Dolphins

Dusky dolphins are highly social animals, living together in groups called pods, which in the Kaikōura region can consist of individuals numbering anywhere from 100 to 800 in each pod. In autumn and winter, pod sizes can even be greater, sometimes numbering in the thousands. For this reason, Kaikōura is recognised as one of the best places in the world to regularly encounter wild dolphins in their natural environment.

A pod of dusky dolphins jumping out of the water in Kaikōura, New Zealand.

The dusky dolphins are believed to be amongst the most acrobatic of the dolphin species, often spectacular leaps, jumps, side slaps, back flips and lobtails are seen. One of the most spectacular leaps performed by the duskies is its trademark somersault and the duskies will often repeat these acrobatic leaps time and again.

Dusky dolphins interact with a variety of other marine mammals including common dolphins, long-finned pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, Hector’s dolphins, killer whales, New Zealand fur seals, sperm whales, Southern right whales and humpback whales.

Quick Facts:


Hector’s Dolphins

Hector’s Dolphins are one of the smallest dolphins in the world, and it is also one of the rarest. They can grow up to around 1.8 meters in length, at birth measuring in at around 50cm.

Hectors Dolphin. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.

Hectors dolphins are endemic to New Zealand, meaning they are only found in New Zealand waters. In Kaikōura they are often seen close to shore in small family pods of 4 to 8 individuals.

The Hector’s dolphin was named after Sir James Hector, who was the curator of the Colonial Museum in Wellington (now Te Papa).

Tutumairekurai is the most common of the Māori names for Hector's dolphin, meaning special ocean dweller.

A North Island sub-species called Maui’s Dolphin is named after the Māori demi-god who fished the North Island out of the sea with a magic hook.

Quick facts:


Bottlenose Dolphin

Widespread in the rest of Australasia this large 'Flipper' dolphin makes only occasional appearances in Kaikōura.

A pod of bottlenose dolphins in Kaikōura, New Zealand.

Like the name “bottlenose” suggest, this species of dolphin has a short, stubby beak. Bottlenose dolphins measure around 2-4 metres and can weigh in at around 135-650kgs. Males are quite a bit larger than the females.

 


Orca – Killer Whale

Killer whales are also sometimes referred to as the Orca, Orca whale or Blackfish.

An orca blow in Kaikōura, New Zealand.

The killer whale is one of the only cetaceans (cetaceans include whales, dolphins and porpoises) known to hunt other marine mammals aptly nick-named the wolves of the sea as they hunt in packs much like wolves do on land.

Orca are known to hunt everything from small dolphins (yes they hunt other dolphins) to blue whales (the largest known animal in existence).

Orca have the second largest brain of all marine mammals, second only to the sperm whale which is known to have the largest brain of any living animal.

At a whaling station off Eden in Australia a resident Orca named ‘Old Tom’ would herd baleen whales into the bay in return for a reward of whale’s tongue.

Quick Facts:


Southern Right Whale Dolphin - Lissodelphis

Southern right whale dolphins are the only dolphins without dorsal fins in the southern hemisphere. They have been known to pass along the Kaikōura Coast in pods of between 100 – 200 individuals. Known to grow up to a length of up to 3m and weigh in at around 100kg.

A pod of Southern Right Whale Dolphin, Lissodelphis.

Southern right whale dolphins are very graceful and often move by leaping out of the water continuously. When they swim slowly, they expose only a small area of the head and back when they surface to breathe. Breaching, belly-flopping, side-slapping and lob-tailing (slapping the flukes on the water surface) have been witnessed.


Long-Finned Pilot Whales

Much like the orca, the long finned pilot whale is really a dolphin. They are known for their jet black or dark grey or white markings on their throat, belly and sometimes behind its dorsal fin and eye.

A pod of long-finned pilot whales in Kaikōura, New Zealand.

They are very social family animals and can travel in pods of up to a hundred at a time and at times bottlenose dolphins can be seen travelling with them.

They have very strong family bonds, so when one individual strands the rest of the pod tends to follow. Farwell Spit which is at the top of the South Island of New Zealand is renowned for this happening.

