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Whale Watching Kaikoura

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by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published November 12th 2015
Whale watching at Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island in New Zealand is an unforgettable experience.

whale watching kaikoura new zealand
Whale watching Kaikoura (©paula mcmanus)

The Kaikoura coastline is extremely close to the Continental Shelf. Within minutes of leaving the wharf, the water depth drops suddenly from 100 metres to 600 metres.

This area is called the Kaikoura Canyon and, at its widest and deepest, is 5kms wide and 1600 metres deep. Cold water from the Antarctic and warm water from the tropics both run into the canyon and create nutrients in the water. The food supply is abundant and the area is teeming with wildlife. Kaikoura is home to some of the worlds most magnificent marine creatures and getting on a boat and seeing them is an experience that you'll remember forever. Kaikoura means "meal of crayfish" in Maori.

whale watching kaikoura
Whale watching Kaikoura (©paula mcmanus)

Seen at Kaikoura all year round is the majestic Sperm Whale. They are the monsters of the sea and grow to 20 metres long and weigh over 50 tonnes.

The Sperm Whale is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator in the world and feeds primarily on squid and is known to plunge to 2,250 metres (7,382 ft) for its prey.

sperm whale
Sperm Whale, Kaikoura (©paula mcmanus)

The tour guides on board the whale watching boats are experts at reading the sperm whale's body language. They can tell, to almost the exact second, when the whale will plunge. They announce this to the tourists so that the cameras are at the ready and that the shutter button is clicked to get that "perfect" whale tail photo.

The large amount of food available in the area brings in more than just the sperm whales. Depending on the season, you can see Southern Right, Pilot and Humpback whales, New Zealand fur seals, dusky dolphins, orcas, 13 varieties of albatross including the Royal and Wandering albatross and the incredibly rare and endangered Hectors dolphin.

sperm whale
Sperm Whale, Kaikoura (©paula mcmanus)

Whale Watch Kaikoura is New Zealand's only vessel-based whale watching company. They operate all year round (weather dependent) and even though sperm whale sightings are not guaranteed, you will see bird life, some spectacular views of the alps, have an enjoyable boat cruise and learn something fascinating.

new zealand fur seal kaikoura
New Zealand Fur Seal, Kaikoura (©paula mcmanus)

Kaikoura is approximately 180kms north of Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand

all year round

check the Whale Watch website for details

Suitable for:

Check their website to check on the status of the cruise. The weather can change at a moment's notice and cancellations can happen.
And, because the weather can change so quickly, be sure to take some seasickness tablets prior to leaving and carry them in your bag too. Seasickness bags are supplied at every seat.

Kaikoura New Zealand
Kaikoura New Zealand (©paula mcmanus)

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Why? visit the whale watching capital of NZ
Where: Kaikoura
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