How We Operate
Our vessels are designed and built specifically for whale watching here in Kaikoura, our modern catamarans are equipped with engines that minimize underwater noise, no exposed propeller blades and toilets that never pollute the sea.
Scania DI16 076M Marine Diesel Engines each rated @ 662KW (900hp) are used on our vessels, these engines meet IMO Tier II emission standards as required for our type of operation here in New Zealand.
Hamilton jet units are used for our vessel propulsion, this system is quieter for the marine mammals compared to other traditional forms of vessel propulsion, they also have an internal propeller so the risk of a propeller blade strike with any marine mammal is eliminated.
The passenger cabins are fully enclosed, and large outside decks providing all surround viewing offering great viewing and photo opportunities.
Spacious air-conditioned interiors are fitted with comfortable seating while large screens display our award-winning marine wildlife animations.
A full tour narration is provided to keep our customers fully informed on the tour plan, the local environment, history of the area and the various species of marine wildlife that can be encountered off the Kaikoura coastline.
Passenger numbers are kept well below the maximum carrying capacity the vessel could cater for.
We meet all New Zealand regulatory rules and requirements for our type of operation and hold a current Marine Mammal Permit for commercial marine mammal watching from the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
We have two cabin classes to select from.
How does the tour start?
- Check-in for all our tours takes place at our main office located at The Whaleway Station, Whaleway Station Road, Kaikoura.
- We are the only building on this road and have a large carpark available for customers during the day.
- Please note, you do not need to be at our office any earlier than your stated tour time. (Example: If your stated tour time is 1000 then please do not show up any earlier than 1000)
- Once check-in procedures are completed and your ticket has been issued (30min is allowed for this process) you are then boarded onto a bus or van (depending on what cabin you are booked in) and transferred to the South Bay Marina where our vessels are berthed.
- The marina is located on the opposite side of the Kaikoura peninsula, this is a 6-7 min drive.
- Once at the marina you will be boarded onto your designated vessel.
- Once boarding procedures have been completed your vessel will depart.
What will I see?
Every Whale Watch tour is a unique experience, and the sightings vary. We typically see 1-2 whales per tour. Giant Sperm Whales are the stars of the show and year-round residents. A typical Whale Watch tour may encounter New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross. Depending on the season you may also see migrating Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales. Kaikōura often hosts Orca especially during our summer months. Kaikōura is also home to the world's smallest and rarest - the Hectors. Kaikōura also attracts the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand including 13 species of Albatross, 14 varieties of Petrels and 7 types of Shearwaters. If your Whale Watch tour does not see a whale, we will refund 80% of your fare.
For the avoidance of doubt, a whale, as defined by the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992, means all species commonly known as whales; and includes baleen whales, sperm whales, beaked whales, killer whales and pilot whales.
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 Dusky Dolphins on our tours during these times.
How do we find Sperm 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.
Sperm whale creaks:
Sperm whale rapid:
Sperm whale regular: