Seals and Marine Life

Kekeno (New Zealand fur seal) are the most common seals in New Zealand waters. They are very good swimmers and weaned pups will turn up almost anywhere around New Zealand. They can be observed from various points along the road that hugs the Kaikōura Coast.

New Zealand fur seal a Point Kean, Kaikōura.

Kekeno spend a lot of their time on rocky shores, at sites called haul-outs. Every year, these sociable animals return to the same area for the breeding season.

Fur Seals spend several days out at sea feeding (foraging trips may range from 1 – 8 days) and then come ashore to “haul-out” areas for a day or so to rest and suckle their pups. People may assume that they are sun-bathing when lying on the rocks, however they are merely resting. The seals have a thick fur coat, underneath this they have a thick layer of blubber. These keep them well insulted at sea but when they come ashore to rest, they are vulnerable to overheating so are forced periodically to enter the water to cool down.


Giant squid

These true monsters of the deep can grow to over 20 metres. Using the largest eye of any animal and a long set of grasping tentacles, the Giant Squid hunts sharks, other squid and fish in the pitch-black depths of the Kaikōura Canyon.

Giant squid. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.

Once the Giant Squid's tentacles have secured its prey the victim is pulled towards a parrot-like beak and with the help of a rasping tongue tears the meal into small pieces. This food processing is carried out for good reason.

The digestive tract of the Giant Squid passes directly through its head. If it swallows something too large it will ream out its own brain and die.

The main predator of the Giant Squid is the Sperm Whale. Many of Kaikōura's Sperm Whales display dinner-plate sized tentacle scars from encounters with this giant of the deep. Large squid beaks are often found in the stomachs of beached Sperm Whales.

Did you know?


Hoki

A deep-water fish and favourite food of the Sperm Whale, the Hoki gathers in huge numbers in the Kaikōura Canyon.

Hoki fish. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Kingfish

A fast moving member of the tuna family. Whale Watch crews have seen Sperm Whales catch Kingfish by stunning them with bursts of sonar.

Kingfish. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Mako

A swift and aggressive denizen of the Kaikōura Canyon. Whale Watch crews have witnessed Sperm Whales using sonar to incapacitate a Mako shark before eating it.

Mako Shark. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Krill

A small shrimp-like animal that swarms in huge red shoals. Baleen whales depend on consuming large amounts of krill as the basis of their high protein diet.

Krill. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Hapuka

A large species of deep-ocean fish and another favourite food of the Sperm Whales that live in the Kaikōura Canyon. Length 1.8m.

Hapuka fish. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Plunket shark

Lives in the depths of the Kaikōura Canyon. Its large green eyes are needed to see prey in total darkness.

Plunket Shark. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.


Great white shark

The Great White is one of the top predators in the Kaikōura Canyon food chain.

Great White Shark. Kaikōura, New Zealand marine life.

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.