Kaikōura - Marine Mecca

Only 5-7mins off our coastline the water depth drops away drastically going from anywhere between 50-100 metres to over 600 metres deep just like that.  This is due to what is known as the continental shelf which runs along the Kaikōura Canyon.  This canyon is 5kms wide at its widest point and 1600mts deep.  There are 2 major currents that funnel into the canyon, one coming up from the cold nutrient rich Antarctic waters and a warm current coming down from the tropics.  These collide against one another which in turns creates an up welling which brings all of the rich nutrients up to the surface which begins the food chain.  This is a continual process therefore never really going short of food in the area.

Kaikoura Canyon

Having this continual upwelling and deep water off our coastline enables Kaikōura to play host too many different species of marine life that reside here all year round – whales, dolphins, seals and marine birds.

 

Dolphins

The waters of Kaikōura are alive with dolphins - sometimes gathering in pods of a few hundred up to a thousand or more depending on the time of the year. The world’s largest and the world's smallest dolphin can be seen in Kaikōura. Some species of dolphins you might see are Common Dolphin, Southern Right Dolphin, Hectors Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and the Dusky Dolphin. You might even spot an Orca (Killer Whale) - they are the largest species of dolphin.

 

Hectors Dolphins

Hector's dolphins

You can swim with the dusky dolphins in Kaikōura; these dusky dolphins can get very close and can be very playful as you snorkel around with the pod. A truly amazing experience whether in the water swimming with them or observing them from on board the boat, both guaranteed to make you smile!

 

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Dolphin Encounter

Seals

New Zealand Fur seals can be observed from various points along the road that hugs the Kaikōura Coast. Hunted to near extinction last century for their skins, they have since become a protected species.

 

Sleeping Fur Seal

Sleeping Fur Seal

You can either view these inquisitive creatures from viewing areas around Kaikōura or for the more adventurous folk you can swim with the seals. This tour is run by a local family who have been taking people out to swim with seals for many years now and love what they do! Or you can go kayaking with the seals – a warmer & drier option but also a great experience not to be missed.

 

Seal Swim

Kayaking with the NZ Fur Seals

Marine Birds

Kaikōura hosts the largest concentration and variety of pelagic birds on mainland New Zealand. Seabirds are attracted in their thousands by the abundance of fish concentrated in Kaikōura's unique combination of deep and shallow waters. Around Kaikōura it is possible to see 13 species of Albatross, 14 species of Petrel, 4 types of Prion and 7 varieties of Shearwater. There are also 4 Cormorant species, 3 types of Gulls and 2 varieties of Penguin

 

Wandering wing span

Marine birds off the Kaikoura coastline

For marine bird enthusiasts a trip out with Albatross Encounter is something not to be missed, this tour is incredible and a great opportunity to experience closely the beauty of the many birds that can be seen off the Kaikōura coastline.

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Albatross Encounter

Whales 

Kaikōura is New Zealand's world famous whale watching destination. Sperm Whales can be seen here year-round and are the stars of the show while 7 other whale species visit regularly. Being the champion breath holders (2hrs 17mins being the longest recorded dive but average 40-60mins here) and the deepest diving cetacean (deepest recorded dive was 3195mts) it really is a privilege to be able to see these magnificent creature so up close and personal and so close to land at times only 800 metres off the beach. Some other whale species you might see are the Humpback Whale, Blue Whale, Minke Whale, Pygmy Sperm Whale, Southern Right Whale and Beaked Whale.

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Variety of whales & dolphins we can see throughout the year off the Kaikōura coastline

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.