Who we are

Indigenous Kiwis

Whale Watch is a multiple national and international award winning New Zealand nature-based tourism company owned and operated by the indigenous Ngati Kuri people of Kaikoura, a Maori sub-tribe of the South Island's larger Ngai Tahu Tribe.

bill_solomonWhale Watch was formed in 1987 at a time when Maori were casualties of Kaikoura's declining economy. At this time of difficulty, Ngati Kuri leaders like (The late) Bill Solomon believed the local Sperm Whales held the answer to the unemployment problems of the Maori community. They knew their ancestor Paikea had journeyed to a new life in New Zealand on the back of the whale Tohora. It seemed appropriate for Paikea's descendants to again ride on the back of the whale to a new life and prosperity

And so it proved to be.

The Ngati Kuri founders of Whale Watch mortgaged their houses to secure a loan to start the business. In the early days passengers travelled aboard a 6.7 metre inflatable vessel carrying 8 passengers at a time. In the first year of operation 3,000 passengers were carried. In time, the inflatable was replaced by a larger vessel with an upper viewing deck until today the Whale Watch fleet numbers four modern catamarans specially designed for whale watching, each holding 48 passengers. Now up to 100,000 passengers can be carried each year. The expansion of the Whale Watch fleet required the building of an entire marina in South Bay. It is from here that all whale watching tours now depart.

Due to the phenomenal success of Whale Watch, Kaikoura is now one of New Zealand's leading eco-tourism destinations offering a diverse range of exciting activities and experiences. The company has stimulated investment in new accommodation, restaurants and an impressive array of cafes and galleries filled with the work of local artists.

Paikea and Tohora still form the symbolic centre of Whale Watch. They represent the spiritual bond between the human world and the natural world and speak of the possibilities that reveal themselves when the world of nature is revered rather than exploited.

Maori Kaikoura

Who Is Paikea

The Whale Rider

Paikea WhaleriderAccording to legend, Paikea came to New Zealand from the Pacific Islands on the back of a whale many centuries ago. His descendants include the Kati Kuri people of Kaikoura.

Paikea was the youngest and favourite son of the chief Uenuku from the island of Mangaia in the present day Cook Islands. This favouritism made Paikea's elder brothers extremely jealous. They conspired to kill Paikea while fishing offshore and tell Uenuku he drowned. But the night before the trip Paikea feigned sleep and overheard his brothers plotting. When far out to sea Paikea foiled their plan by deliberately sinking the canoe and drowning his brothers.

Now adrift in a great ocean, Paikea clung to a canoe plank and awaited his own death. It was then that Tohora the whale appeared and lifted Paikea onto his great back. Tohora took Paikea south to New Zealand and the settlement of Whangara just north of present day Gisborne. Here, Paikea began a new and prosperous life.

Many years later one of Paikea's sons, Tahupotiki, travelled further south and became the founder of the great South Island tribe of Ngai Tahu. It is from Tahupotiki and Paikea that the Ngai Tahu and Kati Kuri of Kaikoura claim descent.



Our Vision:


Our Mission:

  • To IDENTIFY, DEVELOP and PROMOTE WOW based experiences!

Our Values:

  • Customer (Manaakitanga)
  • Company (Tino Rangatiratanga)
  • Community (Iwi Whanui)
  • Conservation (Kaitiakitanga)
  • Culture (Whakapapa)

Join Us Today

Where to find us

Whale Watch is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand. Experience the magic of Kaikoura whale watching with one of our tours.
03-319 6767
The Whaleway Station Whaleway Road Kaikoura, Canterbury 7340 NZ