Marine Mammal Spotlight - Orca

Orca can be found around the coast of New Zealand (including estuaries and harbours) being seen off the Kaikoura Coastline generally between the months of November – March usually at least 2-3 times a month. These majestic creatures can be found travelling in tight knit pods of between 6 – 20 individuals. Pods are usually formed for life and can result in the development of unique dialects.

 

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Pod of Orca passing through Kaikoura

Male & Female Orca – An adult male orca can measure between 5-9metres with a dorsal fin that reach a height of up to 2metres high whereas the adult female orca can reach a length of between 5-8metres and has a dorsal fin that is curved.

 

Bull Orca

Bull Orca with a high dorsal fin

NZ Orca – New Zealand Orca are unique in that they specialise in hunting for sting rays and sharks (of which NZ orca have been seen taking 6 different species) but can also be seen hunting down dolphins and fish. We have experienced first-hand a pods of orca in hunting mode, hunting the likes of dolphins, to sharks, to penguins and even trying to take on a sperm whale. Orcas hunt co-operatively and are even known to intentionally strand themselves on beaches temporarily, in order to catch seals.

 

Orca behaviour – Often referred to as wolves of the sea, orcas live and hunt together in cooperative pods, or family groups, much like a pack of wolves. They work together as they hunt. Groups of orcas cooperate to herd fish into a compact area so that they're easier to eat.

 

Orca / Killer Whale – Some people call these animals Killer Whale, the name is thought to be because back in the whaling days they noticed some Orca hunt down and kill whales so they were called either killer of whales of whale killer which over time has become Killer Whale. The scientific name for the orca, or killer whale, is Orcinus orca.

 

Orca – whale or a dolphin? – They are in fact the largest of the dolphin family and not a ‘true’ whale (which is determined by size, shape and structure of their skull and their teeth).

 

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Orca Breaching

Orca ID – Every Orca looks different just like ourselves, with the Orca we can ID them by the different markings and scars they have on their bodies along with the different shaped dorsal fins they have. We can identify quite a few Orca that pass through Kaikoura’s waters during summer, some examples being A1 (was the first Orca catalogued in New Zealand), Ragged Top, Prop, Koru, Corkscrew, and Jigsaw.

 

Orca Tail Slapping

Orca Tail Slapping

Fun facts

Rainblow

Rainblow

This week Kaikōura really lived up to its reputation of being a marine mecca, with a wide variety of marine mammals sighted in abundance on our tours! We saw a lot of large transient Sperm Whales visiting our Coast to indulge in the nutrient rich waters of the Hikurangi Trench, as well as Spotty Tail! A semi-residential Sperm Whale who we’ve been seeing for a while now.

We’ve also seen a great number of Pilot Whales over the week, on Tuesday we saw 50+ and then on Thursday we saw 150+! A couple of stray Humpback Whales have also been hanging around Kaikōura, which we don’t usually get to see in November, but we’re guessing they’re just enjoying the Kaikōura Canyon too much to leave!

Dolphin varieties we saw on our tours included the usual suspects, the acrobatic Duskies and endangered Hectors, and this week we saw a pod of 20+ Bottlenose. As well as seeing the smallest of the dolphin species, the Hector, we also spotted the largest – the Orca. That makes two weeks in a row of Orca sighting!

On Tuesday, the 14th of November which marked exactly 1 year on from when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck which raised our coastline and left our boats on dry land, we celebrated our official marina opening. Thank you to everyone’s support and well wishes over the past year, each word of encouragement has been truly appreciated.

ROAD ACCESS UPDATE

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

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. 

ORGANISED TRANSPORT OPTIONS FROM CHRISTCHURCH

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.