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Kayaking the Kaikoura coastline truly is a unique paddling experience. You have the feeling of being dwarfed by massive snow-capped mountains dramatically towering over the rugged rocky coastline and the big blue Pacific. The views are spectacular and provide an amazing backdrop for all the photos you will take while paddling.
But the marine life in Kaikoura is the main attraction for paddling this coastline.
New Zealand Fur Seals lazing around the rocks or frolicking in the water is a guaranteed sight, with populations growing year by year. Viewing these cheeky characters by kayak is by far the best way to see them in their natural environment by being so quiet and eco friendly. By keeping a distance of 20 meters from the seals on land you can watch them act out their daily routine of sleeping, scratching and fighting without disturbing them. In the water they often interact with you, swimming under and flipping around your kayak. The seals are often seen feeding around the reefs, ripping up fish and octopus. This can be a great watch for a kayaker, sometimes taking the seal up to 15 minutes to devour his meal and you might get chucks of fish flicked at your kayak. If you are really lucky while paddling around the rocks you may also see an Elephant Seal or a Leopard Seal, these seals are rare visitors to the Kaikoura coastline.
If you're fortunate enough while paddling you may encounter pods of Dolphins. Large pods of Dusky Dolphins numbering in the hundreds can be within paddling distance at certain times of the year. If you get to paddle with these dolphins it is an experience you will never forget, they are very interactive and will follow and play under your kayak. They are very acrobatic and do a lot of flips and jumps making it feel like they are showing off to you. We also have the Hectors Dolphins along the coast, these guys are a lot shyer and are not often seen until they pop up right beside you. The Hectors are generally not as interactive as the Duskys but are an amazing sight and a privilege to see.
Majestic migratory whales are being seen more regularly by kayak around the Kaikoura coastline. The Baleen Whales tend to travel closer to the shoreline and can pop up unannounced. Humpbacks are the most commonly seen whale by kayak, the numbers migrating through the area are increasing year by year, they are travelling north throughout winter and head back south in spring. You often smell them before you see them if you are down wind. Minkes, Southern Rights and Blue Whales are a very rare sight, travelling through only occasionally. Pods of Orcas travel through Kaikoura preying on Stingrays and Dolphins throughout the year and can sometimes be seen just meters from the rocks. The whales and orcas can be very inquisitive of the kayaks, just remember to maintain the distance of 50 meters.
If you are into seabirds then you are sure to see many different species of seabirds from tiny Little Blue Penguins up to the mighty Wandering Albatross. If you are lucky you will get to paddle amongst a massive flock of Hutton Shearwaters, one of the only places in the world where you can do this. There is no better way to see the seabirds than by kayak as you can get so close to them without disturbing them.
I came to Kaikoura in 2007 to work for Kaikoura Kayaks as a guide and instantly fell in love with this place and all the wildlife that resides here. I am now about to start my 6th season here with Kaikoura Kayaks and I still love getting out on the water each day, the views never get old and there is so much variety with the marine life you just never know what you are going to see. I have been very lucky with my encounters and have seen and photographed some amazing stuff while paddling and I am sure this place will continue to blow my mind and surprise me with new encounters and experiences even 6 seasons on. I feel very blessed to be able to call this amazing coastline my office.
My motto is 'You have to be at the right place at the right time, but you have to be out there to see it!' I hope to see you out there paddling around soon!