Kaikoura is one of the few places in New Zealand where whales regularly come to play and the most common visitor is the Sperm whale. Depending on when you are there you may also see Orca during the NZ summer or Humpback whales in our winter (June & July). Get into Kaikoura and go to the visitors centre for your options here or have a look at the website below.
The cost is $125 (up until mid 2006) and if you don't see a whale on your trip they have an 'up to' 80% refund policy. The trip takes approx 2 1/2 hours.
With other companies rates vary and there is also an option via helecopter from the crew at World of Whales
Another highlight of my stay in Kaikoura was this Dolphin Encounter trip for which I had to get up very very early in the morning. I boarded the boat even before sunrise. But it was all worth it. We had a lovely 3 hours or so on the boat and saw literally thousands of dolphins. Highlight was of course swimming with them. This was so much fun!!!
These Dusky Dolphins are wild animals and continually on the move looking for food. They are in no way fed by the company that sells these tours. We had to get the dolphins' attention and after jumping in the water a second time we got them all curious. They swam around in circles around us and were really checking us out. The feeling I got when some of them looked me in the eyes cannot be described. Usually it's just the humans checking out animals, but now it was the other way around too. These animals are amazing.... You have to experience this for yourself!!!
Please take a look at the travelogue for some more pcitures of the Dolphin Encounter trip.
When you enter the town of Kaikoura hang a right and follow and follow the signs from there to the Seal Colony. There is a car park at the end of the road and opposite the carpark there is a bunch of rocks in the sea and usually there's loads of seals here, depending on the time of day and on the tide. Sometimes they also roam around on the carpark, so be aware!
Take a look at this ! You are sure not to miss this view when in Kaikoura. I was there in December 2002 and I was told that the weather had been really weird. You can see snow on the mountain top and according to the locals, this is not normal for the month of December. Oh well, it was a great view for me !
Kaikoura lies on a narrow coastal plain between high mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In places along this coast the mountains drop almost straight into the sea, with barely enough flat land for a single railway line, two lane road and rocky beach to be accommodated and even then some short tunnels are needed on corners. The steepness of the mountains reflects the underwater geography as well and the continental shelf edge lies just offshore here. This causes the ocean around Kaikoura to be rich in sea life and attracts seals, whales (and humans) to the area to partake in the bounty of the sea.
Whale Watch is a multiple award winning nature tourism company owned and operated by the indigenous Kati Kuri people of Kaikoura, a Maori sub-tribe of the South Island's larger Ngai Tahu Tribe.
you can see albatros and the back of the whale at this pic
Do some dolphin spotting or just take in the spectacular mountain scenery while enjoying an early breakfast or casual lunch on the beach at Flukes Cafe. Open 7 days.
Find this place inside the Kaikoura Railway Station building adjacent to Whale Watch Reservations and the Gift Shop.
From the Seal Colony you can do the Promenade Shoreline Walk, also known as the Peninsula Walk. This walk can only be done from 2 hours before till two hours after low tide. The walk takes a couple of hours, so take that into consideration. The walk is amazing and will take you to see great rockformations, sea birds and you will see many seals. Sometimes so many that you will find it almost impossible to pass. They can be a threat if you approach them on land, so be aware!
To get to the start of the track ask at the information centre or at your accommodation to phone up a shuttle bus. They will take you there in no time and it's quite cheap too. You can also arrange to be picked up when you finish the track. We decided to walk back ourselves after we finished the trip, but it's quite a long and a bit of a boring walk back to town, since there is just bitumen on the road and it's dead straight too, so take that into account!
Please take a look at the travelogue for some more pictures of the walk.
At the end of the Shoreline Walk you can either walk back along the shore, but why would you? It is much nicer to gather some height and walk back through the hills or not? Well I think so and so we did. We saw cows, sheep, cowsh!t and loads of other stuff. The highlight of the walk is the amazing amazing views of the Kaikouras Mountain Range and the sea all around. The hills are very green and sometimes it feels like you're walking on a big golf green!
