Humpback Whales Annual Migration

Humpback whales hunt and feed during the summer months in the colder waters like Antarctica and then migrate to warmer tropical waters during the winter months for mating. It is around this time of the year that we are able to start to see the annual migration take place with humpback whales passing by the Kaikoura Coastline between May / June / July and August – heading up towards Australia and Tonga for the mating season. Over the last few weeks we have been able to sight quite a few humpback whales as they pass by Kaikoura heading further north. One day last week we actually were able to see throughout the day 8 individual humpback whales passing through.

Two Humpback Whales

Two humpback whales passing through Kaikōura

The humpback whale is one of the most easily recognised whale species. Known for their large flippers (which can be up to one-third of their body size), and the hump on their backs. Their colouring is anywhere from a grey to black colour and have white markings on their underbelly. These markings are differing in every whale, being like fingerprints, allowing researchers to identify individuals.

Humpback Whale Tail

 

The humpback whales diet is made up of fish and krill. They are baleen whales, meaning they are filter feeders. These whales have two parallel rows of baleen plates attached to their jaws, allowing them to filter water for the fish and krill.

Krill Side View

Krill

During the mating season humpback whales will fast, living off body fat reserves and completely forgo eating.

Humpback whales breathe voluntarily, unlike human beings. Since they have to remember to breathe, researchers believe humpback whales sleep by shutting off half of their brain at a time.

These whales are known for their complex mating songs. Researchers have studied the whale songs for years, and the complexity of these songs suggests the whales are extremely intelligent creatures. Only the males are responsible for the whale songs, however, since they are primarily a mating signal. These sounds can be heard many miles away and are heard as a combination of moans, howls and cries among other noises which can go on for hours.

Not only famous for the haunting love songs these whales are also well known for their acrobatics. They can be frequently seen leaping out of the water and sometimes can use their flukes to propel themselves completely out of the ocean – known as a breach.

2014 11 27 09.19.04

Humpback whale breaching on one our tours

In the Southern hemisphere, commercial whaling in the 20th century brought humpbacks close to extinction. NZ ceased whaling in 1964, with the closure of the Perano whaling station in Tory channel. The stocks had diminished such that humpbacks were no longer migrating through Cook Strait and commercial whaling was no longer viable. Since then NZ has become a vocal advocate for whale protection and conservation – annually for the last 10 years there has been a whale count of humpbacks passing through the Cook Strait – volunteers such as old time whalers turned conservationists and staff from DOC for a 6-12 week period spend the days watching through binoculars for signs of humpback activity and note down details, last week was the biggest count yet for a single day with 27 humpback whales being counted. This year’s Whale Survey ends on the 11th July – here is hoping for a greater tally than last year’s count.

Throughout the week we have continued to see transient Sperm Whales as well as semi-residential Sperm Whale Jonah. We also encountered the regular non-whale visitors on the majority of our tours, including Dusky Dolphins, Hectors Dolphins and NZ Fur Seals.

Orca made an appearance over the weekend and are kicking off our Summer season early! We spotted five of them Saturday afternoon, making for some serious exciting tours for not only our passengers but also our Sea Crew!

The official opening of our marina is tomorrow, and you’re all invited! The 14th of November marks exactly one year on from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck us last year. There is a dawn blessing at 6:00AM and special guests will be arriving at 12:30PM, so come celebrate with a BBQ and some boat and marina tours with us! If you can’t make it, then don’t worry as we’ll be going live over on our Facebook Page.

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.