Who We Are

Whale Watch is a multiple national and international award winning New Zealand nature-based Tourism Company owned and operated by the indigenous Ngāti Kuri people of Kaikōura, a Māori sub-tribe of the South Island's larger Ngāi Tahu Tribe.

Bill Solomon, Ngāti Kuri leader

Whale Watch was formed in 1987 at a time when Māori were casualties of Kaikōura’s declining economy. At this time of difficulty, Ngāti Kuri leaders like (The late) Bill Solomon believed the local Sperm Whales held the answer to the unemployment problems of the Māori community. They knew their ancestor Paikea had journeyed to a new life in New Zealand on the back of the whale Tohorā. It seemed appropriate for Paikea's descendants to again ride on the back of the whale to a new life and prosperity.

And so it proved to be.

The Ngāti Kuri founders of Whale Watch mortgaged their houses to secure a loan to start the business. In the early days passengers travelled aboard a 6.7 metre inflatable vessel carrying 8 passengers at a time. In the first year of operation 3,000 passengers were carried. In time, the inflatable was replaced by a larger vessel with an upper viewing deck until today the Whale Watch fleet numbers four modern catamarans specially designed for whale watching, each holding 48 passengers. Now up to 100,000 passengers can be carried each year. The expansion of the Whale Watch fleet required the building of an entire marina in South Bay. It is from here that all whale watching tours now depart.

Due to the phenomenal success of Whale Watch, Kaikōura is now one of New Zealand's leading eco-tourism destinations offering a diverse range of exciting activities and experiences. The company has stimulated investment in new accommodation, restaurants and an impressive array of cafes and galleries filled with the work of local artists.

Paikea and Tohorā still form the symbolic centre of Whale Watch. They represent the spiritual bond between the human world and the natural world and speak of the possibilities that reveal themselves when the world of nature is revered rather than exploited.

We have had such very beautiful winters days over the last week with some stunning sunsets to go with it. Out on the water we were able to view semi-resident sperm whales Aoraki, Tutu and Manu along with humpback whales seen passing by on their annual migration north to warmer waters. When time allowed we also saw dusky & Hector’s dolphins, NZ fur seals and various marine birds too.

REGULAR, SCHEDULED CLOSURES OF STATE HIGHWAY 1 SOUTH OF KAIKOURA – Starts Tues 20th June

• 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.

Please also note that on Monday 26th June between the hours of 8.30am – 4.30pm there is a scheduled power outage for maintenance by our service provider. This will affect normal operations with administration & café areas closed for this day. Our customer service team will be available and tours will be operating but please be aware that this power outage will affect our external communications in particular our phone lines – please call the day before if you have a booking with us and you are looking for an update or visit the office on the day. We apologise for any inconvenience this power outage may cause you.

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.