Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori 9th – 15th September 2019

It is almost Māori language week in Aotearoa (New Zealand). This year’s theme is ‘Kia Kaha te Reo Māori’‘Let’s make the Māori language strong'.


With this in mind we thought we would introduce you to some of the common Māori words you would hear around our booking office and out at sea when visiting Whale Watch Kaikōura.

First off our vessels all have Māori names, and along with these names they have beautiful Māori designs along the side of them to signify the meaning.

Wāwāhia – Tipuna (named after the Grandfather of one of the founders of the company)

Tohorā  – Ancestral whale

Paikea – Whale Rider

Aoraki – Ancestral God


Some common words you might hear from the staff at our booking office or our guides out at sea could include:

Kia Ora – be well/healthy but informally used as a greeting - hello

Manuhiri - Visitor

Nau Mai Haere Mai – Warm greeting to you all

Haere Ra – Farewell (to those leaving)

Waka - Boat

Aihe - Dolphin

Kekeno – Fur Seal

Tohorā – Whale

Pāraoa – Sperm Whale

Manaakitanga - Respect for hosts or kindness to guests, to entertain, to look after

Kaitiakitanga – Guardianship and protection

Mōrena - (Good) morning!

Te Waipounamu – South Island

Aotearoa – New Zealand (land of the long white cloud)

Moana – Sea

Kai – Food

Kaimoana - Seafood

Pahi – Bus

Mahi - Work

Moana – Ocean


There are many semi-resident sperm whales that feed in the Kaikōura canyon throughout the year. Here is an example of three that we have given names to. These sperm whales having different markings, scars, shaped dorsal fins and tails, we have been seeing these three whales for some time now off our coastline and have become good friends of ours.

Tiaki – Guardian. He is one of our most dominant sperm whales who seems to look out for the younger sperm whales that visit Kaikōura.


Tutu – Shortened version of the Māori word Tutumairekurai which means Special Ocean Dweller. Tutu has a dorsal fin that is shaped much the same as a Hectors Dolphin which has been given this Māori name.


Manu – Birdie. The silhouette of Manu’s tail when diving down looks much like that of a bird in flight (if you use your imagination).


And of course there is Kaikōura – The meaning of the name Kaikōura is 'meal of crayfish'. This name was given by Tamaki-te-rangi after he stopped over to eat here while chasing his runaway wives…

The full name for Kaikōura being - Te Ahi Kaikōura a Tama Ki te Rangi (the fire where Tama ki te Rangi ate crayfish)


Here are two sentences that you might be interested in learning…

Hei aha to kirihou, kei te whakaiti au I te nui o aku para

No plastic thanks, I am trying to cut down on waste

Haria ko ngā maharatanga anake, waiho ko ngā tapuae anake

Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints

In celebration of Māori Language Week please take time to watch this fantastic video from the children out at Kaikōura Suburban School showcasing how to correctly pronounce our beautiful townships name. http://www.maoritelevision.com/news/regional/native-affairs--its-kaikoura-not-kai-cow-ra

Mā te wā – Until next time


Whale Watching tours will be operating Friday - Monday, every day of the school holidays and public holidays.

If and when there is demand, we will schedule other tours during weekdays. Please keep an eye out on our booking page for when these extra tours become available. Please note there are minimum number requirements for this to happen.

For more information, please contact our Customer Service team on 0800 655 121 or res@whalewatch.co.nz 

Ngā Mihi

The team at Whale Watch Kaikōura