Canyon & Sub-tropical Environment

The waters off the Kaikōura Coast provide a unique habitat for sea-life. Comparisons have been made between the waters of the Kaikōura Coast and the Africa’s Serengeti Plain, such is the abundance of life found in the waters off the coast. But how is it that this part of New Zealand’s South Island coastline was such a great concentration of oceanic life?

Kaikōura coast at sunset.

The big deep

The Kaikōura Canyon is a submarine canyon located around 800 metres off the Kaikōura Coast.  It stretches for over 60 kilometres and reaches depths of up to 1200+ metres.  The canyon is part of the Kermadec Trench system which extends far out into the Pacific Ocean.  The trench has been formed as one of the Earth’s tectonic plates, the Hikurangi Plateau, slides beneath the Indo-Australian Plate.

A cold-water supermarket

As cold water moves along the base of the trench towards the coast, it begins to rise, bringing with it nutrients from the deep ocean.  The nutrients encourage a food chain which begins with tiny plankton and goes all the way up to the whales and dolphins you can see from your Whale Watch boat.  Deep water fish also follow the cold water currents, making Kaikōura such a spectacular place to go fishing.

On the waterline

Encouraged by the oceanic bounty of the trench, many species of mammal, birds and crustaceans flourish along the shallower fringes of the coast.  The fat New Zealand fur seals you can see basking on the rocks find all the food they need in amongst the kelpy reefs and deep fissures of the seabed.  And, of course, the creature which gave the region its name, the crayfish (kai = food; kōura =crayfish) flourish in the nutrient-rich waters.  The cliffs and crags of the coast and the Kaikōura Peninsula offer roosting-places for the myriad species of sea-birds which harvest the waters off the Kaikōura Coast; ocean-going seabirds congregate off-shore where schools of fish provide easy pickings

The skyline

Rearing almost straight out of the ocean, the Seaward Kaikōura Range and the Inland Kaikōura Range have been formed by the same immense pressures which have formed the Kaikōura Canyon.  As the Hikurangi Plateau pushes under the Indo-Australian Plate, it rumples the edge of the plate up just like a carpet being pushed up against a wall.  The resulting mountain ranges are spectacularly rugged and unstable, as the forces of erosion seek to tear them down as fast as the tectonic forces push them up.  The steep creeks and rivers which flow down from the ranges carry nutrients and minerals which further enrich the waters of the great oceanic supermarket off the Kaikōura Coast.

You can experience the breath taking scale of the Kaikōura Canyon while viewing our unique animation sequences aboard any Whale Watch tour.

An interpretation of the Kaikōura Canyon, New Zealand.

Animation interpretation of how the Kaikōura Canyon would look if the water was drained away

Over the last week we had fantastic tours with great sightings of semi-resident sperm whales Tutu, Tiaki and Manu who were feeding reasonably close inshore. When time allowed we also viewed dusky & Hector’s dolphins, NZ fur seals and marine birds.

Winter has been making itself well and truly known over the last few days which reminds us to be taking care on the roads especially earlier in the day when ice can be an issue. For those of you who enjoy time on the slopes, local family owned ski field Mt Lyford is due to open on the 29th June (just in time for the school holidays!).

REMINDER - REGULAR, SCHEDULED CLOSURES OF STATE HIGHWAY 1 SOUTH OF KAIKOURA

• The highway will be open during daylight hours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (perfect for a long weekend getaway)

• 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 the end of September.

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 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 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 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 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.

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.

Not long until the July School Holidays - why not bring your family to Kaikōura & join us for a whale watch tour? There is also plenty to see & do before or after you join with us. Please consider taking the time to visit Kaikōura, your support is most welcome. July School Holiday Special

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.