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Only 5-7mins off the Kaikoura coastline the water depth drops away drastically; this is due to what is known as the continental shelf which runs along the Kaikoura Canyon. This canyon is 5kms wide at its widest point and 1600mts deep. There are 2 major currents that funnel into the canyon, one coming up from the cold nutrient rich Antarctic waters and a warm current coming down from the tropics. These collide against one another which in turns creates an up welling which brings all of the rich nutrients up to the surface which begins the food chain. This is a continual process therefore never really going short of food in the area.
Having this continual upwelling and deep water off our coastline enables Kaikoura to play host too many different species of marine life that reside here all year round – whales, dolphins, seals and marine birds.
The waters of Kaikoura are alive with dolphins - sometimes gathering in pods of a few hundred up to a thousand or more depending on the time of the year. The world’s largest and the world's smallest dolphin can be seen in Kaikoura. Some species of dolphins you might see are Common Dolphin, Southern Right Dolphin, Hectors Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and the Dusky Dolphin. You might even spot an Orca (Killer Whale) - they are the largest species of dolphin.
You can swim with the dusky dolphins in Kaikoura; these dusky dolphins can get very close and can be very playful as you snorkel around with the pod. A truly amazing experience whether in the water swimming with them or observing them from on board the boat, both guaranteed to make you smile!
New Zealand fur seals can be observed from various points along the road that hugs the Kaikoura coast. Hunted to near extinction last century for their skins, they have since become a protected species.
You can either view these inquisitive creatures from viewing areas around Kaikoura or for the more adventurous folk you can swim with the seals. This tour is run by a local family who have been taking people out to swim with seals for many years now and love what they do! Or you can go kayaking with the seals – a warmer and drier option but also a great experience not to be missed.
Kaikoura hosts the largest concentration and variety of pelagic birds on mainland New Zealand. Seabirds are attracted in their thousands by the abundance of fish concentrated in Kaikoura's unique combination of deep and shallow waters. Around Kaikoura it is possible to see 13 species of Albatross, 14 species of Petrel, 4 types of Prion and 7 varieties of Shearwater. There are also 4 Cormorant species, 3 types of Gulls and 2 varieties of Penguin.
For marine bird enthusiasts a trip out with Albatross Encounter is something not to be missed, this tour is incredible and a great opportunity to experience closely the beauty of the many birds that can be seen off the Kaikoura coastline.
Kaikoura is New Zealand's world famous whale watching destination. Sperm Whales can be seen here year-round and are the stars of the show while 7 other whale species visit regularly. Being the champion breath holders (2hrs 17mins being the longest recorded dive but average 40-60mins here) and the deepest diving cetacean (deepest recorded dive was 3195mts) it really is a privilege to be able to see these magnificent creature so up close and personal and so close to land at times only 800 metres off the beach. Some other whale species you might see are the Humpback Whale, Blue Whale, Minke Whale, Pygmy Sperm Whale, Southern Right Whale and Beaked Whale.
Whale Watch Kaikoura have a 95% success rate in viewing the sperm whales but if for some strange reason your tour does not sight whale customers are given 80% of their money back. On a typical Whale Watch tour when time allows you may also encounter these other beautiful creatures - New Zealand Fur Seals, pods of Dusky Dolphins and the endangered Wandering Albatross.