Having a Whale of a Time in Kaikoura

Having a Whale of a Time in Kaikoura
Jason Nockels

Written by Jason Nockels

Kaikoura is an incredibly beautiful part of New Zealand, with the mountains rolling right down to the sea. On the drive into Kaikoura from the north take the time to pull in and take photos of the seal colony on the way into town. It’s amazing watching the seals and sealions play in the surf. And if you’re lucky you might see a few cute little cubs too. The marine life in the area is awesome and after seeing all these seals you’ll no doubt be wondering what else is out there.

The marine life around the area is plentiful due to a canyon in the shelf off the coast which provides an abundant food source, so where better to take the chance to get off the road, out of your camper and onto the water.

Whale Industry History

Kaikoura had a long history in the whaling industry until commercial whaling ended in New Zealand in 1964. The town has embraced this history with whale bone arches lining the way in the memorial gardens and Fyffe House, the oldest building in Kaikoura once home to whaler Robert Fyffe serving as a reminder of times gone by. It didn’t take long for the tourism industry to start taking an interest in these incredible creatures and in 1987 Whale Watch Kaikoura began.

The facility

The Whale Watch Kaikoura office is located on the north side of town in the old railway station which is quite a unique way to start off your trip. It’s conveniently located in walking distance of the Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Park, making this the ideal spot to park up when heading out to sea in and around Kaikoura. While waiting to go on your trip, there’s a small café serving food and beverages and a gift shop you can browse in. They also have some sea sickness sweets for sale should the seas be rough on the day. There is a quick safety briefing video to watch before you get shuttled to the boat by bus. Be flexible and allow an extra day or two if you’re planning on doing this trip. As it’s weather dependent, your morning trip may be moved to the afternoon as was the case when we went. So try and be flexible if possible.

Whale spotting

Seeing sperm whales up close is an awe-inspiring experience and we were thrilled to have the chance in Kaikoura! Looking out from our boat the call came that they had spotted the spray from the whale’s blowhole, it was time! We watched as the whale sat near the surface for a while readying itself to dive deep underwater. Seeing the enormous tail fin swoop up as the whale took it’s breath before diving down to search for food was an unforgettable experience.

Not just whales

There’s a lot more marine life out here than just whales however so keep your eyes peeled. During the trip we not only saw a sperm whale but also some albatross, fur seals and a huge pod of dusky dolphins playing in the surf and jumping in and out of the water in front of the boat! The dolphins might even steal the show for you, they put on a seriously acrobatic performance.

On the boat

While on the boat, the friendly and helpful staff gave a great presentation about the marine life in the area from the whales to the birds, dolphins and seals. They provided great information about the formation of the rock canyon and why the whales and other marine mammals come into the waters around Kaikoura. We even learned that they can identify each resident whale by a different shape on it’s tailfin. Amazing pictures captured on other trips were also shared.

This was an epic New Zealand experience, the chance to get up close to the largest mammal on the planet, one you’ll never forget.

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