Please take a look at the travelogue for some more pictures of the walk
As well as it's world~famous whales and fabulous seafood, Kaikoura is home to lots of seabirds and wildlife.
From the township several signs will direct you to the seal colony, just out of town, but to be honest, you will get to see fur seals all along the coast anyway, as long a you take the time to look. They can be hard to distinguish from the rocks sometimes, and often, as you stroll along the shoreline, it will be their bark that alerts you to their presence.
Don't venture too close, they are quite shy, and will take to the water if they feel threatened by you. Stay back, and you can enjoy them at your leisure.
You might go Whale Watching. You can either go buy boat or by helicopter. I went by Boat. When you go on the tours you must relised you may not see a Whale. We was luckily our boat spotted a few
ADULT NZ$ 110.00
CHILD (3 - 15 inclusive) NZ$ 60.00
The actual time on the water is up to 2.5 hours. Including reporting time and transfer by bus, you should allow 3.5 hours in total.
Fortunately there were two mini-golf courses available to keep us amused. If you are a mini-golf fan like me you will find both courses quite different and appealing. One provided a visitors book, very amusing to read. I didn't leave a comment, I was in too much of a strop after losing YET AGAIN and it would've proved too rude!!
The rain just didn't let up when we first arrived in Kaikoura, cancelling the whale watch we had planned, so with two free days we were left to taste the delights Kaikoura had on offer.
With a population of just over 3,000 it is not the most bustling of places, but we were cold and wet and just a little fed up of the campsite kitchen.
Further along the shingle shoreline, we discovered a cinema, a refreshingly un-corporate affair that looked like a school hall. Definitely go there if you have some spare time, it's along the Esplanade, (near the YHA). The visitor centre offered some alternative 'things to do' that don't involve whales or dolphins. By this stage our bank balances were looking anorexic so we just looked at the board with dejection. Possibilities included; horse riding along the coast/farmland, winery tours, glass bottom boat excursions and the list goes on, worth having a look.
If you do decide to follow the signs to the seal colony, you can park the car and climb up to the Penninsula Walkway above and get a marvellous view of Kaikoura and its mountain backdrop. The walk to the viewpoint is only about 5 minutes or so, or there is a choice of a couple of longer walks (all quite easy). The half hour trail will take you to Whalers Bay, or just over an hours walk away is pretty South Bay.
But talke care on the trails, as the cliff edge can drop away suddenly.
Within 3 hours, we encountered four sperm whales, fur seals, 100's of Dusky dolphins, albatrosses and more. I now understand why the tail of a whale seems so popular in photographs -this is all most people get to see! Not that I'm complaining.
The large boat we sailed aboard provided state of the art video footage with buckets of information about the whales and other marine life. I learnt that the sperm whales are constantly on the go, munching plankton and giant squid. They have the biggest brain of all animals (9kg!) and can grow up to 20 metres long, weighing 36-45 tonnes. After 90 minutes of diving 500m deep, they pop up for air. Staying on the surface for 20 minutes, periodically blowing water through their blowholes and digesting their squid before diving again: 'there goes the tail' (click, click go the cameras), leaving the 'whale footprint'; a smooth puddle briefly made by the weight of the whale.
At one point we saw 3 whales lined up in a row - there was obviously a communication between two of the whales, a fair way apart from each other (under water they produce clicks and pulses that carry up to 10 km) because one swam towards the other, and they floated side by side. I would love to have known what they were discussing, perhaps, "bloody tourists will they ever leave us alone?" Seeing both tails lift and slide in unison beneath the ocean waves really was something, and I am glad I filmed it with my eyes and not through the lens of a camera.
On the downside, there were too many people like me who wanted to see the whales! There were two big boats load of tourists, and a helicopter made a noisy appearance at one stage - reminding me of a crime scene or a celebrity wedding with all the paparazzi, poor whales must be getting a complex, but they fare much better than their forefathers, who got brutally hunted by our forefathers.
**BETWEEN DECEMBER AND MARCH IT IS WISE TO BOOK WELL AHEAD** We had our trip cancelled twice before sailing, so leave a couple of days spare.