Marine Mammal Spotlight - Dusky Dolphins
Not only do we have the sperm whale off our coastline all year round but Kaikōura is also home to the resident dusky dolphin. On our tours we have around a 50/50 chance of viewing dolphins if time allows and if they are not feeding too far from where we are viewing whales.
The dusky dolphins are small stocky and acrobatic species of dolphin; they are plentiful off the Kaikōura coast where they can be seen in pods of between 100 – 1000 individuals. These dolphins can grow up to a length of 2m and can often be sighted doing leaps, jumps, flips and tail slaps in dramatic hunting and mating rituals – always a fantastic sight to see.
In autumn and winter pod sizes tend to be at their greatest. For this reason, Kaikōura is recognised as one of the best places in the world to regularly encounter (and swim with) wild dolphins in their natural environment.
Mating usually takes place during spring & summer, it is not uncommon during spring (September to December) to see new calves swimming around with their mothers learning to art of jumping out of the water – such a cute sight to see. The gestation period for the female is 11 months with dusky mums giving birth every 2-3 years!
Duskies feed on small fish and squid. They chase their food down using echolocation and sound...dusky squeaks and squeals. Duskies often work together to herd their prey together into a tight group which makes it easier to pick out individual fish.
The relatively large size, social nature and sheer speed of the Dusky dolphin mean that it has very few predators that hunt it in its natural environment. They are at risk of being hunted by killer whales and some species of shark. There have been times where we have witnessed on our tours killer whales teaching their young how to hunt, and while it is a hard thing to see it really is nature at its best.
Please note that during the months of Nov - Mar there is a rest period in place for viewing of the Dusky Dolphins between the hours of 11.30am to 1.30pm. This is mandatory for all vessels and has been put in place by the Department of Conservation, this restricts viewing of dolphins on our tours during these times.