Seals and Marine Life

Kekeno (New Zealand fur seal) are the most common seals in New Zealand waters. They are very good swimmers and weaned pups will turn up almost anywhere around New Zealand. They can be observed from various points along the road that hugs the Kaikōura Coast.

New Zealand fur seal a Point Kean, Kaikōura.

Kekeno spend a lot of their time on rocky shores, at sites called haul-outs. Every year, these sociable animals return to the same area for the breeding season.

Fur Seals spend several days out at sea feeding (foraging trips may range from 1 – 8 days) and then come ashore to “haul-out” areas for a day or so to rest and suckle their pups. People may assume that they are sun-bathing when lying on the rocks, however they are merely resting. The seals have a thick fur coat, underneath this they have a thick layer of blubber. These keep them well insulted at sea but when they come ashore to rest, they are vulnerable to overheating so are forced periodically to enter the water to cool down.


Giant squid

These true monsters of the deep can grow to over 20 metres. Using the largest eye of any animal and a long set of grasping tentacles, the Giant Squid hunts sharks, other squid and fish in the pitch-black depths of the Kaikōura Canyon.

Giant squid. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.

Once the Giant Squid's tentacles have secured its prey the victim is pulled towards a parrot-like beak and with the help of a rasping tongue tears the meal into small pieces. This food processing is carried out for good reason.

The digestive tract of the Giant Squid passes directly through its head. If it swallows something too large it will ream out its own brain and die.

The main predator of the Giant Squid is the Sperm Whale. Many of Kaikōura's Sperm Whales display dinner-plate sized tentacle scars from encounters with this giant of the deep. Large squid beaks are often found in the stomachs of beached Sperm Whales.

Did you know?


Hoki

A deep-water fish and favourite food of the Sperm Whale, the Hoki gathers in huge numbers in the Kaikōura Canyon.

Hoki fish. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Kingfish

A fast moving member of the tuna family. Whale Watch crews have seen Sperm Whales catch Kingfish by stunning them with bursts of sonar.

Kingfish. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Mako

A swift and aggressive denizen of the Kaikōura Canyon. Whale Watch crews have witnessed Sperm Whales using sonar to incapacitate a Mako shark before eating it.

Mako Shark. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Krill

A small shrimp-like animal that swarms in huge red shoals. Baleen whales depend on consuming large amounts of krill as the basis of their high protein diet.

Krill. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Hapuka

A large species of deep-ocean fish and another favourite food of the Sperm Whales that live in the Kaikōura Canyon. Length 1.8m.

Hapuka fish. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Plunket shark

Lives in the depths of the Kaikōura Canyon. Its large green eyes are needed to see prey in total darkness.

Plunket Shark. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Great white shark

The Great White is one of the top predators in the Kaikōura Canyon food chain.

Great White Shark. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.

Winter has bought with it some amazing scenery for our tours, with the snow-capped mountains making for a jaw-dropping background for our guests’ photos. Last week’s whale watch trips had some spectacular sightings, including Humpback Whales being spotted playing with hundreds of Dusky Dolphins on Wednesday and Thursday! We sighted four Humpbacks on our tours this week as we continue to see them stop in for a quick visit to Kaikoura on their way to breed and give birth in Northern warmer waters.

Monday and Wednesday’s tours sighted pods of up to five Sperm Whale, with tours this week also spotting semi-resident Sperm Whales Tiaki, Tutu, Saddleback, Aotearoa and Matimati feeding in the Hikurangi Trench. Each of these whales can be distinguished by the different shaped dorsal fins, tail shapes, marks and scars they have which we get a good view of when they are on top of the water oxygenating and also when they dive down to feed.

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 Shy Mollymawk and the Caspian Tern. These birds look like gulls, with dark wing tips and large red bills. In New Zealand, Caspian Terns frequent sheltered bays and harbours of the main islands, but are also seen regularly at inland lakes and rivers. As Caspian Trends don’t breed in Kaikōura, the birds seen here are likely to be from the breeding colonies at the Wairau lagoons or Lake Ellesmere.

Don’t forget, the annual photography competition for Kaikōura’s 48 Hours in Kaikoura takes place next weekend on the 5th and 6th of August so make the trip and bring your camera to capture Kaikōura’s amazing natural wonders and marine life. This year there will be new seascapes and landscapes featured for the first time since the November Earthquake which will make for some new and interesting competition. There are categories for both amateurs and professional photographers so there’s no excuse not to join in on the fun!

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.