / June / July and August – heading up towards Australia and Tonga for the mating season. Over the last few weeks we have been able to sight quite a few humpback whales as they pass by Kaikoura heading further north. One day last week we actually were able to see throughout the day 8 individual humpback whales passing through.

Two Humpback Whales

Two humpback whales passing through Kaikōura

The humpback whale is one of the most easily recognised whale species. Known for their large flippers (which can be up to one-third of their body size), and the hump on their backs. Their colouring is anywhere from a grey to black colour and have white markings on their underbelly. These markings are differing in every whale, being like fingerprints, allowing researchers to identify individuals.

Humpback Whale Tail

 

The humpback whales diet is made up of fish and krill. They are baleen whales, meaning they are filter feeders. These whales have two parallel rows of baleen plates attached to their jaws, allowing them to filter water for the fish and krill.

Krill Side View

Krill

During the mating season humpback whales will fast, living off body fat reserves and completely forgo eating.

Humpback whales breathe voluntarily, unlike human beings. Since they have to remember to breathe, researchers believe humpback whales sleep by shutting off half of their brain at a time.

These whales are known for their complex mating songs. Researchers have studied the whale songs for years, and the complexity of these songs suggests the whales are extremely intelligent creatures. Only the males are responsible for the whale songs, however, since they are primarily a mating signal. These sounds can be heard many miles away and are heard as a combination of moans, howls and cries among other noises which can go on for hours.

Not only famous for the haunting love songs these whales are also well known for their acrobatics. They can be frequently seen leaping out of the water and sometimes can use their flukes to propel themselves completely out of the ocean – known as a breach.

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Humpback whale breaching on one our tours

In the Southern hemisphere, commercial whaling in the 20th century brought humpbacks close to extinction. NZ ceased whaling in 1964, with the closure of the Perano whaling station in Tory channel. The stocks had diminished such that humpbacks were no longer migrating through Cook Strait and commercial whaling was no longer viable. Since then NZ has become a vocal advocate for whale protection and conservation – annually for the last 10 years there has been a whale count of humpbacks passing through the Cook Strait – volunteers such as old time whalers turned conservationists and staff from DOC for a 6-12 week period spend the days watching through binoculars for signs of humpback activity and note down details, last week was the biggest count yet for a single day with 27 humpback whales being counted. This year’s Whale Survey ends on the 11th July – here is hoping for a greater tally than last year’s count.

This week has brought with it some crazy weather for us here in Kaikōura – with a lot of the Kaikōura District resembling a snow globe! The Kaikōura Ranges have seen a healthy amount of snow, making for a wonderful backdrop for our guests’ photos over the weekend. Last week we spotted semi-resident Sperm Whales Tiaki, Tutu and Aotearoa deep diving in the Hikurangi Trench. When time allowed, our tours have also seen pods of Dusky and Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and various marine birds including the Giant Northern Petrel and the Black Browed Mollymawk. 

A few Humpback whales decided to pay Kaikōura an extra special visit on Tuesday – making whale watching possible from the beaches of South Bay! These humpbacks, who are currently making their way North from Antarctica to warmer waters, lived up to their playful and inquisitive reputation and put on a real show for people on their afternoon walks and lucky kayakers passing by.

NZ Travel blogger Bare Kiwi joined us on our Sunday’s whale watching tour for a ‘whale of a time’ with our semi-resident Sperm Whale Aotearoa. For the next six months Bare Kiwi will be somewhat of a local to Kaikōura so be sure to follow him on Instagram to keep up with the activities he gets up to here in Kaikōura. Check out this cool photo he snapped from our morning tour!

It was World Orca Day on Friday so we thought we’d post a wee throwback picture below of Summer 2016/2017 with the Orca. Did you know that even though Orca are referred to as Killer Whale’s, they are actually part of the dolphin family? The name ‘Killer Whale’ originated from the Orca being the only known predators to whales, mostly the young and injured. 

We are half way into the July school holidays here in New Zealand, are you still looking for ways to fill up the rest of the break? Winter is a great time to visit us here at Whale Watch, especially when children travel for free! We are offering a July School Holiday Special, so please consider taking the time to visit Kaikōura with your family and seeing our spectacular marine life.

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.

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.