A Look Back Over January 2016

Kia Ora – Welcome to the first update of 2016. January was a very busy month whale watching. We were blessed with wonderful sightings of not only sperm whales but also other species of marine mammals who visited the area. We had many amazing summer’s days which made for great times out at sea and beautiful evenings to enjoy.

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January beauty in Kaikoura

We had six of our semi-resident sperm whales feeding in the canyon throughout the month: Tiaki, Tutu, Manu, Saddleback, Aotearoa and Aoraki. Each sperm whale has markings or scaring that set them apart from the other for example Tutu (short for Tutumairekurai which translates to Special Ocean Dweller which is the Maori name given to the Hectors Dolphin. Tutu's dorsal fin is shaped a bit like that of a Hectors Dolphin - hence the name Tutu).


Tail time

What makes whale watching so incredibly special is that we never really know what we are going to see from one day to the next. When we head out on our tours our aim is to view sperm whales which reside off our coastline all year round, however we can also have many other species that pass through these waters and at times be sighted on our tours – for example:

2 Jan – Humpback Whale x1

3 Jan – Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

4 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

5 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

6 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

8 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

11 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

12 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

14 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

15 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

15 Jan – Orca x4

16 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

17 Jan – Orca x2

17 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

19 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

20 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

20 Jan – Beaked Whales x3

21 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

21 Jan – Orca x6

29 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

30 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50

30 Jan – Leatherback Turtle x1 (very rare sighting in these parts)

31 Jan - Pilot Whales x50 & Bottlenose Dolphins x50


Bottlenose Dolphins

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Pilot Whales on one of our tours during January

When time allows we do our best to view any other species of marine life that are in the area such as dusky dolphins, hectors dolphins, NZ fur seals, penguins, sharks, krill etc… Kaikoura is really such a marine mecca!

Due to the warmer temperatures in the water at this time of the year we also had some regular sightings of sunfish, blue sharks and blue penguins also which is always an added bonus.

Kaikoura is all renowned for the many different species of marine birds that we can see out at sea such as: wandering & royal albatross, mollymawks, northern giant petrels, Hutton shearwaters, bullers shearwaters, westland petrels and many others, they are fantastic to view especially on a windy day!

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Wandering albatross - largest bird in flight

Looking back over January you can see that it was a busy month with some great tours taking place. It is always a good idea to book in advance at this time of the year as our tours can fill up very quickly and to save from disappointment.

Hei konā mai


Kaikōura’s Summer weather has been a treat this past week, making for some epic sea conditions and amazing clear sightings of marine life out on the water.

It seems like Tiaki and Tutu, two of our favourite whales to see out in the Canyon, have been getting reacquainted since they’ve reunited, as this marks the second week in a row that we’ve seen catching a breather up on the surface and diving down to feed together. Looks like they missed each other as much as we missed them whilst they were away!

Other semi-residential Sperm Whales we saw this week included Mati Mati and Aoraki as well as many transient Sperm Whales who are constantly drawn to Kaikōura due to the abundance of food on offer. As with the majority of our tours, we sighted NZ Fur Seals, Hectors Dolphins, Dusky Dolphins and a variety of seabirds including the Great Wandering Albatross.

Who else is planning to kick start their Summer with a whale watching tour? Bring your family and friends along too and make it an adventure! Buy a whale watching gift voucher or, better yet, check out our Marine Combo deal! Get above, on and below the water with a scenic flight, whale watching boat trip and swim with the dolphins! The ultimate gift this Christmas and one of the best ways to make some lasting Summer memories.

Don’t forget, State Highway 1 North is re-opening this Friday afternoon. And yes, the world famous Nins Bin caravan will be ready to welcome you back! So if you’re making your way along the Coast, stop to enjoy the warm weather, soak up the scenes and take in this incredible new landscape that Kaikōura is quickly becoming known for. They’ll be serving freshly caught crayfish and all that other good stuff including mussels, whitebait and the classic Kiwi fish n’ chips right on the beach – does it get any better?!


There is a possibility of short delays with it being 30km/hour through parts of the route. The full rebuild of the highway will continue in 2018. Check the NZTA website for road updates before traveling. INLAND ROUTE 70 IS OPEN 24/7.


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. 


Hasslefree ToursCanterbury Leisure Tours & Kaikoura Express have daily services from Christchurch to Kaikōura with a return service from Christchurch. Kiwi Experience now have the option of a day tour out of Christchurch for their travellers. Intercity Bus also provides a bus service between Christchurch and Kaikoura return.

Progress on the work being done on the roads (along with harbour repairs) can be found on the dedicated Kaikoura Earthquake Response page provided by the team at NZTA. This page is updated weekly on Fridays. Work is also underway on the railway network, please be aware and take care when using rail crossings.

The team at Whale Watch Kaikoura.