Kaikoura, New Zealand
This was loads of fun. Went out in a very small boat. Out at sea the boat releases bait and the birds come from miles around - actually they are there ahead of the boat except for those that escort it from about 15 minutes after you leave shore.
The variety was marvelous. We saw 4 varieties of the Great Albatross including one lonely Northern Royal, 3 varieties of Mollymawk Albatross, 4 varieties of Petrels, at least 50 Shearwaters, Shags, Gulls too numerrous to be counted and on a small island called Barney's Rock a female Paradise duck and Reef Herons. A veritable paradise of water birds.
The Ocean Wings people provide sighting and ID books. The female captain/guide was marvelous about pointing out the rarer species and explaining behaviour patterns.
Very highly recommended!
Address: 96 Esplanade Kaikoura (Ocean Wings)
Directions: Leaves from the center of town by jeep for the wharf.
Phone: +64 3 319 6777
A highlight of my visit to South Island, swimming with wild dolphins at their indulgance. When they tired of us, they simply left!
Expensive and doesn't last long enough - I don't think that even 4 more hours would have been long enough for me :->)
The cost includes a wet suit, a small souvenir and a certificate.
You are told to swim in circles and make noises. If you can rouse their interest they will come in close. What can I say - I was laughing so hard at us that I swallowed a mouthful of sea water - ugh!
At this time of year - mid October - there were no Bottlenoses around, but the Dusky dolphins were no less entrancing. They more or less let us know that we were weirdos in their opinion, but they did allow us to view them from pretty close up.
An amazing experience that I will remember all of my life.
Address: The Dolphin Encounter - Kaikoura
Directions: 96 Esplanade, Kaikoura. The shop is in the center of town. Wetsuits are provided, the dressing room and introductory movie are there. Then out to the boat in their vehicles.
Phone: +64 3 319 6777
One of the best things I've done in New Zealand, or maybe ever in my life was swimming with the dolpins. When you swim with them in Kaikoura with the company Dolphin Encounters you will see them guaranteed, if not money back. I had to get up really early in the morning for the 6:30am dolphin encounter. After an instruction we were driven to the boat and went off to sea.
After a great 40 minutes cruise at sea where we saw the sun rise we finally found the dolphins. I thought it was a bit strange that we didn't stop there and went for a swim, but after five more minutes we saw a bigger pod of dolphins and off the boat we went. What a great experience. The dolphins hadn't seen any people for a whole day, because the day before all encounters were cancelled because of the weather. This is why they continued swimming on. We followed them and went out of the boat again. We had to really try and entertain them we were told, so we all did our best by swimming as dolphin like as possible and by singing all sorts of crazy songs and by making high noises. I got the attention of some dolphins and they swam around me for a short time. Absolutely an amazing experience!!!
After the second swim we got 2 more chances, but the second time was the best for me. What amazing creatures. We saw about 3 big pods of Dusky dolphins and apparently there were around 2000 dolphins that we saw in total, which was almost a record. We were very lucky to see so many of them. After the swim we got some hot chocolate and a few cookies and had the chance to take some photo's. Then it was time to go back to Kaikoura.
Other things to do while in Kaikoura are to take the Shoreline Walk around the peninsula and you can walk back through the hills via the Clifftop Walk. You start the walk at the Seal Colony and from there you follow the shore, seeing lots of seals along the way!
Take a look at my Kaikoura page for more.
Directions: Kaikoura is on the east coast, north of Christchurch.
This trip was a bit of a let-down. I was all excited thinking I was going to see whales close up. Well we saw three, and they did 'blow' and they did rise and we did see their flukes, but it was all so far away that I didn't get any kind of adrenalin rush out of it at all.
The boats go out in pairs because in the past it has happened that a whale got upset and overturned a boat. The boats are not as big as the whales themselves you know, but you don't really get that personal and up close feeling sorry to say.
Probably this was due to safety factors and probably the organizers were absolutely correct to keep their distance, but...
Anyway it is a pleasant day out at sea, but don't expect to really see anything very much. :(
BTW - Worth reserving in advance. They do book out fast even off season.
What does make the trip worth while is supporting the people that used to be whalers and killers of dolphins and seals for the meat/fur market. Today the major industry is tourism in a small town that depends on these same animals for their livlihood in the opposite way - by preserving and protecting them.
Directions: From the Whale Watch station in Kaikoura
Phone: ++64 3 319 6767
Kaikora is a funky little fishing town whose main claim to fame is whale watching.
You can book Whale watching or Dolphin watching from just about anywhere in the town. There a loads of trendy cafes and interesting shops to keep you occupied too.
The trip takes about an hour to get out to where the whales are and there are several boats in the area relaying sightings to each other. You are not guaranteed to see whales but you do have a fairly good chance and you do get discount on another trip if they don't show.
The whales are sperm whales. They can dive for up to 45 mins to feed in the plankton rich waters. When they surface they send up a huge spout of water and rest for a few minutes before diving again. Once you have seen one and it has dived you race off at madcap speed to another location - warning it can be a bit rough, take your seasickness pills!
