Who We Are

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.

Kia Ora

Whale Watch monitors the latest public health advice and adapts the operation accordingly.

Key Themes:

  1. If you are unwell, have been to a place of interest in the last 14-days or are awaiting a covid test please stay home.
  2. Contact tracing is required so we ask you to scan in with the covid tracer app or use the manual sign-in option provided.
  3. We ask that you wear a face covering.
  4. Our cleaning procedures have been enhanced and hand sanitizer is available.
  5. We ask that you listen to all instructions provided by our team, please be patient and kind.

Vaccination Mandates - The Vaccine Pass - Covid19 Protection Framework

From Friday 3rd December 2021 all customers to Whale Watch will be required to present a valid New Zealand Government vaccine pass as part of the New Zealand Governments Covid19 Protection Framework to travel on our tours and enter our premises unless they are exempt.

You are exempt if;

  1. You are ineligible for vaccination.
  2. Children under 12-years and 3-months of age.
  3. People who are clinically exempted.

Please note: You may also be required to show a valid form of ID in the form of a current New Zealand drivers license, Passport or 18+ Kiwi Access Card to validate your ID. Please ensure you have one of these options readily available upon request.

The message from the New Zealand Government is clear. To enjoy the full life everyone in New Zealand deserves, get vaccinated today. If you are already vaccinated, do your best to help your friends and family get their vaccinations so we can all enjoy life within the new system. 

Covid19 Protection Framework

Should you have any concerns or questions in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Support Services team.