How We Operate

Designed especially for whale watching, our modern catamarans are equipped with engines that minimise underwater noise and toilets that never pollute the sea.

Vessel used for whale watch tours at Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Hamilton jet units are used for our vessel propulsion and are quieter for the marine mammals compared with other forms of vessel propulsion, they also have an internal propeller so the risk of a propeller strike with marine mammals is completely eliminated.

The main passenger cabin is enclosed and large outside decks offer great viewing and photo opportunities. Spacious air-conditioned interiors are fitted with comfortable seating while large plasma screens display our award-winning marine wildlife animations. Passenger numbers for each tour are kept well below our vessel carrying capacity to ensure your tour experience remains a personal one.

How do we find whales?

Sperm whales produce one of the loudest noises in the animal kingdom, to us it sounds like a series of rhythmic clicks or the ticking of a clock, but this click is actually one of the most sophisticated sonar systems on the planet.

Sperm whales use this sound to hunt, navigate, communicate and they can also use it as a weapon to stun or kill its prey!

It is generally pitch black where these whales are feeding, so they are not relying on their eyesight, they use echolocation instead, echolocation as the name suggests is location by echo. They send out a series of clicks then interpret the echoes these make when they bounce back from objects. This bio-sonar locates prey with great accuracy and provides a way for these whales to ‘view’ their world.

Our hydrophones (underwater microphones) can pick up the echolocation of a sperm whale anywhere from 1 to 8 miles away. The louder the click the closer to the whale we are, so if the captain is hearing the echolocation of the sperm whale and its quite faint we may need to make a move of 1 mile or more and hopefully on the next listen that ‘click’ should be a whole lot louder indicating that we are a lot closer to that individual. It is directional so whatever direction the click is coming from is the direction the whale is in.

Captain Shannon listening out for the whales echolocation, Whale Watch Kaikoura.

Cpt Shannon listening out for the whales echolocation


Humpback song:


Sperm whale creaks:


Sperm whale rapid:


Sperm whale regular:

Over the last week we had fantastic tours with great sightings of semi-resident sperm whales Tutu, Tiaki and Manu who were feeding reasonably close inshore. When time allowed we also viewed dusky & Hector’s dolphins, NZ fur seals and marine birds.

Winter has been making itself well and truly known over the last few days which reminds us to be taking care on the roads especially earlier in the day when ice can be an issue. For those of you who enjoy time on the slopes, local family owned ski field Mt Lyford is due to open on the 29th June (just in time for the school holidays!).

REMINDER - REGULAR, SCHEDULED CLOSURES OF STATE HIGHWAY 1 SOUTH OF KAIKOURA

• The highway will be open during daylight hours on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (perfect for a long weekend getaway)

• The highway will be closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for repairs to take place. 

• The closure schedule is expected to remain in place until the end of September.

There is a possibility of short delays and it will be 30km/hour through parts of the route. Inland Route 70 remains open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

As we enter into the cooler winter months it is a good reminder to take extra care on the roads and to check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling.

Progress is being made on the repair of the Kaikōura Marina and we continue to switch between using a berth and our modified trailer unit for launching our vessel Tohorā, when and where possible we are also making use of the public jetty that we have modified, this is due to tidal restrictions and repair work as a result of the coastline lifting by +1.0m. It is anticipated that the Kaikōura Marina will be fully restored in October 2017.

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 or 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.

Kaikōura 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:

All subject to weather conditions, slips, repair work and seismic activity. Updates available from the NZTA WEBSITE.

IntercityHasslefree 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.

Not long until the July School Holidays - why not bring your family to Kaikōura & join us for a whale watch tour? There is also plenty to see & do before or after you join with us. Please consider taking the time to visit Kaikōura, your support is most welcome. July School Holiday Special

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.