We were not dissapointed. I have a whole roll of film with bits of whale on and managed to get a couple of shots of the tail but notihng worthy of National Geographic!
We also had the bonus of seeing some dolphins and seals on the way back.
It was a fab experience and I would do it again in a shot!
Even for the roughest dude an experience that will get to you!
It is impossible to describe the feeling you have when you are swimming with these smart and beautiful creatures!
Since there is only one place to do this from....DON'T FORGET TO BOOK AHEAD!!!
Directions: Kaikoura,South Island
Kaikoura is about two hours north of Christchurch on a road that includes a few quite hilly sections. Kaikoura is a small town that has heaps to do including whale watching, dolphin swimming, trout and salmon fishing and very nice costal walks (or runs if you are up for it!!).
Kaikoura is probably best known for whale watching. Tours will take you up close to Sperm & Humpback Whales plus the occassional Orca.
There are plenty of nice places to eat including Mussel Boys serving very nice mussels (funny that) and some excellent Fish and Chips outlets. You can also buy crayfish (Kaikoura translates to 'meal of crayfish') from caravans up the coast.
Go whale watching at Kaikoura, you really do need to book in advance though. It really is the best whale watching we have done anywhere in the world. The crew are very helpful, friendly and they certainly know how to find the whales and get good views of them. When they say click your camera because the whale is going to dive... don't think just do it. They are always spot on with the advice!
Address: The Whakeway Station Kaikoura
Directions: well signposted as you go into kaikoura.
Phone: 64 3 319 6767
Kaikoura: The whale/dolphin capital of NZ. Unfortunately, the day I was there, the winds were 30+ knots and all the boats were cancelled. If you really want to see whales, be sure to plan on a couple days here, in case you encounter the same.
If the boats are in port there is a nice hiking route along the peninsula to the east side of town, where there are many a friendly seal skulking about...
Directions: About 160 KM's north of Christchurch...
A very disappointing day. When the coach driver arrives to pick us up from the hotel in Christchurch, he explains that due to the weather, the whale watching boat will not be going out, hwever, the plane may or may not. We are given the option to cancel completely or to take our chances with the plane. We decide we have nothing better to do today, so we take our chances. Wrong!
We hang around in Kaikoura waiting for the weather to clear up. It doesn't We watch the Audio Visual display and go out into the country for a nice crayfish lunch by a roaring fire. We watch a couple of sparrows outside trying to get to a daddy longleg on the inside of the window. I think that was the highlight of the day!
We stop off by a seal colony on the coast, and I clamber down in the pouring rain to get nearer for photos. I get hissed at by the large bull seal. Apparently they have very strong teeth and can cause some serious damage. I don't hang around to find out! They are quite tame though, considering.
We make another stop at a winery for tasting and buying. I am not overly impressed by their wines - small choice and an odd aftertaste, almost dusty (woody). We buy two bottles anyway.
Kaikoura is a small town famous for its whale watching boat trips. It is located in a simply amazing setting - the pebble beach is adjacent to a mountain range, which happened to be covered with snow when I stopped by. Remarkable sight...
Go watch the sea lions up close and personal but don't get too close cause I found out they are extremely quick,the rocks are slippery and they won't hesitate to bite a piece out of your leg...:-)
Directions: Kaikoura,South Island
Definitely one of the must-do in Kaikoura. The operator organises a few trips out each day depending on sea condition. The first trip out to the sea is 730am, cost about NZ$125 per person. I would recommend to take the first trip out if you are a morning person. It is alot less crowded and we didnt even have to make advance booking when we were there in May. The sea may be rather choppy, so bring along whatever you need if you may get sea sick. We saw 3 sperm whales in our trip and some dusky dolphins on the way back. It was indeed an awesome experience, just watching such a magnificent mammel up close. The captain will stop occassionally and try to spot a nearby whale. TAke a look at my travelogue for more pix! :)
When travelling around the South Island, make sure to take a break in Kaikoura. This charming seatown is quite extraordinary if only for the sight of ice-capped mountains behind a sunshimmering ocean. Most of the tourists here go whalewatching or swimming with the dolphins, but a (free) Peninsula Walk offers you some wonderful scenic views (a mixture of green, blue and silver) and an encounter with sheep, seals, seabirds, ...
Directions: North East coast of the South Island
Whale Watching from Kaikoura was a real highlight of our 3 1/2 weeks in New Zealand. I pre-booked to travel on 2nd January. Luckily it was a beautiful hot day, sea was calm WE were told that on average trips see 1-2 whales. We must have been very lucky we saw 4 whales and then to add to our thrills we sailed amongst a huge pod of dolphins.
The people who run this company are very well organised and well-informed. They are so confident that they will find the whales that they promise a 80% refund if they don't. Company also runs helicopter viewings.
Address: The Whaleway Station, Whaleway Road, PO Box 89, Ka
Directions: Alongside the beach car park
Phone: +64 3 319 6767