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Kaikōura is a small, picturesque coastal town located on the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The landscapes and seascapes which surround the town create some serious Instagram #FeedGoals. Throw in a few whales and dolphins into the mix and your travel snaps will be the envy of all your friends back home.
Kaikōura is the whale watching capital of New Zealand, known for its diverse marine life encounters and topping any list of ‘things to do’ when visiting New Zealand, let alone if you’re venturing down to the South Island. Whale Watch is New Zealand's only marine-based whale watching company offering visitors an exciting up-close encounter with the Giant Sperm Whale at all times of the year.
Sperm Whales are found in all the world’s oceans, usually in submarine canyons of waters deeper than 400 metres, which is why they can be viewed off Kaikōura’s Coast all year round. The Kaikoura Canyon stretches for over 60 kilometres and reaches depths of up to 1200+ metres, providing a nutrient rich feeding ground for male Sperm Whales.
Heading out by boat to see these whales is one of the most exhilarating and adrenaline-charged feelings you’ll experience. With their feeding grounds starting so close to shore (not even 1km off the Coast!) the seated boat ride can be short lived before the Sea Crew announce that you’re in the whales’ territory and they’re stopping to listen underwater by hydrophone for clicks while you’re outside scanning the surface for the trips first whale.
Whale Watch averages 1-2 whale sightings per trip, with the most frequent species sighted being the Sperm Whale, the largest of the toothed whales and the biggest ocean carnivore out in the waters deep. Male Sperm Whales in Kaikōura average the length of the vessel you’re standing on, 18 meters, giving you a great size comparison. They have a pretty long life span too, about as long as people, living up to 70 years old. Some Sperm Whales, such as Tutu and Tiaki, have been seen in Kaikōura for 20+ years, earning them serious local status.
Their teeth can be as long as a human adults forearm – imagine 50 of them?! Not to worry though, they’re not a fan of the human variety. Their favourite food is The Giant Squid and it’s not uncommon to see new markings and scars on semi-residential Sperm Whales that are thought to be battle wounds from taking on their Number 1 food source.
Pulling up next to the whale, the engine is idled or switched off and the narrator turns off her mic to let you take in this once in a lifetime encounter. Listening to their breathing and feeling the sea spray on your face is a truly humbling and awe-inspiring experience. And when they take their last breath before they dive down for their next meal, you get to see that breath-taking fluke shot that you see plastered all over Whale Watch’s Instagram feed.
To top off the experience, when time allows in between the whales dive, Whale Watch takes you to see Dusky Dolphin pods. In Autumn and Winter pod sizes are at their greatest, numbering anywhere between 100 individuals to 1,000. For this reason, Kaikōura is recognised as one of the best places in the world to regularly encounter wild dolphins in their natural habitat.
Hectors Dolphins and NZ Fur Seals are also regularly sighted. If your tour doesn’t have time? Not a problem, the Kaikōura Seal Colony is home to a number of seals and if you wander down to the beach after you check in for your whale watching tour you can sometimes catch the Hectors frolicking along the shore line outside Whale Watch’s offices.
Depending on the time of year that you plan to go whale watching, there’s also the added bonus of the chance to see other migrating species such as Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Pilot Whales and Orca. Talk about a marine mecca!
If you’re one of those travellers that like to head off the beaten track, then detour off State Highway 1 and take the Alpine Pacific Touring Route. This route features the very best of what North Canterbury has to offer. Starting from Christchurch, head to the bustling Waipara Valley Wine region to sample some award-winning Pinot’s, before soaking in the infamous thermal pools in Hanmer Springs and finishing up with some spectacular marine life encounters in Kaikōura. Drink, relax and explore your way through one of the country’s most picturesque routes and take in the vibrant beauty characteristic of the ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ visitor experience.
A true slice of paradise for not only the whales and locals, but also welcomed visitors. The natural wonders of Kaikōura are simply unbeatable. We look forward to seeing you in beautiful Kaikōura and joining us out on the water. Check out www.whalewatch.co.nz for more information.