Pilot whales generally take several breaths before diving for a few minutes. Their feeding dives may last for around 10 minutes with an adult pilot whale needing about 50kg of food a day. Squid is the main food source for the Pilot Whale but they also consume various types of fish. They are also known to consume crustaceans, octopus, and cephalopods.

Quick facts:


Common Dolphin

Common dolphins may form enormous schools of several hundred to a thousand individuals. They are also known to associate with schools of pilot whales and other dolphin species such as dusky dolphins which we have witnessed many times off the Kaikōura coastline.

Two common dolphins swimming in Kaikōura, New Zealand.

Common dolphins feed on a variety of prey, including surface schooling fish species and small mid-water fish and squids. They are known to dive to depths of 280 metres in search of prey and hunt cooperatively within schools. Dives can last up to 8 minutes but are usually between 10 seconds and 2 minutes. These animals are vocal and show a wide range of acrobatic behaviour.

Kaikōura truly is a marine mecca. This week we’ve had some successful days out on the water, sighting Beaked Whales, Humpback Whales as well as the Mighty Sperm Whale! It’s so great to see the Humpback Whales still stopping in to say hello as they migrate past Kaikōura. This week we found them right off the Kaikōura Peninsula, making for a very short trip out to see them! When time allowed we also saw Dusky Dolphins, Hectors Dolphins and NZ Fur Seals on our tours, taking passengers to Barney’s Rock where a number of them reside.

Term 3 School Holidays are fast approaching, we advise you get a head start planning some fun activates for your kids now and utilise our School Holiday Special! From the 30th of September to the 15th of October 2017 (inclusive), kids travel with us for free with every full fare paying adult! Consider taking the time to visit Kaikōura and showing your tamariki the spectacular marine life on offer. Reserve your seats here before spaces fill up.

REGULAR, SCHEDULED CLOSURES OF STATE HIGHWAY 1 SOUTH OF KAIKOURA

There is a possibility of short delays and it will be 30km/hour through parts of the route. Check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling. Inland Route 70 remains open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

From Tuesday, 22nd August, drivers will need to watch for 28 metre truck loads moving bridge beams to Kaikōura, via the Lewis Pass and the inland road via Waiau/Mt Lyford. The beams are for a new bridge build as well as smaller bridge sites north of Kaikōura. Some minor delays can be expected due to the length of the load and the slow and winding nature of parts of the route. These truckloads are scheduled to follow this inland route until September.

Progress is continuing to be made on the repair of the Kaikōura Marina, with the modified trailer and public jetty now being used for launching our vessel Tohora. This is due to tidal restrictions and repair work as a result of the coastline lifting by +1.0m. All our berths have now been removed. This is an end of an era but we are excited to see our new and improved marina once it is completed! The use of the modified trailer and public jetty will continue until further notice. It is anticipated that our facilities will be restored in October 2017. Below is a graphic (indicative only) of what is being restored at the marina.

Currently our available tour times are based around the tide times on the day and may differ from the tour times originally advertised, please bear with us as we continue to work toward being fully operational again. For an update on the tour times available, please contact our Customer Service team directly either by email on res@whalewatch.co.nz, phone +64 3 319 6767 or free phone 0800 655 121 (within NZ) and they will be able to help you with your inquiry.  Please note we are operating at a reduced capacity in the interim with up to 3 tours available per day. Please contact our team prior to arriving in Kaikōura to secure a space on one of our tours and to save disappointment.

KAIKOURA BUSINESS UPDATE

Kaikōura is open for business. For latest updates on accommodation, restaurant and retail information please contact the team at the Kaikōura I-Site who will be able to help you find what suits your needs during your stay in Kaikōura. 

TRANSPORT UPDATE

Hasslefree Tours & Canterbury Leisure Tours have daily services from Christchurch to Kaikōura with a return service from Christchurch, as well as Kiwi Experience now having the option of a day tour out of Christchurch for their travellers.

Progress on the work being done on roads (along with harbour repairs) can be found on this dedicated KAIKOURA EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE page provided by the team at NZTA. This page is updated weekly on Friday. Work is also starting to take place on the railway network, please be aware and take care when using rail crossings.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.