How We Operate

Designed especially for whale watching, our modern catamarans are equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise and toilets that never pollute the sea.

Vessel used for whale watch tours at Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Hamilton jet units are used for our vessel propulsion and are quieter for the marine mammals compared with other forms of vessel propulsion, they also have an internal propeller so the risk of a propeller strike with marine mammals is completely eliminated.

The main passenger cabin is enclosed and large outside decks offer great viewing and photo opportunities. Spacious air-conditioned interiors are fitted with comfortable seating while large plasma screens display our award-winning marine wildlife animations. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept well below our vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

How do we find whales?

Sperm whales produce one of the loudest noises in the animal kingdom, to us it sounds like a series of rhythmic clicks or the ticking of a clock, but this click is actually one of the most sophisticated sonar systems on the planet.

Sperm whales use this sound to hunt, navigate, communicate and they can also use it as a weapon to stun or kill its prey!

It is generally pitch black where these whales are feeding, so they are not relying on their eyesight, they use echolocation instead, echolocation as the name suggests is location by echo. They send out a series of clicks then interpret the echoes these make when they bounce back from objects. This bio-sonar locates prey with great accuracy and provides a way for these whales to ‘view’ their world.

Our hydrophones (underwater microphones) can pick up the echolocation of a sperm whale anywhere from 1 to 8 miles away. The louder the click the closer to the whale we are, so if the captain is hearing the echolocation of the sperm whale and its quite faint we may need to make a move of 1 mile or more and hopefully on the next listen that ‘click’ should be a whole lot louder indicating that we are a lot closer to that individual. It is directional so whatever direction the click is coming from is the direction the whale is in.

Captain Shannon listening out for the whales echolocation, Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Cpt Shannon listening out for the whales echolocation


Humpback song:


Sperm whale creaks:


Sperm whale rapid:


Sperm whale regular:

Kia Ora Friends

***WHALE WATCH KAIKOURA UPDATE***

Kaikōura is as beautiful as ever with so much on offer. Over the last week we have had opportunities to view a pod of orca, a humpback whale, an Erect Crested & Yellow-Eyed Penguin as well as our commonly sighted sperm whales, dusky dolphins, NZ fur seals and amazing marine birds on our tours. We are certainly well worth considering when planning your next holiday.

Progress is being made on repairs to the Kaikōura Marina and we continue to switch between using a berth and our modified trailer unit for launching our vessel Tohorā, this is due to tidal restrictions and repair work as a result of the coastline lifting by +1.0m. Launching from the trailer is how we loaded our passengers in the old days of whale watching.

Currently our available tour times are based around the tide times on the day and may differ from the tour times originally advertised (please note we are working hard at being able to return to a fixed tour schedule from Mon 27th Feb 2017  – please watch this space). 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 operating 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.

Intercity & Hasslefree 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.

Again we thank you for your patience as we continue to work toward being back fully functional, but for now we are very thankful for the ability to be able to take the people we can out whale watching.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.