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.

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.

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Example of a male orca (foreground) with his large dorsal alongside a female orca

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.

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Pod of orca

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 off the Kaikoura coastline

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 who was the first Orca catalogued in New Zealand. Other examples being Ragged Top, Prop, Koru, Corkscrew, and Jigsaw.

Fun facts

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Mother with her calf

Orca Tail Slapping

Orca tail slapping

 

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?!

ROAD ACCESS UPDATE

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.

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.