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For such a small town, Kaikoura was easily one of my favourites that I visited on a 3 week campervan trip around the south island. With a population of just over 3500, the atmosphere is that of a sleepy seaside village, but one with as much character as I can imagine. And it is just bursting with wildlife waiting for you to (inconspicuously) encounter.
Kaikoura is also home to some really special wildlife, and all visitors have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these no matter their budget or mobility.
Take a whale watching cruise.
Kaikoura is famous for its sperm whale sightings year round thanks to the warm currents that attract a vast menu of food for the whales. This is the best way to actually get close to a whale and see the whale tale splash down as they dive for food. Whale sightings happen every few hours and most operators have a 95%+ sighting ratio.
Take a scenic flight.
If you’d like to combine your whale watching with spectacular views of the surrounding mountainous coastline then this is for you. You won’t get as close as on a cruise, but you will be able to see the entire body of whale from a distance, rather than a fin, head, or tail that breaches the surface.
Again, the operators boast a 95%+ successful sighting ratio, so you’re odds are good, but even if you don’t happen to see one, the views of the mountains that seem to drop suddenly into the sea are magnificent.
Visit seals on foot on the Kaikoura peninsula.
The seals no doubt find their home in Kaikoura due to the sea life available just off the coast and are in abundance during the day, relaxing on the rocks after a hard day of fishing. There are two colonies and there must be at last 30 seals in each, though don’t expect too much movement if you’ve come for an action show.
Be careful where you are walking along the beach though because some seals come right up onto the sand and get easily spooked. Try not to walk between the seal and the water, do not get too close and make sure you remember to bring your long lens. Lastly, remember that the rocks are jagged and difficult to walk on so the seals will be much faster than you!
Albatross Encounter are located at the base of Kaikoura Peninsula on The Esplanade. They run bird watching cruises out past the peninsula where you are likely to see many types of seabirds including albatross, petrels, gulls and many more. What’s great about the tours is the proximity you can get to the birds because you are in a boat out in the ocean.